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Common Name: Feverfew | Scientific Name: Parthenium Vulgare

Family Name: Compositae


Feverfew has a limited but important action; used regularly it reduces or ends chronic headaches, be they of the migraine or cluster variety. It doesnt work for everybody but it works for enough people that anyone suffering from chronic headaches, should give it a try.


Fact Sheet
Chapter from “Backyard Medicine Chest” by Dr. Douglas Schar
Chapter from “Gardening Book”

Fact Sheet

Parts Used: Leaves

Remember This: Migraine Prevention

Reasonable Uses: Migraine, cluster headaches, chronic headaches.

History and Traditional Uses
Use of feverfew reaches back to the ancient Greeks, but it was seventeenth-century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper who wrote that it was very effectual for pains in the head. Although he published his book, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, 400 years ago, he knew then what science knows now: Feverfew is a good herb for a bad headache.

Scientific Back Up
The active constituent of feverfew is a compound called parthenolide, which inhibits the release of a hormone produced by the blood platelets, a hormone that causes blood vessels to constrict, leading to the headache phenomona. By blocking the release of the hormone that causes the headache, Feverfew prevents headaches.

British medical journals have spotlighted feverfew as a treatment for migraine headaches and possibly arthritis, and studies support its benefits. Scientists theorize that its active constituents may also inhibit inflammation inducing prostaglandins and histamines. Research has revealed this silly garden plant is a very effective treatment for migraine, cluster headaches, and chronic headaches.

Herbalists Use It To…
Prevent Migraines and Headaches
In clinical practise, herbalists find that this is the one remedy that makes a difference in chronic migraines and chronic headaches. However, the first thing to know is that it prevents them. If you already have a headache, feverfew will not make a difference. However, if you use it regularly, it can prevent them from occurring.

The key here is patient and faithful use of the feverfew. It should be taken every morning, without fail, the same way women take the birth control pill. Most patients notice a reduced number of attacks when they have been taking feverfew for two months or more.

Shopping Tips
There is great controversy as what is the best product to use. Fresh feverfew leaves have been used for centuries to treat headache. So, a product as closely resembling the fresh leaf is probably the best. Only purchase products that state made with fresh leaf or made with freeze dried leaf. Clinical trials on standardises extracts have shown them to be effective so these are reasonable to use as well. Look for products standardised to contain 0.2% parthenolide.

Avoid products that contain other herbs.

Feverfew can cause mouth sores in sensitive people. If you develop mouth ulcers stop using it. Also, it stimulates the uterus, so don’t use it during pregnancy unless it ís specifically recommended by a qualified health-care practitioner.


There are none.

Chapter from “Backyard Medicine Chest” by Dr. Douglas Schar


migraine…… face ache…….chronic head aches……

tanacetum parthenium

Feverfew is a European classic known for centuries for its ability to cure “Megraines” as they were called in former days. Migraines are messy business for “them that suffer them.” Migraines remain a mystery to the medical profession. Why they come about and how to make them go away is yet to be determined by the orthodoxy. The best part about migraine sufferers is they tend to be more willing to try herbal medicine than sufferers of other conditions – probably because they are desperate.

Feverfew, or chrysanthemum partheium, is indeed a relation of the garden mum, though it cannot hold a candle to its more show relation in the looks department. The name feverfew comes from a medical term and one of its medical uses. The names is derived from febrifuge, meaning fever breaking, which is what fever few was used to do. If one chews the root, which i’m not sure why a person would do, a hot sensation is felt. The second name, pyrethium comes from the greek pyr, as in funeral pyrrh. The plant can be found growing from north africa to scandinavia and all countries between those two points. Like its more showy relation the garden mum, it springs from the roots each year, blooms, and dies back to the ground in the fall. The medicinal part of the plant when it comes to migraine headaches is the leaf.

Frequently people ask me how on earth did people initially distinguish between plants with medicinal attributes and those with none. Standing in the middle of a field how did humanity discover that tarragon would rid your gut of worms and that parsley taken in large quantities would cause an abortion. The answer is no one really knows, trial and error perhaps. By the time books appear people already knew thousands of plants with very specific actions. Some were a bit simple to register, aloes causes instant diarrhea. Others were and are a bit more subtle. This is the case with our next plant.

In certain parts of the English country side a folk remedy for migraines is to eat a fever few leaf between two slices of bread. It has to be said that the bread would have to be pretty tasty to mask the incredibly horrible taste of a feverfew leaf. That aside, English villagers found that if a person that suffers from migraines eats one of these modified water cress sandwiches every day, in a period of time the headaches will cease. How did people come to this? Your guess is as good as mine.

