Feverfew – Nature’s Answer to Migraine Headaches and So Much More


Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a flowering plant used in natural medicine; mainly for the treatment of migraine headaches.  It has rich green stalks, thick leaves, and covered with small white flowers, that resemble daisies.  Feverfew has many different names including, bachelor’s buttons, featherfew, featherfoil, flirtwort, altamisa, wild chamomile, and midsummer’s daisy.  Originally this herb is native to the Balkan Peninsula, but over time, it spread across the world.  It was introduced in the United States in the mid 19th Century.  Feverfew is widely cultivated in the United States for it’s medicinal properties.

This perennial is easy to grow, and if left unchecked will spread quickly.  The only real requirement for success is full sun.  Plants will grow up to 30 inches tall under good conditions, while on average they reach 24 inches tall.  Once mature, the plants look like small shrubs which bloom between July and October.  The flowers have white petals with a yellow center, very similar to a Shasta Daisy.  The flowers and leaves can be cut 2-3 times each season, but make sure you leave about 1/3 of the plant during the season of risk dehydration.  In the fall, cut the plant to ground level.


Medicinal Uses From Ancient Times to Modern Times

The ancient Greeks called feverfew Parthenium, supposedly because a healer used it to restore a worker who was injured during the construction of the famous Greek landmark bearing the same name.  The Parthenon was built during the 5th Century BC.  There is little documentation about feverfew being used medicinally until it was mentioned by the legendary Greek Physician, Herbalist, and Botanist, Dioscorides.  Interesting fact; the word feverfew derives from the Latin word febrifugia, which means “fever reducer”.   It was originally used in ancient times as a fever reducer, by cooling the body, and to treat nervous and menstrual disorders.  Feverfew was also prescribed for depression and pain. 

Through the last two Centuries, feverfew has been used to reduce inflammation, treat headaches and as a mild painkiller It was also for considered a remedy for toothache pain, rheumatism, menstrual cramping, and prostate pain.  The leaves were chewed to treat nausea, vomiting, digestive issues, and as a sleep aid.  It has also been used for colic, flatulence, general indigestion, colds, suppressed urine, and to expel intestinal worms.
Taking Feverfew in tincture form may help to bring on the menstrual cycle.  Feverfew has been used to regulate menstrual disorders.  It can induces miscarriage or abortion if taken during pregnancy, so use caution.   The tincture is also beneficial for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Additional benefits include lower blood pressure, reducing abdominal pain and stomach irritation. Feverfew is a mild laxative, and it is also used to help relieve gas and bloating. Feverfew has been used to stimulate appetite, and improve digestion and kidney function.
This herb’s anti-inflammatory properties can improve certain skin conditions. It is used topically to treat eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis.  It is a mild sedative and antispasmodic that will help relieve muscle spasms and arthritis pain.  It is a moderate insect repellent, but very useful for relieving swelling or painful insect bites or stings.


How Feverfew Works – Just the Basics, With a Little Science

Feverfew has undergone a lot of study; with migraine headache research being the lion’s share of the activity.   One study showed feverfew to be more effective than other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin.  Still another study theorizes that the high levels of melatonin found in feverfew may be the factor that is effective against migraine headaches.  In general, feverfew is thought to work similar to aspirin, at least looking at the way it reduces inflammation.  Aspirin works by blocking the production of prostaglandins, which, among other things, cause inflammation. Feverfew also works to inhibit the production of prostaglandins.   Because it stops production of inflammatory chemicals, feverfew is used as a treatment for arthritis.
Feverfew also contains compounds called parthenolides, which appear to help control expansion and contraction of blood vessels in the head.  Typically when someone begins to get a migraine headache, their brain releases the neurotransmitter serotonin, and subsequently those blood vessels constrict.  Feverfew overrides the order to constrict and instead causes those same blood vessels to dilate.

Feverfew Uses In Witchcraft and Magick

Feverfew is valuable as an herb of protection. It’s considered helpful for people who are sad and quiet.  Use feverfew for warding off binding love magic in particular and for healing those suffering due to love problems. Some witches  make a decoction of feverfew to purify magickal tools.  Speaking of tools, feverfew is very effective for tools used for love magic.

Warnings and Known Interactions

As with any natural medicine, it is always advised to consult a licensed physician before starting any treatment.  Some of the known concerns and interactions are listed below, however this should not be considered an exhaustive list or used as medical advice for self-treatment.

Anyone with allergies to daisies, ragweed, or sunflowers should avoid feverfew.  Anyone talking blood thinning medication should avoid it also as it increases the risk of bleeding and affects blood-clotting.  If you are currently taking feverfew, it’s recommended that you discontinue use for at least two weeks prior to dental work or surgery.  Avoid mixing with other herbs that are known to affect blood-clotting. This includes angelica, capsicum, clove, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, horse chestnut, panax ginseng, red clover, turmeric, and white willow.

Pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid it and it should not be used to treat young children for any reason. Some people have reported mouth sores, swelling of the lips or tongue, and loss of taste when chewing fresh leaves.  Taking feverfew with prescription pain relievers or ibuprofen may increase the chance of side effects including upset stomach, heartburn, dizziness, and ringing in the ears. Other minor side effects can include bowel issues, diarrhea, and nervousness.

Additional Reading

Comfrey – Herbal Healing at Home for Over 2000 Years

Osha Root – An Amazing American Herb


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