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Herbal Monograph

Herb:  Feverfew  (Chrysanthemum parthenium); Tanacetum Parthenium; Compositae)

Other Names:  Tanacetum Parthenium, featherfew, featherfoil, midsummer daisy    (2);  febrifuge (13)

The name “feverfew” a corruption of “featherfew”, referring to the fern-like leaves.  (15) aureum, golden ball, golden moss, plenum, Tom Thumb white stars, white bonnet, snowball.  (38)  wild quinine, bachelor’s button; 

“Febrifuge” derived from Latin febrifugia, “fever dispeller”, a misnomer:  herb was never called febrifugia  (reputation for fever treatment derives only from this misnomer). (62)

Character/Energetics:  bitter, cool (6); bitter, warm, dry (15)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:  stomach, liver (6)

Parts used: leaves and flowers  (6); leaves  (8)

Identification & Harvesting: 5-20 composite flower heads in a dense corymb; florets are white.  Strongly aromatic perennial.  Found all over Europe, Australia and North America.  Dry in the shade, at 35 C or cooler (about 90 F).   (2);  

Leaves may be picked throughout spring and summer, but just before flowering is best. (8)

Golden ball has no petals.  Snowball has ivory center and no petals.  White bonnet has ivory center and white petals. (38) Odor resembles that of tansy. (57)

Small, 2-inch diam, white-petalled, yellow-centered flowers;  leaves resembling parsley. (61)

Active Constituents:  volatile oils:  chiefly L-camphor, trans-chrysanthylacetate, also camphene, p-cymene, linalool, borneol, terpenes-4-ol;  sesquiterpene lactones;  flavonoids;  polynes. (2)

Essential oil containing camphor, terpene, borneol, various esters and a bitter principle  (6)

pyrethrins, tannins.   (15);  Parthenolides.   (56)

Parthenolides, not found in all feverfew varieties, appear to cause anti-migraine effect.  (61)

Actions:  In animal experiments, slows platelet aggregation, prostaglandin synthesis and histamine       release. Reduces release of serotonin from thrombocytes and polymorphonuclear leukocytes  (2); antipyretic, carminative, purgative, bitter tonic (6);   Anti-inflammatory, vasodilatant, relaxant, digestive stimulant, promotes menstruation, expels worms.  (15)

Neutralizes certain prostaglandins linked to pain and inflammation, which also play a role in      menstrual cramps.  Suggested tumor-fighting properties.  May reduce blood pressure. (62)

Conditions & Uses:  Used mainly for migraine, arthritis, rheumatic diseases and allergies.  In folk medicine, used for cramps, as a tonic, a stimulant, a digestive, and a blood purifier.  Also intestinal parasites and gynecological disorders incl. dysmenorrhea.   (2)

Feverfew treats colds, flu, fevers and digestive problems. It also is effective against headaches, especially migraine, but probably only in those with genuine excess heat conformation.   (6)

Taken by women in the past to expel placenta after birth.   (15)

Used externally for insect bites and bruises. (38)

Best known for its proven effectiveness in treating migraines;  two-thirds of consistent users experience relief, and the herb is much less costly than commercially-available pain medications.  Studies published in British Medical Journal indicate taking the herb regularly prevents migraines.  Also, people for whom conventional treatments have been ineffective have had good results with feverfew.  May also help relieve allergies.   (56)

For more than 2000 years, herb has been a folk remedy for fevers, headache or menstrual regulation, or applied externally to relieve pain.(61)

Combinations:  For acute stages of r. arthritis, add up to 2 ml tincture 3 x daily to other herbal    remedies.   (15)

Precautions:  Won’t stop a headache already in progress.  (1)

Feverfew will stop a migraine headache already in progress.  (1c)

No known risks or side effects from designated dosages.  High potential for sensitization with external use;  occasional contact dermatitis.  A strong possibility it may interact with antithrombotic medication such as aspirin or warfarin.  Mechanism is believed to be inhibition of arachidonic acid, precursor for prostaglandins that are involved in clotting. (2)