How ever this came to pass is secondary to the fact it did and in clinical testing it has been proven effective. Unfortunately this is not a quick fix to the migraine problem, it doesn’t work in the short term. You have to keep taking one to two leaves per day for a period of time. This doesn’t appeal to the “I want it now” society we live in, but, migraines have a tendency to keep coming back. Most Migraine sufferers have them on a regular basis, eating a leaf or two a day doesn’t seem a lot to ask!

In ancient days as well as today, feverfew gained its reputation as a treatment for migraines and many other cerebral conditions.

Gerard mirrors what many of the ancient writers had to say about feverfew, “Fever few dried and made into powder, and 2 drahms of it taken with honie or sweet wine, purgeth by siege melancholy and flegme, wherefore it is very good for them that are giddie in the head, or which have the turning called vertigo, that is a swimming in the head, also it is good for such as be melachollike, sad, pensive, or without speech.” Gerard lists several of the symptoms that migraine sufferers tend to manifest.

Maude Grieve gives us a more updated view of the plant in her book written in 1930, ” It is employed in hysterical complaints, nervousness, and lowness of spirits, and is a general tonic. An infusion of the flowers, made with boiling water and allowed to become cold, will ally distressing sensitiveness to pain in a highly nervous subject, and will afford relief to the face-ache and ear ache of a dyspeptic or rheumatic person.” This business of allaying sensitiveness to pain is interesting and you will see that Ms.Grieve was right on in this regard.

The herbs reputation for curing migraines was so great that several noted studies have been conducted on the drug and how it works on the body. Where as it has been clinically proven to reduce migraines in migraine sufferers, how it works still evades the scientists. Who cares, if it works, it works.

Some insight has been gained, emphasis on the some. The leaves contain a wild cocktail of active constituents including volatile oil, sesquiterpene lactones, and acetylene derivatives.

The ability of feverfew to cure migraines is thought to be due to these sesquiterpene lactones which have the ability to slow the release of prostaglandins and histamines. This two substances are factors in the inflammatory process and the subsequent pain a person feels while down with a migraine. When these substances are released by the body the blood vessels in the head go into spasms and you end up in your room with the phone, the lights, and your life turned off. The current notion is that by eating the feverfew leaf the release of these chemicals is limited and with this reduction in prostaglandin and histamine release, migraines dont happen. Just a theory, but its a start.

Those various parts of the plant have been used to treat the face-ache, in trials it seems that indeed the leaf is the best part of the plant to be used in chronic headaches. Fortunately for us they can be had in pill form as the taste sensation is not that much fun. By having a few plants in the garden you can supply yourself with as many as you need, but you will have to contend with a nasty taste. They shouldn’t be eaten on their own as undiluted they have been known to cause mouth ulcers! The traditional manner is the best, take them with a bit of bread.

1. Purchase freeze dried leaves at the health food store or herb seller. Make certain you have the freeze dried herb as this preserves the vital elements.

2. Grow your own. If you can grow a chrysanthemum you can grow feverfew. Like the garden mum it is a perenial plant and once you plant it in the garden you will have a constant supply of migraine relieving medicine. There isn’t much to know about growing the plant but harvesting is another matter. The best results with the drug are with fresh leaves, one eaten in the morning and one at night. This is all and well when the plant is above ground but as winter approaches the plant disappears back into the soil and stays underground until the next spring. For the winter supply the best method is to pick leaves from time to time and drop them in an empty coffee can kept in the freezer. Without masacrering the plant yo can build up a supply to keep yourself headache free all winter long. Simply snap off the leaves and put them in the can in the freezer. If you need to you can wash off the leaves.

Chapter from “Gardening Book”

Pyrethrum parthenium. Featherfew, featherfoil, flirtwort, bachelors buttons.

The name feverfew is a adulteration of its old name and use, febrifuge. Old herbals show many listings of plants useful as febrifuge’s. A febrifuge broke fevers by bringing on the sweats . 50 years ago and back fevers were a real problem, a high fever meant death for the young and the elderly. High fever lead to brain damage and heart damage and as such were quite a problem for the mother of the house. In todays world, doctors search out the source of the fever, and attempt to treat the cause of the fever. In the past the source of the problem was harder to identify and people treated symptoms. And fevers were something that got much attention from the early medical practitioners.

Fever few, once a common household world has been all but forgotten. Most have never heard of it let alone its use in breaking fevers.

