Petadolex for the treatment or migraine headaches: an introduction

Petadolex is the brand name of a gelcap supplement that contains butterbur for migraines.

Petadolex’s makers claim that it doesn’t contain certain chemicals that occur naturally in the butterbur plant that could harm the liver. Other butterbur supplements only use the leaves of the plant because higher levels of potential toxins are in the butterbur roots.

Butterbur, as a natural remedy, has been used for a range of ailments including the plague, asthma, ulcers, wounds, allergies and skin infections.

Petadolex’s main ingredient comes from the Butterbur plant (Petasites hybridus). The shrub is found in Europe, Asia and parts of North America in wet, marshy soil, damp forests and along rivers and streams.

How Petadolex works

Butterbur is believed to cut migraines by decreasing the body’s spasms and inflammation. Petasin and isopetasin, substances which are found in Butterbur, may help prevent migraines and reduce migraine headaches through these actions.

Studies on Butterbur and Migraines

One 2004 study found that Butterbur worked better at relieving migraines than an inactive placebo treatment. Here’s a breakdown of the patients in the four-month study. These migraine sufferers said their migraine attack frequency was reduced by :

  • 48% with Butterbur/Petadolex 75 mg
  • 36% with Butterbur/Petadolex 50 mg
  • 26% with Placebo (sugar pill)

Side effects and other precautions

Because Butterbur is a natural remedy and not a pharmaceutical drug, the is limited data available on how it works in the human body as well as the possible side effects. There is no information available on use of Butterbur longer than 12 to 16 weeks. Some studies have found that people taking Butterbur experience the following side effects:

  • Burping
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Upset stomach
  • Hair loss
  • Depression or neurological disorders
  • Skin or eye discoloration
  • Skin and allergic reactions
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing or exhaling
  • Itchy eyes
  • Halitosis, bad breath
  • Itching
  • Discolored stool
  • A condition called reversible cholestatic hepatitis, which means bile can’t flow properly from the liver because of swelling or blockage
  • A possible increase in liver enzymes

As with any natural Remedy, prescription or over-the-counter treatment, you should first check with your doctor before taking Butterbur to learn if it might interact with anything else you’re taking or learn if it will have a dangerous impact on any condition you have.

Who should not take Petadolex/Butterbur

The plant parts should not be eaten directly. Butterbur should only be taken as a supplement because the plant has certain toxic chemicals that could damage the liver and lungs and cause other possibly serious health problems.

If you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant or nursing, do not take Butterbur

If you are taking other agents that contain the same active ingredients as Butterbur, such as borage, gravel root and ragwort

If you have liver disease, congestive heart failure, are on blood thinners, barbiturates or blood sugar lowering medications

If you take any medications in the anticholinergics/antispasmodic class, which are used to relieve cramps or spasms in the stomach, intestines, and bladder

If you are allergic to any plants in the P. hybridus or Asteraceae/Compositae family

As always, the best source for advice on treating your migraines is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or supplement without first checking with your physician. Again, this information should in no way substitute or be mistaken for medical advice.



Written by: Otesa Miles | Last review date: November 2010
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