encyclopedia

Feverfew

 
Scientific Names:
 
Tanacetum parthenium (L.) Bernh. [Fam. Asteraceae]
 
Forms:
 
Feverfew leaf and flower, fresh or cut and dried; Feverfew leaf and flower extracts; feverfew plant juice; feverfew tincture
 
Traditional Usage:
 
– Analgesic
– Anti-inflammatory
– Antioxidant
– Anti-thrombosis
– Bone and Joint Conditions
– Breathing Difficulties
– Bronchitis
– Colic
– Digestive Problems
– Fever
– Headache
– Insomnia
– Labor Difficulties
– Menstrual Cramps
– Menstrual Disorders
– Migraine
– Morning Sickness
– Natural Melatonin Source
– Psoriasis
– Respiratory Problems
– Sedative
– Stomachache
– Toothache
– Urinary Tract Gravel
 
 
Overview:
 
Feverfew, Tanacetum parthenium (L.) Bernh. [Fam. Asteraceae], has been used traditionally as a headache medicine since the first century. During the 1700s, Culpeper recommended a poultice of feverfew leaves around the forehead for his migraine patients. Feverfew was also traditionally employed to treat painful bone and joint disorders and as a digestive herb to treat stomachaches and other digestive disorders. Feverfew was also valued as a women's herb and was recommended for treating menstrual cramps and other menstrual disorders, and for treating morning sickness and labor difficulties. The name 'feverfew' stems from its traditional use as a cooling herb to help break fevers. Recent studies show that the herb is rich in the natural antioxidant, melatonin; freshly dried green leaves of feverfew were found to contain up to 2.45 ug/g, enough to confer biological activity. A recent systematic review on the efficacy and safety of feverfew in the prevention of migraine concluded that feverfew is likely to be effective in preventing migraines and that there are no major safety problems. One randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study seventy-two volunteers published in The Lancet showed that treatment with one capsule of dried feverfew leaves a day was associated with a reduction in the mean number and severity of migraine attacks in each of four two-month periods, and in the degree of vomiting; duration of individual attacks was unaltered. There were no serious side-effects. Another double blind placebo controlled trial with seventeen patients who ate fresh leaves of feverfew daily as prophylaxis against migraine or were given placebo showed that feverfew taken prophylactically prevents attacks of migraine. Feverfew, reputed by folklore to be effective in treating joint pain, has in vitro properties that could be beneficial in the control of inflammatory disease. Feverfew was also used traditionally to treat toothache and respiratory disorders.
 
 
Active Ingredients:
 
Feverfew standardized extracts contain: 0.2-0.7% parthenolide. Fresh feverfew contains: 89.5% water; 0.02-0.07% essential oil; apigenin-7-glucoside; ascorbic acid; approximately 17% ash; L-borneol; 0.58% calcium; L-camphor; 51.4% carbohydrates; beta-carotene; chromium; chrysanthemolide; chrysanthemomin; chrysarten A and B; cosmosiin; epicanin; 4.8% fat; 14.3% fiber; beta-hydroxyarbusculin; beta-reynosin; 0.24% magnesium; manganese; mangoliolide; melatonin; niacin; parthenolide; partholide; 0.5% phosphorus; 2.2% potassium; 27% protein; reynosin; riboflavin; santamarin; selenium; silicon; sodium; tanaparthin; tanaparthin-alpha-epoxide; tanaparthin-beta-epoxide; thiamin; tin and zinc. [Information on fresh feverfew largely taken from: Duke JA. 1992. Handbook of Phytochemical Constituents of GRAS Herbs and Other Economic Plants. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 158-159].
 
 
Suggested Amount:
 
Feverfew is generally taken for several months for prevention of migraine headaches. Practitioners also recommend heading off acute attacks by taking a dosage of feverfew every fifteen minutes for a maximum of four doses, until symptoms improve. Feverfew can be taken as fresh or dried leaf, or as standardized extracts. Standardized extracts are recommended at 275mg daily. Feverfew capsules or tablets are recommended at 300-400mg taken up to three times daily. Feverfew tincture is recommended at 15-30 drops daily. Fresh leaves can also be used with the recommended dosage of two large leaves or four small leaves eaten raw or mixed in with food daily.
 
 
Drug Interactions:
 
Feverfew may potentially increase the risk of bleeding or potentiate the effects of warfarin, based on in vitro data and animal studies. Therefore, feverfew should not be used concomitantly with warfarin sodium. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may negate the usefulness of feverfew in the treatment of migraine headaches.
 
 
Contraindications:
 
Feverfew may potentially increase the risk of bleeding or potentiate the effects of warfarin based on in vitro data and animal studies. Feverfew is contraindicated during pregnancy or lactation.
 
 
Side Effects:
 
A small percentage of people may experience mild stomach upset from feverfew, although this is rare. Chewing fresh feverfew leaves may lead to minor mouth ulcerations occasionally, an effect not observed with capsule users.
 
 
References:
 
Ernst E, Pittler MH. 2000. The efficacy and safety of feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.): an update of a systematic review. Public Health Nutr. 2000 Dec; 3(4A): 509-14. Review.
 
Hattori A., Migitaka, H., Iigo, M. et al. 1995. Identification of melatonin in plants and its effects on plasma melatonin levels and binding to melatonin receptors in vertebrates. Biochem. Mol. Biol. Int. 35: 627-634.
 
McCaleb, RS, Leigh, E, Morien, K. 2000. Feverfew in The Encyclopedia of Popular Herbs. Publ. by Prima Publishing, 3000 Lava Ridge Court, Roseville, CA 95661. Pp. 157-162.
 
Murch, Susan J. et al. 1997. Melatonin in feverfew and other medicinal plants. The Lancet, November 29, 1997, Vol. 350. pp. 1598-1599.
 
Murphy JJ, Heptinstall S, Mitchell JR. 1988. Randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial of feverfew in migraine prevention. Lancet. 1988 Jul 23; 2(8604): 189-92.