Herbal Treatment Found as Effective as Antihistamines for Allergies

Butterbur is a traditional European herb with a long history of use for the treatment of cough and a variety of other conditions. In recent decades, this herb had been abandoned when it was found to contain an alkaloid that can cause cancer. More recently, a German company called Weber & Weber found a way to produce an extract of this herb that does not contain the incriminated alkaloid (a naturally occurring chemical). This company has also been funding large-scale studies to prove the effectiveness of their herbal extract in a variety of conditions. Previous studies had shown that it could help both in the prevention and treatment of migraine headaches and certain types of urinary incontinence.

A current double-blind study published in the British Medical Journal (2002;324(7330):144) found it to be as effective as Zyrtec (Cetirizine) in the treatment of allergies. Over a two-week period, those who took the herbal extract reported the same benefits as those taking Zyrtec, a prescription antihistamine. Even though Zyrtec is a non-sedating antihistamine, many of those who received it in this study reported feeling drowsy, while people taking the herb reported no side effects.

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