Materia Medica: Feverfew
Feverfew is traditionally used for the treatment of fevers, migraine headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, irregular menstrual periods, psoriasis, allergies, asthma, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), dizziness, and nausea and vomiting.
Latin Binomial: Tanacetum parthenium, Chrythanthemum parthenium, Pyrethrum parthenium
Common Name(s): Feverfew, Featherfew, Featherfoil, Febrifuge Plant
TCM Name: Xiao bai ju
Physical Description of the Plant: Feverfew is a herbaceous perennial plant. The plant grows into a small bush up to 18-24 inches high, and spreads rapidly, covering a wide area after a few years. The strongly bitter-scented leaves are ovate, pinnately cut, basal, hairy and up to 3 inches long, with 3 to 5 scalloped sections. Daisy-like flowerheads with white ray and yellowish disc florets to 1 inch across are held in dense corymbs or flat flower clusters. Various cultivars have been developed for ornamental purposes, some with double flower petals. It remains evergreen in winter to Zone 5, often coming up through the snow in spring.
Habitat: Native to Anatolia in southeastern Europe, feverfew is now found throughout Europe, Australia and North America, thriving in all types of soils and light conditions.
Harvest and Collection: Pick leaves throughout spring and summer; best just before flowering.
Parts of the Plant Used: Leaves and flowers.
Qualities: Bitter tonic, carminative, stimulant.
- Volatile oil, containing pinene and several pinene derivatives, bornylacetate and angelate, costic acid, b-farnesine and spiroketalenol ethers
- Sesquiterpene lactones; the major one being parthenolide, with santamarine (=balchanin) and a number of others including esters of parthenolide, reynosin, artemorin and its epoxide, 3b-hydroxyparthenolide, 3b-hydroxycostunolide, 8-hydroxyestafiatin, traces of canin and artecanin, partholide and chrysantholide.
- Acetylene derivatives
- Monoterpenes (Essential oil)
Taste: bitter, pungent
- Anti-inflammatory / PGE (prostaglandin) Inhibitor
- Emmenagogue (high doses)
- Uterine stimulant
- Migraine (prophylaxis)
- Tension headache
- Coughs, colds and flu
- Atonic dyspepsia
- Worm infestation
- Sluggish menstrual flow and dysmenorrhea
- Dizziness and Tinnitus
- Pregnancy (uterine stimulant)
- Hypersensitivity to Asteraceae family – sensitivity to plants containing sesquiterpenes (eg laurel, magnolia, liverworts)
- May cause contact dermatitis
- May cause mild inflammation/ulcers of the mouth, tongue or lips (esp. with fresh leaves)
- Discontinue 7-10 days before surgery
Drug Interactions: Taking feverfew along with anticoagulant, antiplatelet and thrombolytic medications might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
- Fresh Aerial Parts: Eat one to two fresh leaves daily as a prophylactic against migraines (Caution of fresh leaves potentially causing mouth ulcers as side effect)
- Tincture: Take 5-10 drops fresh plant tincture every 30 minutes at onset of migraine- best for ‘cold’ type migraines- those that are better for applying hot towel to head.
- Infusion: 1 teaspoon of dry herb per cup of water after childbirth to encourage cleansing and tonifying of uterus. Also period pain associated with sluggish flow and congestion.
- Tablets or capsules: dried leaf (freeze dried leaf preparations best), 50-100 mg/day.
Combinations: combined with Blue Vervain, Butterbur, Corydalis, Ginger, Jamaican Dogwood, Meadowsweet, White Willow, Wood Betony.
Energetics: Drying, warming.
Folklore: It has been used throughout recorded medical history as a bitter tonic and remedy for severe headaches. Best known in modern use for Migraine treatment, the traditional use for headaches was largely applied externally. The bitter herb was thought to be potentially damaging to be taken internally, although it was administered orally by women to assist in expelling of placenta after birth and other various womb disorders.
Flower Essence: Brings chaotic energy down, helping one to be calmer and more serene. It is helpful in group situations. Releases repressed emotions and dissolves blockages and old beliefs that prevent one from receiving and integrating new concepts. Helps maintain balance in the body and keep one 's energy in alignment with his/her higher purpose. Can open one psychically to his/ her higher self. Encourages softness. Helpful for animals as well.
Applications: Anti-inflammatory action by inhibiting inflammatory prostaglandins, leukotrienes and thromboxanes; decreases platelet aggregation, decreases serotonin and histamine release.
Headache Tea #1
*3 parts chamomile
*3 parts lemon balm
*1 part passion flower
*1 part skullcap
Slowly boil water, pour over the herbs and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and drink 1/2 cup every hour until the symptoms subside. 1-3 tbsp. fresh herbs OR 1-3 tsp. dried herbs per cup of water.
Headache Tea #2
*2 parts lemon balm
*2 parts skullcap
*1 part chamomile
*1 part feverfew
Slowly boil water, pour over the herbs and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and drink 1/4 cup every 30 minutes until the symptoms subside. 1-3 tbsp. fresh herbs OR 1-3 tsp. dried herbs per cup of water.
Headache Tea #3
*2 parts lemon balm
*1 part feverfew
*1 part lavender
Slowly boil water, pour over the herbs and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and drink 1/4 cup every 30 minutes until the symptoms subside. 1-3 tbsp. fresh herbs OR 1-3 tsp. dried herbs per cup of water. This one is particularly good if you also have a hot bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil added to it.
Migraine/Headache Tea #4
*1 part feverfew
*1 part lavender
This tea is good for those really bad headaches AKA migraines. Slowly boil water, pour over the herbs and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and drink 1/4 cup every 30 minutes until the symptoms subside. 1-3 tbsp. fresh herbs OR 1-3 tsp. dried herbs per cup of water.
Feverfew is the only herb used in European phytotherapy known to be specific for the treatment of migraine. (Some clinical trials indicate the crude leaf may be the only effective form to use for treating migraines and must be used prophylactically.) Long term users often report beneficial side effects such as relief from depression, nausea and arthritic pain due to inflammation. Part of the herb's action appears to be via an inhibition of secretion of the granular contents from platelets and neutrophils in the blood. This may be relevant to the therapeutic value of Feverfew in migraine and other conditions such as osteo-arthritis.
Pharmacologists conclude that it is very likely the sesquiterpene lactones inhibit prostaglandins and histamine released during the inflammatory process, so preventing spasms of the blood vessels in the head that trigger migraine attacks.
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