Feverfew is a traditional medicinal herb which is found in many old gardens, and is also occasionally grown for ornament. The plant grows into a small bush up to around 46 cm (18 in) high, with citrus-scented leaves and is covered by flowers reminiscent of daisies. It spreads rapidly, and they will cover a wide area after a few years. It is also commonly seen in the literature by its synonyms, Chrysanthemum parthenium (L.) Bernh. and Pyrethrum parthenium (L.) Tanacetum parthenium and by its common names of 'bachelor's buttons' and 'featherfew'.
Feverfew was native to Eurasia; specifically the Balkan Peninsula and the Caucasus, but cultivation has spread it around the world and it is now also found in Europe, the Mediterranean, North America and Chile. In the UK it grows to 5 cm and flowers from July to August. Sow the seeds under glass in March then plant out in early June in well-drained soil or propagate by root division.
Feverfew, as the name implies and which is derived from the Latin febrifugia, meaning "fever reducer", was used as a popular remedy for dispelling FEVER and as a general tonic. It has been used for centuries for reducing fever, for treating HEADACHES, ARTHRITIS, stomach aches, TOOTHACHE, INSECT BITES AND STINGS, infertility, problems with MENSTRUATION, labour during childbirth and digestive problems. It is believed that by inhibiting the release of SEROTONIN and prostaglandins, both of which aid the onset of migraines, Feverfew limits the inflammation of blood vessels in the head. This would, in theory, stop the blood vessel spasm which is believed to contribute to headaches.
The active ingredients in feverfew include parthenolide and tanetin. Capsules or tablets of feverfew generally contain at least 205 mcg. parthenolide; however, it might take four to six weeks before they become effective, and feverfew is not a remedy for acute migraine attacks. Parthenolide has also been found in a 2005 study, to induce cell death in leukemia cancer stem cells. Feverfew has also been used by Aveeno skincare brand to calm red and irritated skin.
The dried leaves and sometimes flowers and stems of feverfew are used to make supplements, including capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts. An infusion, made by steeping the flowers in boiling water:and allowed to cool, is drunk to cure headaches and earache. A tincture made from the herb acts as an insect repellent or applied to bites and stings instantly relieves pain and reduces swelling. At one time, pots of Feverfew placed on their sides were dotted around the garden to provide shelter for toads who in return ate all the slugs.
No serious side effects have been reported for feverfew. Side effects can include canker sores, swelling and irritation of the lips and tongue, and loss of taste. Less common side effects can include nausea, digestive problems, and bloating. If feverfew is taken for any length of time as a medicinal herb, sudden discontinuation can result in a withdrawal syndrome consisting of headache, irritability, trouble sleeping and joint pain. As with any other medicinal herb, consult with a knowledgeable practitioner before beginning treatment with this herb.
Women who are pregnant should not use feverfew because it may cause the uterus to contract, increasing the risk of miscarriage or premature delivery. People can have allergic reactions to feverfew. Those who are allergic to other members of the daisy family (which includes ragweed and chrysanthemums) are more likely to be allergic to feverfew. You should always tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative medecines you use. This will help to ensure coordinated and safe care.