October 1, 2020
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Medicinal herbs are a great way to help support the body and boost health. Whenever my family needs some support recovering from an illness or mending a wound, I turn to herbal remedies to help. Feverfew is one of those herbs.
The benefits of feverfew are powerful, so I make sure I have some feverfew on hand if I need it. Feverfew’s main medicinal use is for reducing fever (as the name suggests), but it has many other uses.
Feverfew: Nature’s Fever Reducer
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium or Chrysanthemum parthenium) is a flower in the Asteraceae family. This plant is native to central and southern Europe (the Balkans and Caucasus). The small flowers (that resemble white daisies) grow on a bush that reaches about 20 inches tall. This plant is grown for both ornamental and medicinal uses, making it twice as useful to have around.
This herb is also known as featherfew, featherfoil, altamisa, wild chamomile, or bachelor’s buttons.
Feverfew has also been used traditionally for reducing inflammation associated with:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- insect bites
- stomach aches
- stomach issues
- labor problems
Ancient Greek physicians used it to relieve menstrual cramps as well.
According to a 2011 systematic review, parthenolide (a sesquiterpene lactone compound found in feverfew’s leaves) is responsible for most of the herb’s medicinal properties.
Health Benefits of Feverfew
Feverfew is an amazing herb with a long history! Feverfew has been known as “medieval aspirin” or “the aspirin of the 18th century” because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
Here are feverfew’s best-known (and supported!) health benefits:
Feverfew is thought to work the same way that over-the-counter medicines do, by reducing inflammation to lower fever. Traditional herbal medicine has employed it for generations for this use.
Feverfew likely has this benefit due to its ability to inhibit prostaglandin synthesis, according to the 2011 review mentioned earlier. Feverfew contains many compounds (including flavonoids, parthenolide, and tanetin) that have anti-inflammatory properties.
Cancer is a major issue in healthcare today. Researchers are continuously looking at plants that may be beneficial to cancer patients or those who would like to avoid cancer.
While more research is needed, there does seem to be a benefit in including feverfew in a health regime that supports optimal cell health.
The above 2011 review discusses feverfew’s ability to fight cancer cells by reducing oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction among other functions. However, this is of course not recommended as a replacement for chemotherapy or other treatment recommended by a cancer specialist.
Reduces Migraine Headaches
Migraine headaches are much worse than a regular headache. Migraines can be incredibly painful and come with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to sound or light. But feverfew may help people who suffer from migraines.
In addition, feverfew extract used before migraine attacks hit can help stave them off. This benefit is likely due to feverfew’s ability to inhibit prostaglandin synthesis, decrease vascular smooth muscle spasm, and stop blood vessels from widening.
This DIY headache relieving pain stick can also help.
One unexpected benefit of feverfew is that it can boost mood. While it has not been used for this use traditionally, science suggests that it can work. According to a 2017 study, feverfew can help relieve symptoms associated with anxiety and depression in mice.
We need more research (particularly in humans) to see if feverfew is a good remedy for these ailments, but it looks promising.
How to Use Feverfew
Feverfew is a simple herb to use. Here are some of the best uses of this herb:
- Headache – A feverfew tincture (see below) is a great way to get the strength of this herb in a shorter period of time (studies have shown this works as well as placebo but there is anecdotal evidence that it can prevent migraines).
- Fever – I tend to prefer to let a fever run its course, but there are times when reducing the fever is necessary. You could add feverfew to a fever calming tea or take a tincture.
- Daily cell health support – Drink feverfew tea regularly for its cell health benefits.
- Mood management – Many people find that a feverfew tincture helps deal with anxiety and depression symptoms when they pop up.
While there isn’t any research to support using feverfew for other ailments, some people have found it’s helpful for digestive issues as well as menstrual cramps and to speed up childbirth.
Feverfew is generally considered safe. It has few reported side effects, one being mouth ulcers when using fresh leaves.
There are some people who should not use feverfew:
- Pregnant women should avoid feverfew as it may cause contractions and loss of pregnancy. Nursing women should not use feverfew because there isn’t enough information to know if it’s safe.
- People with allergies to plants in the Compositae or Asteraceae family (chrysanthemum, ragweed, marigold, etc.) should not use feverfew in case of an allergic reaction.
- People on medications (such as anticoagulant or antiplatelet medication) should not use feverfew without speaking with their doctor first.
Always talk with your healthcare provider to find out what’s right for you, especially before giving to children.
How to Get Feverfew
One easy way is to grow it in your garden! Feverfew likes full sun to partial shade and well-drained sandy to loamy soil. You can start seeds inside or direct sow outside after the risk of frost has passed. Feverfew is very good at reseeding and many gardeners have a hard time controlling it. So keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t take over the garden!
Of course you can’t do this year round, so I also order it from a few sources.
- Feverfew Tea – You can get feverfew as a tea, but I don’t prefer the taste which is somewhat bitter. Opt for a combo like this migraine blend or capsules instead.
- Feverfew for Migraines – These migraine blend capsules contain feverfew and come from a great company, Designs for Health.
- Feverfew Tincture – If you aren’t a fan of swallowing pills, this liquid tincture can be a great option. If you have feverfew in the garden, you can even make your own.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Shani Muhammad, MD, board certified in family medicine and has been practicing for over ten years. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.
Have you tried feverfew? What is your favorite use?
- Pareek, A., Suthar, M., Rathore, G., & Bansal, V. (2011). Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.): A systematic review. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 5(9), 103. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.79105 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3210009/
- Cárdenas, J., Reyes-Pérez, V., Hernández-Navarro, M. D., Dorantes-Barrón, A. M., Almazán, S., & Estrada-Reyes, R. (2017). Anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects of an aqueous extract of Tanacetum parthenium L. Schultz-Bip (Asteraceae) in mice. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 200, 22-30. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2017.02.023 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28213105/