Experts warn herbal remedy butterbur can cause liver damage and even organ failure
Dangerous remedy: No products containing butterbur (pictured) have been sanctioned for use in Britain, but they are still being advertised here
Most of us see herbal remedies as a safe way to medicate, with few side effects.
But if they contain an unlicensed ingredient called butterbur, they could cause serious liver damage or even organ failure, experts have warned.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has urged British herbal shops to remove products containing butterbur – also called Petasites hybridus – from their shelves.
Butterbur is normally used to treat migraines, but it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which studies have shown can cause serious liver damage and organ failure.
Currently, no products containing the ingredient have been sanctioned for use in Britain under the Traditional Herbal Registration Scheme. Several other European countries have also banned it.
However, the MHRA said products containing butterbur are currently being marketed in the UK. And while no adverse reactions to it have been reported here, cases of liver toxicity have been reported elsewhere in Europe.
The MHRA advised people who take herbal remedies to check products for a THR number on the label, which shows that they have been licensed for use in the UK.
MHRA head of herbal policy Richard Woodfield said: 'We advise anyone taking these products to stop doing so.
'If you have any concerns, speak to your GP or pharmacist. If you think you have suffered a side effect from these products, tell us through our reporting system called the Yellow Card Scheme.
Short-term solution, long-term problem: Butterbur is normally used to treat migraines, but it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which studies have shown can cause serious liver damage and organ failure.
'When looking for herbal medicines, you should look for herbal products that have a traditional herbal registration or a product licence, so that you can be confident the product has been assessed as meeting appropriate safety standards, and has the necessary patient information.
'Some unlicensed herbal medicines can pose a serious risk to your health. We will continue to take regulatory action against herbal medicines not marketed within the Traditional Herbal Registration Scheme.'