Feverfew is used in the treatment of allergies, amenorrhea, arthritis, colds, dysmenorrhea, fever, flu, headache, indigestion, migraine, pain, placenta retention, rheumatism, stomachache, toothache, and worms. It may take several weeks/months to get results from using feverfew. Eating a few leaves every day can help prevent migraines.
Topically, feverfew can be applied as a compress to the head to relieve headache, to the gums to reduce swelling after tooth extraction, or to bruises to facilitate healing. It also can be used in a sitz bath to relieve menstrual cramps or in an enema to get rid of worms. The fresh flowers can be rubbed onto the skin to soothe insect bites. The flowers deter bugs and moths and are sometimes added to sachets kept with clothing. They also can be rubbed fresh onto the skin as an insect repellent.
febrifuge plant; bachelor’s button; Mutterkraut (German); grande camomille (French); erba madre, camomilla grande (Italian)
When the wife of a Welsh doctor ended her 50-year-old history of migraine with a course of feverfew, a detailed scientific investigation of feverfew got underway, and in clinical trials in Britain during the 1980s the herb was demonstrated to be an effective remedy for migraine.
Despite extensive research, the exact nature of its action is not yet understood, but the constituent parthenolide appears to inhibit the release of the hormone serotonin, which is thought to trigger a migraine. While many herbalists feel the fresh leaves or an extract made from them, are preferred, results have been seen with fresh, freeze-dried, and air-dried leaves, although boiling feverfew tea for 10 minutes instead of steeping it did reduce its activity in one study. As a preventative, it should be taken in small quantities (3 leaves a day) regularly. The herb can help arthritic and rheumatic pain, especially in combination with other herbs.
The herb has been used since Roman times to induce menstruation. It is given under challenging births to aid expulsion of the placenta. It has not been shown to cause uterine contractions, but because of its history in promoting menstruation, pregnant women should probably not use it.
A perennial hardy to Zone 4, it will grow in almost any soil though production is higher in fertile soil. Prefers full sun or partial shade and can survive drought conditions. Bees dislike it so don’t plant around other plants requiring bee pollination.
Seeds germinate readily in 10-14 days. Cover seeds lightly. Transplant in late spring/early summer with a spacing of 12-18 inches in the row and rows at 24 to 30 inches. Cuttings do not readily root, and the mature plants will self sow readily. Tops are harvested just as the flowers are forming.
Anti-allergic, antispasmodic (respiratory), anti-inflammatory, analgesic, vasodilator
Allergies/sensitivities, arthritis, endometriosis, menopausal symptoms, migraine (prophylaxis). May reduce frequency and severity of migraine headaches although not necessarily duration (within 4 months continual use)
Feverfew is thought to influence migraine by decreasing the production of serotonin. This is a brain chemical involved in the constriction of blood vessels and the release of pain-causing chemicals. A controlled clinical trial in England found that taking feverfew for four months reduced the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. It also reduced the amount of accompanying vomiting and visual distortion. It did not, however, reduce the duration of those migraine attacks that did occur. The advantage of feverfew over many prescription medications for migraine treatment is that feverfew does not cause constipation or stomach upset.
Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
Laboratory studies have shown that feverfew stops white blood cells from absorbing the amino acid thymidine. This in tum reduces the rate at which they can produce inflammatory chemicals known as leukotrienes. This alteration of cellular chemistry also reduces the production of fatty acid products known as eicosanoids, which are essential to the creation of inflammatory chemicals. While clinical studies report mixed results, many people find that taking feverfew for two to three months reduces the severity and frequency of arthritic pain. The advantage of feverfew over many other forms of treatment is that it does not cause stomach upset, but acts in a manner like that of a class of pain relievers known as cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors such as celecoxib (Celebrex).
A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study involving people with chronic migraine observed that capsules of powdered feverfew (100 mg/day for 2 months standardised to 0.2 mg/day parthenolide) produced a highly significant decrease in pain intensity. In the second phase of this trial, the group who remained on feverfew continued to experience a reduction in pain intensity and a highly significant reduction in vomiting, nausea, and sensitivity to noise and light during attacks. Participants who switched to placebo experienced an increase in pain sensitivity. The difference between the two groups was significant. In phase 3, transferring the feverfew-treated group to placebo resulted in an increase in pain intensity and other symptoms, and shifting the placebo group to feverfew therapy resulted in an improvement in pain and other symptoms.
Dosage (Divided Daily)
• Dried Leaf: 1,000 – 2,000mg (as a tea)
• Dried Powder: 500 – 1,000mg (10:1 Extract)
• Tincture: 5 – 10mL (1:5)
- Doses during pregnancy should be kept to a minimum (no more than 1.5 ml of a 1:5 tincture/day). No adverse effects expected during lactation as long as the recommended dosage levels are observed.
- Individuals with a known hypersensitivity to feverfew, parthenolide, or other members of the Compositae family should not take feverfew internally.
Allergic contact dermatitis has been noted in many cases after contact with fresh feverfew leaves. The side effects were considered mild and included mouth ulcers, sore tongue, abdominal pain, indigestion, unpleasant taste, tingling sensation, urinary problems, headache, swollen lips or mouth, and diarrhea.
Interactions with other drugs
May increase bleeding in persons taking warfarin; monitor prothrombin times and INR values.
- Balch, P. A. (2002). Prescription for herbal healing. New York: Avery.
- Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: herbal formulations for the individual patient. St. Louis, MI: Churchill Livingstone.
- Chevallier, A. (2000). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine (2nd American ed.). New York: DK Pub.
- Herbalpedia (2013)
- Skenderi, G. (2003). Herbal vade mecum: 800 herbs, spices, essential oils, lipids, etc., constituents, properties, uses, and caution. Rutherford, N.J.: Herbacy Press.
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