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Feverfew as an Herb

Feverfew as an herb

Tahacetum parthenium

Other Names: Bird's Foot, Foenugreek, Goat's Horn, Featherfew, Featherfoil, Midsummer Daisy

Feverfew is the fresh or dried leaf of a member of the aster family native to the Balkan peninsula. It is naturalized in Europe, as well as in North and South America. Country people have long made curative uses of this herb, which grows abundantly throughout England.

The English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper (1787) wrote that feverfew "is very effectual for all pains in the head coming of a cold cause, the herb being bruised and applied to the crown of the head."

For more than 2,000 years, feverfew was a folk medicine taken internally.

Feverfew as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

A tincture made from feverfew and applied locally immediately relieves the pain and swelling of insect bites. It is said that when two teaspoonfuls of tincture are mixed with 1/2 pint of cold water, and all parts of the body exposed to the bites of insects are freely sponged with it, the bugs will stay away. A tincture of the leaves chamomile and German chamomile will have the same effect.

Feverfew leaf is sometimes called "the aspirin of the eighteenth century". Traditionally used in European herbalism for all types of pain, such as menstrual cramps, and joint discomfort, this remedy has gotten serious attention recently as a head pain preventive. Taken daily, it significantly reduces the incidence of painful and debilitating attacks. Some herbalists are now reviving the historical use and are recommending feverfew for mild acute pain.

A cold infusion is made from 1 ounce of the herb to a pint of boiling water, allowed to cool, and taken frequently in doses of half a tea-cupful.

An infusion of the flowers, made with boiling water and allowed to become cold, will allay any distressing sensitiveness to pain in a highly nervous subject, and will afford relief to the face ache or earache of a dyspeptic or rheumatic person.

Feverfew for Migraines

Modern use focuses on feverfew to help prevent migraines. Feverfew is said to reduce inflammation and muscle spasms. Feverfew gained popularity in Great Britain in the 1980s as an alternative to conventional medications for migraine headaches. A survey of 270 migraine sufferers in Great Britain revealed that more than 70 percent of individuals felt substantially better after taking feverfew daily.

Feverfew also helps prevent constriction of blood vessels in the brain. It inhibits the production of prostaglandin hormones, which can inflame blood vessels. It can even make platelets less sticky and normalize blood flow. This can also help reduce migraine frequency and severity.

Feverfew also holds promise when combined with ginger. In a study at the Headache Care Center in Springfield, Missouri, 30 people with a history of migraine were given an over-the-counter combination of feverfew and ginger. They took this combination at the early, mild pain phase of a migraine headache. Overall, 59 percent of the participants said they were happy with the effectiveness.

Folk practitioners used feverfew to treat fevers, migraine headaches (Chevallier 2000; Weiner and Weiner 1994), and gas and indigestion (Maiscott 2000). Peirce noted that there is no research that indicates that the plant reduces fevers but more research is needed.

Culinary Uses of Feverfew

The leaves of feverfew can be eaten as is, but the taste is described by most as "vile". As such it generally is not used for culinary purposes.

Caution

Don't use feverfew if you take blood thinning medication such as Coumadin or daily aspirin.

No long-term studies have been done on safety. Mouth ulcers have been reported in 7 to 12 percent of patients who chewed the fresh feverfew leaves. Tongue inflammation, swelling of the lips, and occasional loss of taste sometimes prevent continued use. These symptoms disappeared when use was stopped.

The herb is not to be used during pregnancy or during breast-feeding.

Feverfew has been known to cross-react with Tansy, Yarrow, Marguerite, Aster, Sunflower Laurel and Liverwort (Schmidt, 1986).

A post-Feverfew syndrome has been reported in about 10 percent of migraine patients who abruptly stopped taking Feverfew. Rebound headaches, insomnia, muscle stiffness, joint pain, fatigue, nervousness and tension have occurred (Miller, 1998).

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