Tanacetum parthenium

Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Tanacetum
Species: parthenium

Synonyms and Common names:  Featherfew, Featherfoil, Midsummer daisy, Bachelor’s buttons, Altamisa, nosebleed, flirt wort.

Description and Habitat: Feverfew is a perennial herb native to south-eastern Europe and Asia and has been naturalized widely elsewhere.

Found growing on rocky slopes, walls, waste places, and a weed of gardens.  A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in an ordinary garden soil, plants can even be grown in walls.  Often grown in the flower garden, feverfew is usually self-sowing.

The leaves have a refreshing aromatic aroma. Growing to 2 ½  feet the stem is upright, erect, hairy, finely furrowed, and branching. The Herb is strongly aromatic and its leaves are alternate, hairless, toothed, light green about 4 inches long, and divided into broad, lobed segments.  The lower leaves are bi-pinnate with oval-shaped leaflets.  Many daisy-like flower heads (composite) bloom June-August, with white ray flowers surrounding nearly flat yellow centres, growing to about 1 inch across.

Parts used: Flowers, leaves, and stems.

Harvesting: The leaves may be collected throughout spring and summer, but preferably before the flowering period.

Constituents: Sesquiterpene lactones (including parthenolide and santamarine), volatile oil, sesquiterpenes (including camphor, farnesene, and germacrene), tannins, monoterpenes.

Actions: Migraine prophylactic, anti-inflammatory, vasodilatory, antirheumatic, febrifuge, a digestive bitter, anthelmintic, uterine stimulant.

Indications: Migraine prophylaxis, arthritic conditions.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Although this herb has been used for many years in migraine prophylaxis, confirmed by clinical studies, the precise mechanism of the action is not yet fully understood.   It is thought that the prophylactic action is due to serotonin (5-HT) inhibition, possibly via the neutralisation of sulphydryl groups on specific enzymes that are fundamental to platelet aggregation and secretion. Abnormal platelet behaviour with the release of 5-HT has been implicated in migraine.

Headaches and muscle aches and pain treated by an Infusion of Feverfew is recommended, as is pain from injury of any kind.

Feverfew has long been reputed to help relieve arthritis, particularly in the painful active inflammatory stage.

Feverfew has been used in the treatment of dysmenorrhoea and sluggish menstrual flow, and an infusion may be taken to cleanse the uterus after childbirth.

Contraindications: The fresh leaves can cause mouth ulceration or gastric disturbance so it is recommended that those taking the fresh leaf for migraine prophylaxis should take it with some bread.. The herb is contraindicated in pregnancy due to its stimulating action on the uterus.

Preparation and Dosage: In the past people consumed feverfew similarly to chewing tobacco, receiving nutrients from chewed leaves. This method can cause stomach and mouth irritation and is not recommended. Today feverfew is usually ingested in the form of an Infusion or extracts, capsules, and tablets made from dried feverfew; these forms do not cause irritation.   Up to 250 mg of feverfew can be taken without causing side effects. To prevent migraines, feverfew needs to be ingested for a minimum of four to six weeks.

Make an Infusion of the Herb and it can be drunk as required.   It can also be applied to the skin to work as an insect repellent or can be made into a compress for the alleviation of pain.


Additional Comments & Folklore: Feverfew was used by Greek physicians to treat "melancholy," which may have included headaches as well as depression.

Here in Britain, it was used into the seventeenth century for symptoms that might translate today into vertigo, depression, and headache, as well as for lowering fever. It faded from popularity after that, and during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was hardly used by herbalists.

It was, however, planted in gardens, perhaps for the small daisy-like flowers or because it had a reputation for repelling insects. If that didn't work, it was sometimes used as a balm to ease the itching of insect bites.

Feverfew is a very short-lived Herb that is native to South-Eastern Europe but can be found as far-flung as Australia, Greece, Egypt and North America.    There are records of Feverfew being used in ancient Greece and Egypt to cure ailments such as menstrual cramps, inflammation and general pain.  Its folklore name of ‘Feverfew’ explains its ability to reduce pain.

In Medieval Europe, especially during plague years, Feverfew was an essential part of a cottage garden.  Local lore says that planting Feverfew flowers by the house, especially near the door helps protect those inside from the disease.

While the herbs ‘magical’ qualities are up for debate, it is believed that the rats that carried plague and other disease did not like the smell or taste of Feverfew and avoided eating it.  A bunch of Feverfew flowers placed in a vase in the house helps to reduce the number of flies in the summer, mind you the smell of Feverfew is not pleasant, neither is a medication made from the same herb, but it is too good of a cure for all sorts of pains its worth persevering.

In addition to safeguarding against aches, pains and even the plague, Feverfew was also known as a cure for elf-shot.  Elf-shot was a common ailment in Europe and especially here in Britain.   It was believed that elf-shot was caused when invisible elves shot invisible arrows into a person or animal.   The arrows caused intense pain wherever they stuck.  Today it is believed that elf-shot might be what today we know as muscle spasm or even arthritis.   It is believed the spear-shaped leaves of the Feverfew Herb are natural markers of cures against elf-shot.

Because of its links to curing aches and pains, it is also believed to be a powerful cure for those suffering from heartache or rejection of a lover.