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Herb Reference Guide

Feverfew

History

Feverfew has been used by traditional herbalists for many common health complaints from headaches to minor aches and pains. Its common name is a derivation of the term, "febrifuge" a substance that modulates fever.

Feverfew is native to the Balkan Mountains of Eastern Europe and a member of the Daisy or Asteracea family. It's numerous white and yellow flowers and dark green foliage have made it a favorite of many gardeners. As with many traditional plants there is a myth corresponding to how the plant was named. The ancient Greeks called Feverfew, “Parthenium” because as mythology has it; parthenium was used to save the life of someone who had fallen from the Parthenon, the temple of Athena on the acropolis in Athens.

Function

The principal measured component of feverfew is parthenolide, one of several sesquiterpene lactones. In Canada regulations call for a minimum of 0.2 percent parthenolide in feverfew products, but the official French pharmacopoeia specifies a minimum of 0.1 percent. Parthenolide levels vary greatly, but most leaves from feverfew grown in North America contain less than 0.1 percent. Much of this variation is due to improper validation of species as there are many sub species of Feverfew which are far less active. Feverfew also contains flavonoid glycosides, particularly apigenin and luteolin. Some analysis also reports that Melatonin is a component of feverfew leaves. Parthenolides have been the focus of much research and do show promise for supporting the traditional uses of feverfew.

Uses of Feverfew

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Terpenoids: Chrysantemonin, chrysanthemolide, magnoliolide, parthenolide, santamarine, reynosin
Volatile oils: Camphor, borneol, farnesene; and their esters: Pyrethrin, Flavonols, Tannins

Parts Used

  • Leaves

Important precautions

Not for use during pregnancy or lactation.

Additional Resources

De Weerdt CJ, Bootsma HPR, Hendriks H. Herbal Medicines in migraine prevention. Randomized double-blind placebo controlled crossover trial of a feverfew preparation. Phytomedicine. 1996;3:225-230.

Murphy JJ, Heptinstall S, Mitchell JR. Randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial of feverfew in migraine prevention Lancet. Jul 23 1988;2(8604):189-192.

Pfaffenrath V, Diener HC, Fischer M, et al. The efficacy and safety of Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) in migraine prophylaxis—a double-blind, multicentre, randomized placebo-controlled dose-response study. Cephalalgia. 2002;22(7):523-532.