Butterbur for Allergies, Stinging Nettles for Allergies – Helpful Herbs

Butterbur for allergies? Stinging nettles for allergies? Funny names, but these are two leading traditional herbs for treating allergies, These two herbs are among the most effective natural remedies for seasonal allergies affecting the nose.

Here are some points for you to consider when making your decision on what to take for natural allergy relief:

1. Butterbur for Allergies

ButterburExtractThis herb has a botanical name called petasites hybridus. This is a large-leafed plant that looks like a shrub originating from Europe. The extracts from leaves, stem and roots of the plant are used to treat stomach ulcers, migraines, coughs and other infections. They also have been used to treat asthma and allergies. If you have both migraines and allergies, this may be the herb for you.

Back in the 14th century, the plant was used to reduce fever and counteract plague.

How does the product work? It contains anti-inflammatory ingredients that reduce some of the mediators of allergies (leukotrienes and histamine). Petasines are the active compounds in butterbur which lessen the production of leukotrienes (chemicals in the immune system that enhance the inflammation seen in allergic rhitinis or hay fever).

However, it is important to know that ordinary butterbur contains substances which may be toxic to the liver. As a result, some products are processed in a way that will remove the toxic alkaloids from raw butterbur. For safety reasons, always check any supplement to make sure it was manufactured in a way that makes a butterbur extract into something safe for use.

Does butterbur have any common side effects?

A review of adverse effects of herbal medicines found that butterbur was actually mostly associated with minor rather than severe adverse effects. Some of the more likely side effects of butterbur include: Diarrhea, severe headache, nausea, Irritated eyes, tiredness, and constipation. The biggest risk of improperly processed butterbur is serious, that is, cancer. Some toxic chemicals in the herb called pyrrolizidine alkaloids or the “PAs” may contribute to causing cancer and/or kidney and liver damage. These risks are greatest if the patient uses butterbur for a long period of time,

Paradoxically, another risk of butterbur is allergic reactions. Because this herb is in the same botanical family, if a patient is ragweed allergic, then butterbur could aggravate the symptoms of their allergy.

The bottom line with butterbur is – use with caution for short term periods only. Make sure that the product manufacturer knows what they are doing and have removed the potentially toxic ingredients in this herb. Nevertheless, if all of those issues are addressed, this may be a particularly effective way to treat pollen allergies and other types of allergic flares.

2. Stinging Nettles for Allergies

FreezeDriedStingingNettlesThis herb is also referred to as nettle, and its botanical name is Urtica dioica. It is extracted from the roots or leaves of the stinging nettle shrub. It also originates from Europe, but was established in North America and currently grows all over the USA and in Canada.

The name was derived from how the herb provokes an intense reaction — with urticaria that can sting for over 10 hours after the little toxic hairs of the plant get into the skin. For allergies, experts usually recommend getting a freeze dried supplement form of the nettles in capsules.

How does it work?  Some studies suggest that the nettles have both a mechanical and biochemical mode of action. In allergic rhinitis, nettles can inhibit inflammatory pathways that affect the nose.

The leaves of the herb are covered by little hairs that contain high concentration of silicon. So when your skin makes contact with the leaf, the hairs’ round tips detach and the hair’s sharp point penetrates the skin. In response, the body releases the mediators serotonin and histamine. These chemicals are the ones responsible for reduction of pain by stimulating pain neurons.

What the side effects of stinging nettles?

Because of the nature of nettles, there are several possible side effects, including:

o Burning effects

o Rashes

o Uncontrollable itching

o Digestive discomfort or constipation

o Bleeding

o Low blood pressure, which in older individuals can lead to faintness and falls

As with any herbal product, nettle-allergic people are also at risk when using the herb. Knowing whether or not you are allergic to it, however, may require cautious testing.  Notably, diabetics should also be alert for possible increases or decreases in blood sugar levels. If the supplement otherwise helps your allergies, adjust your other treatment accordingly. If not, it may not be worth the risk.


Both butterbur and stinging nettles can be helpful for allergies. However, as both of these natural remedies are herbs or plants, people with allergies, especially pollen allergies, may or may not be allergic to them. Always check with your own health care provider and pharmacist before starting any herbal treatment. You never know what may interact with prescription drugs you are also taking.

Despite these caveats, for an otherwise healthy person who is tormented by seasonal pollen allergies, butterbur and stinging nettle, alone or in a combination product, may be just the solution for your symptoms.