Feverfew has been studied and found
effective for the prevention of migraine headaches, reducing the number of
headaches suffered by as much as 70 percent, or reducing the pain and
controlling the nausea commonly experienced with such headaches. Once
a migraine headache begins, however, feverfew does not appear to relieve the
Feverfew has anti-inflamatory properties and can also be
used for treating skin conditions such as
Feverfew has been linked to
several measurable changes in physiology. Extracts of the aboveground parts of
the plant can reduce the body's manufacture of prostaglandin, a chemical
important in inflammation, by up to 88 percent. This and other
anti-inflammatory activity might explain why the herb has been used to treat
In the test tube, feverfew extracts can keep
blood platelets from sticking together and forming clots, so the herb may be
useful as a mild anticoagulant. It achieves this through a different
chemical pathway than aspirin or other salicylates. Feverfew also blocks
platelets from releasing serotonin, which may help to explain how it works to
prevent migraines. Feverfew extracts also prevent the release of
histamine from mast cells, so the plant may be useful in the treatment of
allergies. Presumably, it is also expected to lower fever, although there don't
appear to be modern clinical studies substantiating this traditional
Used by Greek physicians to
treat "melancholy," which may have included headaches as well as
depression. The English used it into the seventeeth 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 daisylike 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.
In many places it escaped
from the garden and now grows as a wildflower in much of the northeastern
United States. Only in recent decades has it come back into regular use,
primarily to prevent migraine headaches. Dried leaves and stems, picked
while the plant is flowering (July through October), are the parts
The principal measured
component of feverfew is parthenolide, one of several sesquiterpene lactones.
Canadian regulations call for a minimum of 0.2 percent parthenolide in feverfew
products, while the 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. In addition, feverfew contains
flavonoid glycosides, particularly apigenin and luteolin. Melatonin has also
been reported as a component of feverfew leaves. How much of the activity of
feverfew is due to parthenolide (which is also found in a number of other
plants) and how much should be attributed to other compounds has not been
For the prevention of
migraines: chew two to three fresh leaves daily; or take 125 mg of dried
herb with 0.2 percent parthenolide. Treatment for at least two months is
recommended. Doses from 50 to 200 mg of dried herb have been used for
other indications but recommendations vary widely.
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