What is Feverfew?
Feverfew is a perennial plant that is native to southeastern Europe and is now grown throughout Europe, North America and Australia.
The flower of the feverfew plant (Tanacetum parthenium) is bright yellow with white blossoms that give off a powerful aroma. It was believed that these aromatic flowers could purify the air and ward off diseases.
The leaves of the feverfew plant are used therapeutically to treat a range of ailments. As an herbal remedy, feverfew was first made popular in Europe centuries ago, where it was used to treat headaches, arthritis and fever. It continues to be used today to treat a wide variety of pain syndromes, as well as menstrual irregularities, stomach disorders, asthma and skin problems.
Feverfew has been particularly popular in Great Britain as a treatment for migraine headaches. A number of studies have shown that a significant percentage of people felt relief from symptoms of migraine headaches after chewing on fresh feverfew leaves.
Feverfew may also prevent the onset of migraine headaches, and it is often recommended for migraine sufferers who cannot tolerate conventional medications.
One action of the compounds in feverfew is linked to changes in the levels of prostaglandins manufactured by the body. Prostaglandins are part of the process that causes inflammation, and feverfew’s ability to decrease production of these substances makes it useful in treating conditions like psoriasis.
Feverfew is also capable of keeping blood platelets from forming clots, so it may be an alternative to aspirin used as an anticoagulant.
Feverfew is available in several forms and should be standardized to contain between 0.2% and 0.4% parthenolide. It is available in capsules, tablets and liquid extracts, as well as fresh or dried leaves (for tea).
Feverfew products usually contain dried leaves, though the entire plant may be used medicinally.
The herb contains the active ingredient parthenolide, which is believed to be capable of relieving muscle spasms and the constriction of blood vessels in the brain that can lead to migraine headaches. Parthenolide is also able to control inflammation.
For the prevention of migraines, the recommended dose for adults is 200-250 mg per day of freeze-dried feverfew capsules. This should be equivalent to the amount of standardized extract that contains at least 250 micrograms of parthenolide taken twice daily.
To treat the symptoms of a full-blown migraine, a daily dose of 1-2 grams of parthenolide is needed.
Though liquid extracts can be used as well, it is important to note that the freeze-dried form of this herb is most often studied for its effectiveness in preventing migraines.
Feverfew does not work to alleviate migraine headaches immediately. It may take several weeks before significant improvement is noticed.
Children over age two can safely use feverfew, but the dosage must be adjusted according to the child’s body weight. Dosages are usually calculated for a 150-pound adult, so a child who weighs 50 pounds should take one-third the amount of feverfew recommended for adults.
There are some side effects that may result from the use of feverfew. These include abdominal pain, indigestion, gas, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and nervousness.
In addition, people who chew the leaves of the feverfew plant have sometimes reported side effects like loss of taste, mouth sores, and swelling of the lips, mouth or tongue. People with certain allergies may have adverse reactions to feverfew.
It may also increase bleeding, so people about to undergo surgery or those on anticoagulant or blood-thinning medications should not use feverfew.
It is also possible that feverfew can render NSAID medications ineffective and vice versa. Though feverfew is sometimes used to treat menstrual irregularities, it can alter the menstrual cycle, so women with regular cycles should use feverfew with caution. Pregnant and lactating women should avoid the use of feverfew completely.
Nature's Way's Feverfew