Do not use for migraine resulting from a weak, deficiency condition.   (6)

Can affect clotting rates;  avoid conjunction with blood-thinning drugs.   (15)

Slight possibility the herb will trigger miscarriage, and lactating women should refrain also, to avoid passing it to infants via milk.  Long-term users report a mild sedative effect.  10-18% who ingest the fresh leaves regularly develop mouth sores or inflammation.  To avoid this, make the tea (below) instead.   (56)

No long-term studies done on the herb’s safety.  7-12% of users report mouth ulcers, inflammation, swelling of lips, occasional loss of taste.  Symptoms disappear when use is discontinued.  Cayuga Botanicals research staff  think these symptoms may result from ingestion of fresh leaf only.]  (61)

      FEVERFEW  (Chrysanthemum parthenium; Tanacetum Parthenium; Compositae)

Precautions (cont.):

Do not administer to children under two years.  Feverfew suppresses but does not cure migraines: headaches typically return when use is terminated, so patients might need to take it for years.  To date, no problems associated with long-term use, but there has been no research on long-term use. (62)

Known to have anti-platelet activity — use with care when taking herbs or drugs with anticoagulant activity (such as warfarin or horse chestnut).  Anti-platelet principles potentiate the danger of bleeding disorder contingent upon anticoagulants.  If you are taking large amounts, have your bleeding time measured by your doctor as a precaution.    (1d)

Tincturing Process:  Vita Mix: (Speed 5)

Place feverfew 2″-3″ above blades level in VM container. Process 135 seconds. 6.5 gr marc: 1 oz menstruum tincturing ratio. 60%  alcohol   (1a)                                   

Applications:  Infusion — 2 tsp herb per cup; allow to draw for 15 min;  or to prepare a wash, double the concentration and draw 25 min. (2)

Tea — 2-8 fresh leaves steeped in boiling water;  but don’t actually boil the tea, as this may destroy the parthenolides.   (56)

Commercial preparations often standardized to .2% parthenolides.    (61)


Dosage:  50-1200 mg leaf powder per day;  standard infusion or 3‑9 gms.   (6)

If you eat the fresh leaves, take 1-4 per daily to prevent migraines.   (56)

15-30 drops/day tincture.   (61)

General Notes: There is some controversy as to whether it is effective for acute headaches;  some for, some against.  Considerable variance in quality in commercial preparations.   (1b)

“…the herb bruised…and applied to the wrists before the coming of the ague-fits, does take them away.”  Nicholas Culpeper, 1653(?)     (15)

Leaf has an unpleasant taste. Kin to dandelion and marigold.   (56)

“…very effectual for all pains in the head coming of a cold cause, the herb being bruised and applied to the crown of the head…”  Nicholas Culpeper, 1787(?) (61)

Can be maintained year-round as a houseplant; for regular use as a migraine-preventative, a few plants should suffice.  Prefers partial shade.  Pinch back flower buds to encourage bushiness.  Bees avoid it; don’t plant with other plants that require pollination. (62)



(1) Cayuga Botanicls Research Data, Prevention, Nov. 1997, p. 202

(1a) ibid “Feverfew” Tincture file

(1b) ibid  Research Data, Medical Herbalism, Winter 1995, pgs. 1, 3

(1c) ibid  RD’s personal experience

(1d) ibid  research Data, “The Herb-Drug Mix” by Robert Rountree, M.D., Herbs for Health,

Jul/Aug ’99, pgs. 52-54

(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 1171-72

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 159

(8) The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, p. 200

(13) The Herb Book by John Lust, pgs. 195-96

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, p. 102

(38) Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses by Deni Bown, pgs. 208-9, 360

(56) The Green Pharmacy  by James A. Duke, Ph.D., pgs. 32, 233-34

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., p. 137

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 86-87

(62) The Healing Herbs by Michael Castleman, pgs. 173-76


PHOTO: Wikipedia