The farfaraccio - whose scientific name in botany is "Petasites" - is a plant belonging to the Compositae family, also called Asteraceae. These are herbaceous plants that can be found all year round and that see their natural habitat in countries characterized by a harsh climate; the areas from which it comes in butterbur, in fact, are very cold. Known since ancient times - it was widely used by the ancient Romans, especially by the scientists who worked at the court of Emperor Nero - this plant has a characteristic appearance: from the shape similar to that of a hat, it has large leaves that in the shape remind of hearts . Among the many varieties of this herb, the most important ones, which are the Petasite (o butterbur white, the Petasite Pyrenaicus and the Tussilago Petasites Hybridus, the type of butterbur more common. This plant is found mainly in the woods or on the mountains: it prefers cold and shady places, often very humid, as in the case of mountain lakes and rivers, near which it is usual to proliferate. The flowering period of the butterburm varies greatly depending on the species: some varieties in fact bloom in full winter, between January and February, others in spring, mainly in March or at the beginning of June. In Italy it is the white butterbur which is the most widespread species: it is possible to find it in the mountains, on the hills and in the Apennines. The most common names of the butterbur are "lampazzo", "petrasita", "tegna", "lavassa", "major coagulant", and "bardano domenistico". All varieties of butterbur are about one meter high (a maximum of one meter and twenty centimeters) and are characterized by soft-colored flowers ranging from yellow to pink to purple. Belonging to the large family of tubers, the butterbur develops half below ground: it is in the soil, in fact, that there are gems, roots and rhizomes.
The properties of the butterbur
The butterbur enjoys remarkable beneficial and medicinal properties that are exploited both in the herbal field and in the phytotherapeutic field, to treat more or less serious pathologies. Butterbur extracts have proven very useful in the treatment of coughs, colds, asthma and various forms of allergic rhinitis. Not only: thanks to its anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties, the butterbur is very useful in the treatment of diseases affecting the gastrointestinal, urinary and genital systems. It is a real cure for preventing ailments such as cystitis, candida and gallbladder, which, if not treated properly, tend to become chronic. Also used against migraines, the butterbur is also an antispasmodic whose function is therefore to inhibit spasms in the smooth muscles: for this reason, butterbur based preparations are particularly useful for reducing the pain that accompanies the menstrual cycle . All these properties are mainly due to etasin and isopetasin, two substances present in massive quantities in every species of butterbur. They are excellent vasodilators, and as such they are able to soothe many pains, especially the headaches due to the most disparate causes. Etasin and isopetasin act precisely by inhibiting the processes that trigger the onset of migraine in predisposed subjects. The dry butterbur extract also inhibits the release of histamine, a substance that is primarily responsible for allergies and all the annoying symptoms that generally accompany them: hay fever, itching, a stuffy nose and allergic conjunctivitis. Thanks to their soothing and emollient properties, the extracts of farfaraccio soothe both dry and oily coughs: in the second case, above all, by promoting expectoration they accelerate healing. From a purely emotional / psychological point of view, the butterbur is known as an herb with an unexpected calming power, which reveals its usefulness especially in cases of anxiety, agitation and nervous insomnia. In addition to the aforementioned etasin and isopetasin, the butterbur also contains many different mineral salts, flavonoids, alkaloids, sulfur-based substances and inulin.
The uses of butterbur
The parts of the butterbur used in the herbalist field are the leaves, the corollas of flowers and the rhizomes. Generally they are bought already dried, however to calm coughs and sore throats they are more suitable to indicate the freshly picked leaves, with which to prepare herbal teas, decoctions and infusions that are a real cure for the treatment of parainfluenza diseases. The infusion, above all, is also indicated to counteract headaches, asthma and all the symptoms of allergies; herbalists agree that two or three cups of infusion a day are sufficient for the active ingredients of butterbur to demonstrate their beneficial effects. In addition to being taken for a maximum period of one month, the butterburm infusion is also suitable for external use: sterile gauze soaked in this substance can be used to calm redness or irritation of the epidermis; it is sufficient to leave them on the affected areas for about ten minutes. In addition to performing a medicinal effect, the butterbur decoction is an excellent cosmetic if necessary: it relieves the epidermis of the face, making it toned and elastic.
Precautions related to the use of butterbur
Although, as we have seen, it is an herb with multiple beneficial properties, the butterbur is not free from side effects. The most widespread side effect is related to the presence of a high concentration of alkaloids; for this reason the butterbur should not be used by those suffering from liver problems, since it is potentially toxic to the liver, especially if taken in large quantities.