Butterbur, an herbal medication, has been studied as an additional treatment for those asthma patients who are already taking other medications like inhaled corticosteroids. However, no concrete studies have assessed the benefits of butterbur in asthma patients. Results of this double-blind, crossover study wherein butterbur was tried on asthma patients showed that it improved the anti-inflammation activity of corticosteroids. Authors suggest further studies to assess the role of this herbal therapy, alone or in combination in patients with mild as well as severe asthma.
A herbal preparation, butterbur has been in use since the 17th century to treat such allergic conditions as fever, skin injuries and the plague. More recent studies have found that butterbur can be used effectively in allergic symptoms that increase in susceptible individuals during particular seasons. In spite of this research, no studies have assessed the effectiveness of butterbur in patients of asthma and related allergic conditions. Thus, the authors undertook this study to assess the anti-allergic activities of butterbur in asthmatic patients who were already taking other medications such as corticosteroids in the inhaler form.
* For the purpose of the study, 16 asthma patients, who had been on inhaled corticosteroids for at least the previous three months, were chosen.
* Half of the participants were given butterbur preparation (25 mg) twice a day over one week. The rest of the participants were given dummy tablets. At the end of the week, the study drugs were stopped for a week. At the end of the second week, the ones who received dummy pills earlier were given butterbur and vice versa.
* The participants did not know if they were taking butterbur or the dummy.
* At the end of both weeks of therapy, all participants underwent tests to determine the efficacy of the herbal treatment. To check anti-inflammation activity, several tests were done, including “bronchoprovocation,” where a patient inhales a nebulized solution or preform exercise to see if he develops asthma symptoms; nitric oxide in the exhaled air; and blood counts of the cells called eosinophils. Eosinophil numbers tend to rise in cases of allergy.
* Results showed that both dummy therapy and butterbur did not affect tests like bronchoprovocation significantly. However, when an asthma attack was simulated using the compound AMP, butterbur preparation helped to prevent an attack better, as compared to the dummy.
* However, the level of nitric oxide in exhaled air was reduced with the use of butterbur as compared to the dummy therapy.
* Eosinophil count in blood also declined significantly with the use of butterbur as compared to the dummy therapy.
Authors write that they had attempted to check for the effectiveness of butterbur in the reduction of allergies in the lower part of the airways. Butterbur has already been proved to be effective in allergies that affect the upper part of the airways including the nose, i.e. seasonal allergies that result in a runny nose. Some of the participants in this study may have had undetected allergies to dust mites etc. This could have skewed the effectiveness results. They suggest further studies to assess the effectiveness of butterbur in a larger number of asthma patients in whom allergic tendencies trigger asthma.
This study attempted to explore the anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory effects of butterbur preparations in asthma that is triggered by allergies. In the study where butterbur was compared to dummy therapy, it was seen that continuous therapy with butterbur significantly changes some markers of allergy and inflammation. These patients were already on anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids. Butterbur was found to be an effective addition to this standard therapy. Authors suggest future studies that can explore if butterbur could be used alone in patients with mild or less serious asthma or even as an addition with other therapies in patients with more serious and severe asthma.
For More Information:
Butterbur, a Herbal Remedy, Confers Complementary Anti-inflammatory Activity in Asthmatic Patients Receiving Inhaled Corticosteroids
Clinical Experimental Allergy, 2004
By D.K. C Lee; K. Haggart; University of Dundee, Scotland, UK
*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.