Feverfew: A Herbal For Migraines And Headaches

Flowers of Tanacetum parthenium (Feverfew).
Flowers of feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) in garden. Copyright: nnadin333 / 123RF Stock Photo

We have been growing feverfew in our gardens for years and to some it has become a real weed but a welcome one in many instances. I find it growing on the vegetable patch in great numbers. Pull it up and you are greeted with a pungent smell which is grassy and distinctly herbal.

As the name might suggest, feverfew (Tanacetum) has historically been used for reducing fevers but its more from confusion than any other powers the plant has. back in the mists of time, the ancient Greeks began exploiting its powers of healing to quell the sweating from fever. The herb was known in England as Featherfoil in the Middle Ages because of its feather-like leaves. This soon adapted to feverfew and was being used to treat fevers by herbalists of the day. Indeed, the name originally comes from the latin word for ‘fever reducer’.

The herb is also used to treat psoriasis, arthritis, dermatitis, insect bites, allergies, asthma, digestive problems, toothache, earache, nausea, vomiting, tinnitus, infertility and problems with menstruation and childbirth..

We see it in health food shops because it is a remedy for various aches, pains and perhaps most interestingly migraine. Feverfew’s actual benefits were discovered by accident after the wife of the chief medical officer of the UK’s National Coal Board was told about chewing the herb for headache relief by a miner! This gave her instant relief and was heard about by the City of London Migraine Clinic who tested chewing feverfew leaves on several clients with instant success.

Uses For Feverfew

  • Feverfew is primarily used to treat migraines and headaches
  • Other benefits are as an aid to digestion and menstrual discomfort

How To Use And Prepare

The best way to try to get relief from a migraine or headache is to chew two fresh or frozen feverfew leaves per day

To drink as an infusion add half to one teaspoon of crushed leaves to one cup of boiling water and steep for up to ten minutes, up to two times per day

Can be taken in capsule form.

Benefits Of Feverfew

Treatments For Cancer 

The leaves of feverfew appear to contain compounds which have been shown by scientists in 2019 at the University of Birmingham in the UK to destroy leukaemia cells. The leaves contain parthenolides. These can be extracted and used to destroy particular cancer cells in laboratory experiments. The particular cells of interest were  chronic lymphocytic leukaemia cells. The parthenolide compounds appeared to kill these cancerous cells by increasing levels of reactive oxygen species to such a level that they damaged the cellular components. The study is published in the journal MedChemComm.

Professor John Fossey, from the university’s school of chemistry, claimed:-

“This research is important not only because we have shown a way of producing parthenolide that could make it much more accessible to researchers, but also because we’ve been able to improve its ‘drug-like’ properties to kill cancer cells.”

“It’s a clear demonstration that parthenolide has the potential to progress from the flowerbed into the clinic.”

The plant also contains compounds which inhibit a variety of enzymes that are found in cells associated with inflammation. These are especially common with inflammation in the joints as with arthritis. The effect of inhibition simply quells the inflammatory response. How it does so is still being investigated. 

Cautionary Information

  • Do not give to any child under two years old
  • Do not use while pregnant or nursing
  • Avoid using Feverfew in medicinal amounts if you have a history of abnormal blood-clotting
  • Consult a medical professional if taking medicinal amounts over a long period.

If you are interested in other items about the various members in the Tanacetum spp. then consult the article in the archive as there are a number in the genus which have been ascribed various properties.

Products Based On Feverfew

The organic, dried leaves are available  Pestle Herbs in 50g and 100g quantities. Just click on the amounts to be taken to the point of purchase. Please note this article contains links to our affiliate marketing partner. Please check our affiliate disclosure.

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