Feverfew

Botanical Name(s):

Chrysanthemum parthenium, Tanacetum parthenium. Family: Asteraceae

Other Name(s):

altamisa, bachelor's buttons, featherfew, featherfoil

General Description:

Feverfew is related to the common daisy and grows throughout the United States and Europe. It has been used as a pain reliever for centuries. The feathery, aromatic leaves are used primarily for the prevention of migraine headaches. Scientists believe that parthenolide and other ingredients in feverfew inhibit serotonin and prostaglandin, naturally occurring agents that dilate the blood vessels and may trigger migraines.

Feverfew works for migraines only if taken daily over an extended period of time. It functions as a preventive, not a treatment, so taking it only when a migraine is present will not help.

Feverfew's main active component is the sesquiterpene lactone, parthenolide, which has been effective in the prevention of migraine headaches via a wide variety of physiological pathways.

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Medically Valid Uses:

Some studies say that feverfew is effective when used to decrease the frequency and severity of migraine headaches; other studies say it is not.

Feverfew has the following properties:

  • Anti-inflammatory: It reduces secretion of inflammatory substances (serotonin and arachidonic acid).

  • Vasodilator: It widens blood vessels.

  • It decreases the response of the  cerebrovascular system (blood vessels in the brain) to agents thought to be responsible for migraines.

Unsubstantiated Claims:

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Feverfew may also alleviate the nausea and vomiting associated with migraines. It may take a month or more for the effects of feverfew to be noticed.

Feverfew is claimed to help reduce painful inflammation associated with arthritis, decrease the thickness of secretions in the lungs and ease dizziness and tinnitus.

Feverfew may possibly help stimulate uterine contractions to reduce the length of labor, start menstrual periods and relieve painful menstrual periods.

Feverfew has also been claimed to relieve colitis, soothe insect bites and stimulate appetite by acting as a digestive bitter (tastes bitter and stimulates the digestive system and process to work more effectively).

Dosing Format:

Feverfew is available in standardized tablets or capsules. It can also be used fresh or freeze-dried.

Recommended doses vary widely from 200 mg to 3,000 mg up to three times per day. Follow the packaging instructions for correct dose.

Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:

Feverfew is safe when used in small amounts. No long-term studies have been conducted.

Fresh leaves may cause mouth ulcers (aphthous ulcers) in some people. Individuals with allergies, especially to ragweed, may be sensitive to feverfew, as it is a member of the same family.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not use feverfew.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, may interfere with feverfew's ability to prevent migraine headaches. Feverfew should not be used if you are taking an anticoagulant such as warfarin sodium (Coumadin). If you are taking any of these medications and wish to use feverfew, you should consult your physician.

Additional Information:

Click here for a list of reputable Web sites with general information on nutrition.

References:

  1. Johnson ES, Kadam NP, Hylands DM, Hylands PJ. Efficacy of feverfew as prophylactic treatment of migraine. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1985;291(6495):569-73.

  2. Murphy JJ, Heptinstall S, Mitchell JR. Randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial of feverfew in migraine prevention. Lancet. 1988;2(8604):189-92.

  3. Loesche W, Mazurov AV, Voyno-Yasenetskaya TA, Groenewegen WA, Heptinstall S, Repin VS. Feverfew--an antithrombotic drug?. Folia Haematol Int Mag Klin Morphol Blutforsch. 1988;115(1-2):181-4.

  4. Heptinstall S, Groenewegen WA, Spangenberg P, Losche W. Inhibition of platelet behaviour by feverfew: a mechanism of action involving sulphydryl groups. Folia Haematol Int Mag Klin Morphol Blutforsch. 1988;115(4):447-9.

  5. Sumner H, Salan U, Knight DW, Hoult JR. Inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase and cyclo-oxygenase in leukocytes by feverfew. Involvement of sesquiterpene lactones and other components. Biochem Pharmacol. 1992;43(11):2313-20.

  6. Heptinstall S, Awang DV, Dawson BA, Kindack D, Knight DW, May J. Parthenolide content and bioactivity of feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium (L.) Schultz-Bip.). Estimation of commercial and authenticated feverfew products. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1992;44(5):391-5.

  7. Zink T, Chaffin J. Herbal 'health' products: what family physicians need to know [see comments] [published erratum appears in Am Fam Physician 1999 Feb 1;59(3):540]. Am Fam Physician. 1998;58(5):1133-40.

  8. Miller LG. Herbal medicinals: selected clinical considerations focusing on known or potential drug-herb interactions [see comments]. Arch Intern Med. 1998;158(20):2200-11.

  9. Vogler BK, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Feverfew as a preventive treatment for migraine: a systematic review. Cephalalgia. 1998;18(10):704-8.

  10. O'Hara M, Kiefer D, Farrell K, Kemper K. A review of 12 commonly used medicinal herbs. Arch Fam Med. 1998;7(6):523-36.

  11. Heptinstall S, White A, Williamson L, Mitchell JR. Extracts of feverfew inhibit granule secretion in blood platelets and polymorphonuclear leucocytes. Lancet. 1985;1(8437):1071-4.

  12. Welch KM. Drug therapy of migraine [see comments]. N Engl J Med. 1993;329(20):1476-83.

  13. Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 1998.

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