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Feverfew

  • Chrysanthemum Parthenium L.
  • Compositae
  • Composite family



Common Names

herbsBachelor's button
herbsBride's button
herbsCompositae
herbsFeatherfew
herbsFeatherfoil
herbsFebrifuge plant
herbsFeverfew
herbsPyrethrum
herbsWild Chamomile


Parts Usually Used

Bark, dried flowers, and leaves.


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

The round, leafy branching stem bears alternate, bipinnate leaves (divided into ovate divisions) with ovate, hoary-green leaflets. The flowers have yellow 1 inch disks and from 10-20 white, toothed rays. Flowers are daisy-like but smaller, with a large disk and stubby white rays. The yellow center of the flower is distinguished from the conical chamomiles by its flatness. The leaves are tender, diversely torn and jagged, and nicks on the edges. They make their appearance in corymbose heads in June and July. Plants grow 1-3 feet tall. (Flowers resemble Chamomile)

When parts of the plant are rubbed or crushed they give off a strong, bitter smell and bitter taste. Feverfew is easily started from seed. It can also be propagated by dividing established plants into fairly large pieces in March, or from cuttings taken from young shoots with a heel attached, planted out from October to May. Set plants 1 foot apart. Feverfew is not a fussy grower, tolerating some shade, most soils, and dry (but not very moist) conditions. Feverfew plants are easily injured by hoes, so you should hand-weed. Because feverfew freely seeds, it is apt to escape from the garden; cutting off old heads will prevent this. To keep the plant's leafy growth looking neat, cut back hard, to within 1 inch of the base, before the season's active growth starts. Feverfew is very disease-free and has a lifespan of 2-3 years. In hot climates, it benefits greatly from partial shade.

Plants to be harvested may be gathered most any time at the peak of their maturity. The technique may require some practice.

Feverfew's common name comes from its traditional use to lower body temperature in fevers. Today, it's grown for the profusion of daisylike flowers it bears; it blends well with roses. It is currently being researched as a cure for migraine.


Where Found

This bushy plant is native to southeastern Europe but is now found in North and South America. Feverfew is a perennial plant that is cultivated but is occasionally found wild in waste places and along roadsides and wood-borders from Quebec to Ohio and south to Maryland and Missouri, also in California.


Medicinal Properties

Carminative (gas relief), emmenagogue (promotes menstrual flow), purgative (strong laxative), stimulant, bitter tonic, antipyretic (reduces fever), aperient (mild laxative), anti-inflammatory, vermifuge


Biochemical Information

Essential oil containing camphor, terpene, borneol, various esters and a bitter principle, pyrethrin, tannin, sesquiterpene lactones


Legends, Myths and Stories

There is a legend about feverfew, that this herb saved the life of a person who fell off the famous temple in ancient Greece, the Parthenon. Hence, the name parthenium.

One reference is of the opinion that the name feverfew is a corruption of featherfew, referring to the plant's petals.

The old fashioned feverfew is generally found in the wild state near very old gardens. The ancient magi ordered "Feverfew to be pulled from the ground with the left hand, and the fevered patient's name must be spoken forth, and the herbalist must not look behind him."

Another old superstition held that when it was planted around dwellings it purified the air and warded off disease. The pungent odor is so disliked by bees that branches of it were carried around to hold the bees at a distance. (Wonder if this could benefit the person allergic to bee stings?)

The Greek herbalist Dioscorides is believed to have treated arthritis with this herb. In 1649, Culpeper recommended feverfew for headaches and to strengthen women's wombs. In 1772, another famous herbalist, John Hill, treated headaches but stated "this herb exceeds whatever else is known."

In 1985, it was reported that extracts of feverfew inhibited the release of 2 inflammatory substances; serotonin from platelets and prostaglandin from white blood cells. Both are thought to contribute to the onset of migraine attacks and perhaps even to play a role in rheumatoid arthritis.

Migraine sufferers may have to wait several months to notice improvement, but the wait is well worth it. Some 80% of all cases have found feverfew a preventive in migraine headaches.

Feverfew seems absolutely bug-proof, keeping pests from plants close by. Some people plant in their roses or around the garden for pest control. The yellow-green ferny foliage, masses of small, white, daisy-like flowers, are decorative and they self-sow readily.

Some say that feverfew is most effective against fever and colds if it is gathered with the left hand as the name of the patient is spoken aloud and with nary a glance behind.

One of the bug killing properties of feverfew is pyrethrin.


Uses

Once in popular use, feverfew has fallen into considerable disuse; even its name no longer seems to fit. It is also hard to find, even at herbal outlets. If you are lucky enough to get it, try the warm infusion for colic, flatulence, eructations, indigestion, flu, colds, fever, ague, freckles, age spots, and alcoholic DTs. A cold extract has a tonic effect. The flowers in particular show a purgative action. Effective remedy against opium taken too liberally.

Infusion: Use 1 heaping tsp. of the herb with 1 cup water. Take 1 to 2 cups, as indicated. For DTs, take 15 to 40 drops, as often as required.

Relieves headaches, migraines, arthritis, neuritis, neuralgia, indigestion, colds, and muscle tension. Eliminates worms. Stimulates the appetite, increases fluidity of lung an bronchial tube mucus, stimulates uterine contractions, and promotes menses.


Formulas or Dosages

Harvest shortly after flowering.

1-4 leaves chewed per day proven in the past to be effective for some migraine headaches, and is antiseptic. Do not use for migraine resulting from weak, deficiency condition.

To combat insects, a tincture made from feverfew mixed with 1/2 pint of cold water will keep away the gnats, mosquitoes, and other pests. Feverfew has the power to relieve the pain and swelling caused by the bites of insects and vermin. Bees find the odor and taste of feverfew highly repulsive.


Warning

Do not use for migraine resulting from a weak, deficiency condition. Seek medical advice.

May cause dermatitis or allergic reactions. Mouth sores are common. Some people have developed mouth ulcers while taking feverfew. Discontinue use if this occurs. Usually this condition comes from the fresh leaves, try sauteing the leaves first.

Patients taking blood thinning drugs should avoid taking feverfew because it can affect the clotting times of the blood.

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