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Common Name: Butterbur
Petasites hybridus is a perennial plant that can grow up to 1.00 metres tall.
It has medicinal uses.
Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to Spain, north and west Asia.
Wet meadows and copses by streams to 1500 metres[
]. The female form is rare or absent from much of Britain[
Succeeds in ordinary garden soil[
], but prefers a deep fertile humus-rich soil that is permanently moist but not stagnant, succeeding in shade, semi-shade or full sun[
]. Requires a moist shady position[
]. Plants can be grown in quite coarse grass, which can be cut annually in the autumn[
A very invasive plant, too rampant for anything other than the wild garden[
]. Its roots are very difficult to eradicate[
]. It is best to only grow the male form in the garden to prevent unwanted seedlings popping up all over the place[
]. The growth is so dense and vigorous, with large leaves that can be 75cm or more across, that virtually no other plant is able to grow amongst this species[
Plants are a useful early nectar source for bees[
Dioecious, male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
Butterbur is widely considered to be an effective cough remedy and recent experiments have shown it to have remarkable antispasmodic and pain-relieving properties[
]. It acts specifically on the bile ducts, stomach and duodenum[
]. The plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, in isolation these are toxic to the liver[
The root and the leaves are analgesic, antispasmodic, cardiotonic, diaphoretic and diuretic[
]. A decoction is taken as a remedy for various respiratory problems such as asthma, colds, bronchitis and whooping cough and also other complaints such as fevers and urinary complaints[
]. It is also very effective in the treatment of gastrointestinal complaints and biliary dyskinesia[
]. Externally it can be used as a poultice to speed the healing of wounds and skin eruptions[
]. The leaves are harvested in early summer, the root in late summer to autumn. Both can be dried for later use[
]. Because the plant contains potentially toxic alkaloids its internal use cannot be recommended[
A homeopathic remedy is made from the roots[
]. It is used in the treatment of severe and obstinate neuralgia[
Seed - we have no information on this species but suggest sowing the seed in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe or in early spring. Only just cover the seed and do not allow the compost to dry out. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer.
Division succeeds at almost any time of the year. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.