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Nutrient - Feverfew - Herbal Focus

(Tanacetum Parthenium)

By Jacqueline Newson BSc (Hons) Nutritional Therapy

Feverfew is a yellow-green perennial plant native to southern Europe. It has tightly clustered florets and appears mid-summer to mid-autumn. The plant has strongly scented leaves. It is these leaves that are commonly used in herbal preparations.  One of the most interesting applications of Feverfew is in the prevention of migraine headaches. It is the only herb used in European phytotherapy that is known to be specific for this purpose and is now more widely understood by orthodox medicine.

 Migraine is a debilitating condition characterised by moderate to severe headaches and nausea, and is about three times more common in women than in men. Worldwide, migraines affect more than 10% of people. There are many medicines available to prevent or reduce the frequency of migraines, however some of these drugs may give rise to unpleasant side effects. Feverfew appears to be a  safe and natural alternative. 


The common name is a corruption of Latin fibrifugia meaning a substance that drives out fevers. Documentation suggests it has been used since antiquity to reduce fever and pain. There is also evidence to suggest that Feverfew has been used throughout recorded medical history as a bitter tonic, a vasodilatory, a sedative, a digestive, a uterine stimulant and as a remedy for severe headaches. Infusions of the leaves have proved effective for dizziness, asthma, catarrh, sinusitis and insomnia. It was also thought to help mild depression. During the last decade it has been increasingly employed as a remedy for the prevention of migraines.


Feverfew appears to work, at least in part, by inhibiting platelet aggregation as well as releasing serotonin from blood platelets and leucocytes. It contains a compound called parthenolide, (a sesquiterpene lactone) which helps to control the expansion and contraction of blood vessels in the brain. It is likely that these sesquiterpene lactones inhibit the release of prostaglandins (hormone like substances) and histamine during the inflammatory process, thus preventing blood vessel spasms in the head that trigger migraine attacks. 


Data collected from a number of studies show that Feverfew is effective in preventing migraine attack, but only over a long period of time. It should be taken for three months continuously in order to achieve maximum effects. Trials suggest that Feverfew is generally well tolerated with mild and reversible adverse effects. Feverfew should be avoided if an allergy to any plant members of the daisy family exists, if a clotting disorder exists, or during pregnancy.

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