The first recorded use is by the German mystic and healer, Hildegard de Bingen, where she refers to its properties that “when placed over ulcers it draws bad humors into its sharp coldness.” (Physica, Hildegard de Bingen, 1155) And its use on scrofulas, a swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck caused by TB.
However its reputation took off in the 16th and 17th centuries both in England and on the Continent for use against the plague. Gerard writes “The roots dried and beaten to powder and drunke in wine is a soveraigne medicine against the plague and pestilent fevers” ( Historie of Plants, John Gerard, 1597).
By the 1930’s we find Mrs Grieve referring to it as a heart stimulant, cardiac tonic and diuretic. But its popularity was dwindling in Britain, while on the continent it had much wider use being championed by Dr Vogel a swiss herbalist as an anti-tumour remedy and for the reduction of pain during cancer treatment. He cites several case studies in his 1931 book “The Nature Doctor”.
Not widely used by herbalists in Britain, much work has continued in Europe with several standard formulas containing it.
Its most up to date work revolves around its use in migraine prevention with several trials showing its efficacy comparable with pharmaceutical drugs.
Herb "Butterbur"used in Clinical trails for its effectiveness in migraine prevention
Two clinical studies using 50 mg of a standardized Petasites extract twice daily for 12 weeks demonstrated its effectiveness as a prophylactic treatment for migraines. Both studies were double blind, placebo controlled, and involved a total of 128 patients. The results of the two studies showed a significant reduction (as much as 60%) in frequency of migraine attacks compared to baseline.
Other improvements in the Petasites group included a reduction in the number of days with migraines per month, a decrease in migraine associated symptoms, and diminished duration and intensity of pain. No adverse reactions were reported in either study. Butterbur extract’s high degree of efficacy and excellent tolerability accentuates its value in the prophylactic treatment of migraines.
Mauskop A, Grossmann WM, Schmidramsl H. Petasites hybridus
(butterbur root) extract is effective in the prophylaxis of
migraines. Results of a randomized, double-blind trial. J Head
Face Pain 2000;40:4.
Grossmann WM, Schmidramsl H. An extract of Petasites hybridus is effective in the prophylaxis of migraine. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther 2000;38:430-435.