Aside from its use as a fever-buster chammomile was used to treat headaches, and particularly “megrins”, as they were called. This second use has surfaced in the modern world and much research in england and on the continent is being done on the miraculous effect of a few leaves of feverfew on the migraine sufferer. This book is intended to be a gardening book to help the gardener approaching the new decade. And since headaches are atleast a big part of the end of the decade i think we should all have a few fever few clumps around. I know headaches are big business in this country, i watched tv the other day, and in a little independant research discovered that every third ad was headache related. We can all take a little of the profit out of headaches, by keeping one of these little plants going. Not only that, but a reliable source says that a few planted around the house will purify the air and keep evil spirits away. I planted some at the door thinking they might scare away un-welcome solicitors of god, but no go. And i really thought they were evil spirits.and the important part is that feverfew really works against a head ache, and well. It works in a spot chance, say if you just get a headache, not a habitual headache, and also in the case of people that suffer chronic migraines. For the chronic sufferers the word is that you have to eat two leaves a day. Which might kill you, but in a week the headaches are said to go away. Why not give it a shot.

This chrysanthemum and chammomile relative is a perenial of great merit. This is not a culinary herb, its all medicinal. The flavor is nasty on a good day, not anything i want to eat for pleasure. It grows just like a garden mum, and provides the gardener with an attractive white show of flowers late in the fall. Bees are really the garden whore’s, visiting any flower that gets in its way. To prove my point of the feverfews nasty taste it suffices to say that even the indiscriminate bee wants nothing to do with it.

With respect to the plant gerard has somethin great to say about fever few ” the common single feverfew groweth in hedges, gardens, adn about ald wals, it ioyeth (enjoys) to grow among rubbish. There is oftentimes found when it is digged up a little cole under the strings of the root, and never without it, whereof cardane in his book of subtilties setteth down diverse vaine and trifling things.”

So gerard says that will even grow in a rubbish heap, thats a good sign for the modern gardener, thats code for this is not a picky plant, which we havwe already established we dont have time for.

One reason i like gerard is because he wasnt to high to get into a little dish, as can be observed in the last lines of the above quote. I dont know who cardane, but two points gerard, you really told him a peice.

Gerard mentions one of feverfews other uses ,” it is a great remedie against the disease of the matrix (uterous); it procureth womens sickness with speed, it bringeth forth the afterbirth adn the dead child, whether it be drunk in a decoction, or boiled in a bath and the woman sit over it, or the herbes sodden and applied to the privie part, in manner of a cataplasme or pultis. One other area of immediate concern to the old herbalist was female health issues. One of the leading killers among woman until not so recenlty was child birth. Childbirth was a dangerous and not many woman made it through child bearing years without some close encounter. The ancients knew that if the placenta wasnt delivered , the woman was a goner, and they sought out and discovered what herbs caused uterine contractions to get it delivered. Today doctors give recently delivered woman a shot of pitocin to make certain everything that should have been dispelled was, and in years gone by they gave the woman a tea of feverfew.gerard as well says that it is good for women suffering from thier curses.

Fever few is another plant that will have to had through mail order sources and or from garden center . Its another forgotten herb so you may have trouble finding at the garden center and may have to resort to some armchair gardeneing. In the source portion of this text you will find a number of concerns that will supply you with the plants.

Feverfew is as easy to grow as a garden mum, and just as adaptable. They like a sunny spot in the garden and are in no way particular as to their soil , just about any will do. You can set out your plants whenever you get them, spring, summer , or fall. It really doesnt matter. Pick you spot, and dig a hole the size of a basketball, mix the removed soil with a gallon of decomposed manure and refil the hole. Your start wont be this big but you want the soil loose so the plant can easily spread its roots. Plant the plant at the same level it held in its pot.

As to harvesting your feverfew, the fresh leaves are the best. The dried are ok, but the fresh the best. Like the garden mum, the feverfew goes under ground in the dead of the winter and doesnt re-appear until spring. What i do is , i pick the leaves every couple of weeks and pop them in the freezer in a ziplock bag. If i have a headache in the summer i just go out and mucnh a leaf, in winter when there arent any leaves, i just pop one of the frozen treats into my mouth. Most medicines taste bad and feverfew is no exception. I like to think of really gross food combinations sometimes, part of a nightmate dinner party i dream of having for a number of people i dont like . One of the dishes ive dreamed up is a jello mold made with fever few, taste a leaf and youll appreciate the humor.

The latin name , as ever has some common sense meaning. The first name, pyrethrum comes from the greek pur, or fire. Apparently the root of the feverfew if put next to the tongue causes a burning sensation, hence its likening to fire.

Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.