Herb: Sweet Butterbur

Latin name: Petasites palmatus

Family: Compositae

Medicinal use of Sweet Butterbur:

The roots have been used in treating the first stages of grippe and consumption. The dried and grated roots have been applied as a dressing on boils, swellings and running sores. An infusion of the crushed roots has been used as a wash for sore eyes. A syrup for treating coughs and lung complaints has been made from the roots of this species combined with mullein(Verbascum sp.) and plum root (Prunus sp.).

Description of the plant:


40 cm
(1 foot)

to April

Habitat of the herb:

Low woods, glades and damp clearings. Swamps and along the sides of streams.

Edible parts of Sweet Butterbur:

Young flower stalks, used before the flower buds appear, are boiled until tender and seasoned with salt. Flower buds - cooked. Leafstalks - peeled and eaten raw. The ash of the plant is used as a salt substitute. To prepare the salt, the stems and leaves are rolled up into balls whilst still green, and after being carefully dried they are placed on top of a very small fire on a rock and burned.

Propagation of the herb:

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.

Cultivation of Sweet Butterbur:

Low woods, glades and damp clearings. Swamps and along the sides of streams.

Known hazards of Petasites palmatus:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.