Greek legend cites feverfew as a life-saving herb for someone in antiquity who is believed to have fallen from the Parthenon temple in Athens, which is where its name, Parthenium, originates. Since then, feverfew has been used in the treatment of menstrual cramps; as well as for fever, nausea, vomiting, inflammation, colic, insect bites, vertigo, toothaches, psoriasis and headaches. In fact, it is currently one of the most popularly used herbs to treat and prevent migraine headache attacks.
Parthenium or, more specifically, Chrysanthemum parthenium or Tanacetum parthenium
Other commonly used names for feverfew include:
- Bachelor’s buttons
As a member of the sunflower family, feverfew looks very similar to a daisy plant. It features small heads of yellow flowers featuring white rays and yellow florets. The flower’s stem is hairy, grows upright and averages about two feet in height.
The leaf, stem and flowers are all useful parts of the feverfew plant. Leaves can be chewed raw and are helpful in that form for relieving pain. However, feverfew is also available in tincture, tea, liquid extract or capsule form.
Feverfew is commonly taken for the prevention and relief of migraine headaches. However, it should be noted that it takes several weeks of use before it is actually able to prevent their onset. Because of this, feverfew is not recommended for anyone seeking immediate relief from a migraine attack, but rather those interested in preventing attacks for the long-term.
It is also commonly used in the treatment of rheumatism, as well as for the treatment of digestive disorders, pain from childbirth, infertility and in the regulation of the female menstrual cycle. The leaves and the flowers of the feverfew herb are particularly known for their anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory effect. Feverfew is also touted as a sedative, a stimulant, and a treatment for fevers, as well as for insect stings.
Commercially, feverfew is used in Aveeno skincare products as a soothing treatment for skin irritations.
Recent studies have also found that an active ingredient in feverfew, Parthenolide, effectively kills leukemia cancer cells.
Women who are pregnant or nursing are advised against taking feverfew. Also, anyone who has experienced an allergic reaction to daisies, ragweed, yarrow, chrysanthemums or chamomile is strongly advised to avoid feverfew.
Feverfew is known to cause ulcers in the mouth when fresh leaves are chewed or to cause dermatitis of the skin in some people. Therefore, caution should be exercised when chewing it in its raw form, although using it as a tea is most recommended.
Other possible side effects from feverfew include gastrointestinal issues and antiplatelet activity.
In general, anyone who is currently under a doctor’s care for medical treatment, especially if such treatment involves prescription medications, should always consult with their physician before taking feverfew or any other herbal treatment. While herbs used for natural cures and home remedies are generally deemed to be safe and side effect free, some do not interact well with prescription medications.
Those taking feverfew for long-term medicinal purposes may experience withdrawal symptoms including, but not limited to, joint pain headache, sleep disturbances and irritability when deciding to stop taking the herb.