Feverfew thumbnail Feverfew - Tanacetum parthenium:

(Also sometimes known as Chrysanthemum parthenium, as well as a couple other names, simply due to dissention in the nomenclature field over the genus of this plant.)


In New England, it flowers at the end of June and through much of July, producing small daisy-like flowers with white petals surrounding a yellow area. It is apparently a relative to the standard chrysanthenum, bearing similarly-shaped leaves, only with more dimunitive flowers and leaves, and more resistant to pests. It can grow to approximately two feet in height, and is quite attractive in its own right.

Growing Info:

Feverfew grows readily, reseeding itself in meadowlands and through low-lying grasses in disrupted areas. It is a perennial.

Culinary Uses:

We are not aware of any culinary uses for this plant. While not terribly unpleasant, the leaves do have a "medicinal" taste.

Medicinal Uses in Folklore:

The leaves and flowers have been used for centuries to treat headache, stomachache, fevers, and menstrual irregularities.

Scanning the Scientific Literature:

The main active ingredient has been determined to be the sesquiterpene lactone, parthenolide. Compounds in this category work by allowing the walls of the cerebral blood vessels to be less reactive to internal stimuli such as norepinephrine, prostaglandins, and serotonin. This may be the mechanism by which migraines are alleviated. It has also been demonstrated that extract of feverfew inhibits release of serotonin from bovine (cow) platelets.

Feverfew has shown some indication of being effective against arthritis as well.

In other studies, feverfew lactones inhibited the production of the inflammatory agents leukotriene B4 and thromboxane B2 in rat and human leukocytes.

A new flavinol, named tanetin, has recently been isolated, and it may also be implicated in the anti-inflammatory activity of the plant.

On the down side, feverfew extract containing parthenolide caused loss of tone in rabbit aorta. In part, this may be caused by potassium channel blocking. This is a factor to consider closely when determining the safety of feverfew.

Allergic reactions to feverfew pollen are relatively common.

Parthenolide concentrations (the active ingredient) are most pronounced in the leaves, flowers, and seeds of the plant, with a significantly lower level in stalks and roots. Storage markedly decreases the amount of parthenolide present. In some dried preparations, parthenolide was not detected. Since efficacy against migraine has only been demonstrated in feverfew products containing parthenolide, quality control is essential.

Other Info:

At the moment, none.


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This information is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment. If conditions worsen, or persist, consult your healthcare practitioner.

Last Updated: March 7, 1999.