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Feverfew

Medically reviewed on Jun 7, 2018

What is Feverfew?

See also: Stelara

Feverfew is a short, bushy perennial herb, a member of the daisy family that grows along roadsides, fields, waste areas, and along the borders of woods from eastern Canada to Maryland and westward to Missouri. Its yellow-green leaves and yellow flowers resemble those of chamomile, for which it sometimes is confused.

Scientific Name(s)

Tanacetum parthenium

Common Name(s)

Feverfew is also known as featherfew, altamisa, bachelor's button, featherfoil, febrifuge plant, midsummer daisy, nosebleed, Santa Maria, wild chamomile, wild quinine, chamomile grande, chrysanthemematricaire, European feverfew, feather-fully, feddygen fenyw, flirtroot, grande chamomile, mutterkraut, and vetter-voo.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Feverfew has a long history of use in traditional and folk medicine, especially among Greek and early European herbalists. The first century Greek physician Dioscorides used feverfew to reduce fever. In 1633, the plant was recommended for use to treat headaches in Gerard's Herbal. The plant has been used to treat arthritis, asthma, constipation, dermatitis, earache, fever, headache, inflammatory conditions, insect bites, labor, menstrual disorders, potential miscarriage, psoriasis, spasms, stomachache, swelling, tinnitus, toothache, vertigo, and worms. Feverfew also has been used to induce abortions, as an insecticide, and to treat coughs and colds. Traditionally, the herb has been used to reduce fevers, from which its common name is derived.

General uses

Feverfew is primarily known to prevent migraine headaches and associated nausea and vomiting; however, evidence to support this use is inconclusive. Feverfew has numerous other drug actions, but information from clinical trials to support them is limited.

What is the recommended dosage?

Feverfew is generally given for migraine headaches at a daily dosage of 50 to 150 mg of dried leaves, 2.5 fresh leaves with or after food, or 5 to 20 drops of a 1:5, 25% ethanol tincture. Though the best doses of feverfew have not been established, an adult dosage of parthenolide 0.2 to 0.6 mg/day is recommended for the prevention of migraine. However, parthenolide has not been confirmed as a major active principle for migraine. Numerous feverfew products are commercially available; most are standardized to parthenolide 0.7% in tablet or capsule dosage forms.

Contraindications

Feverfew should not be used by people allergic to other members of the daisy family, such as aster, chamomile, chrysanthemum, ragweed, sunflower, tansy, and yarrow. Due to its potential anticlotting actions, it is not recommended for use in patients undergoing surgery. People with blood-clotting disorders should consult their health care provider prior to using products containing feverfew.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use because of documented adverse effects. Pregnant women should not use the plant because the leaves stimulate menstruation and may induce abortion. It is not recommended for breast-feeding mothers or for use in children younger than 2 years of age.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Patients withdrawn from feverfew may experience ill effects often known as "postfeverfew" syndrome. Handling fresh feverfew leaves may cause allergic skin reactions. Swelling of the lips, tongue, and lining of the mouth, in addition to mouth ulceration, have been reported with feverfew use. Effects such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion, and gas, may also occur.

Toxicology

No studies of chronic toxicity have yet been performed on the plant and the safety of long-term use has not been established.

References

1. Feverfew. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; September 2010.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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