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Herb conquers hay fever

LANDQUART, SWITZERLAND. Swiss researchers report that a carbon dioxide extract of the herb butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is as effective as an antihistamine in relieving the symptoms of hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis). Their double-blind clinical trial involved 125 hay fever sufferers who were randomized to receive either butterbur tablets four times daily (each tablet providing 8 mg of total petasine) or one 10-mg tablet of the antihistamine cetirizine (Zyrtec) plus three identical looking placebo tablets daily. The patients underwent a thorough medical examination and evaluation of the severity of their hay fever symptoms at the beginning of the trial and after two weeks of taking the medications.

The researchers found the butterbur extract just as effective as the cetirizine in alleviating symptoms. They also noted that butterbur was far less likely to cause drowsiness and fatigue. They conclude that butterbur should be considered for hay fever relief when the sedating effects of antihistamines must be avoided.

Editor's Note: The Swiss experiment was done with a carbon dioxide extract of butterbur. Using the herb by itself for hay fever relief may not be advisable as there is some indication that certain parts of the plant can cause liver damage.
Schapowal, Andreas, et al. Randomised controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis. British Medical Journal, Vol. 324, January 19, 2002, pp. 1-4

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