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Feverfew

Pretty, yet potent

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Feverfew

What is feverfew? It is an attractive multiflowered daisy lookalike that may seem insignificannt but has the potential to relieve excruitiating migraines.

Feverfew is an attractive multiflowered daisy lookalike that may seem gentle and insignificant but has the potential to relieve excruciating migraine headaches.

It is dilation of the bloodvessels in the brain that causes headaches and migraines. The principal active constituent in feverfew–parthenolide–prevents blood platelets from clumping and interfering with the release of the brain chemical serotonin, which controls the constriction and dilation of blood vessels.

Feverfew Capsules are Safest

Feverfew is considered one of the most effective herbal treatments for migraine headaches. It can be taken in the form of fresh herb leaves, capsule, tablets, or liquid extract.

Drinking an infusion made from the whole herb will bring relief from occasional stress and tension headaches. Two or three fresh feverfew leaves should be sufficient to brew 1 cup (250 mL) of feverfew tea.

Fresh leaves of feverfew can also be chewed slowly; however, fresh leaves have two disadvantages:

It is difficult to assess the dosage administered.

The leaves may cause mouth blisters because the active ingredient, parthenolide, is a sesquiterpene lactone that can cause allergic contact dermatitis.

The encapsulated form of feverfew is often the safest and most effective. The standardized dose should have a minimum of 0.2 percent parthenolide. If swallowing a capsule or tablet is difficult, liquid extracts are also available.

Most manufacturers give a recommended dose on the label but, if you have any concerns or are already taking medication for migraines, consult a chartered herbalist. He or she can recommend a dosage according to specific requirements such as frequency of migraines, age, weight, and history of allergies.

Necessary Precautions

Although migraines are often associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), it is important to be aware that feverfew must not be taken during pregnancy due to the stimulating effect it has on the womb. Nor should it be given to children under the age of five or taken by people on blood-thinning medications.

Allergic reactions are uncommon but those who react to yarrow, ragweed, or camomile plant families should not take the herb in any form. Feverfew may react with other supplements and medications.

Do not suddenly stop taking feverfew as withdrawal symptoms include headache and muscle and joint stiffness. When feverfew has been taken for longer than one week a gradual reduction of the herb over a one-week period should prevent withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal should also be monitored by a chartered herbalist.

History of the Herb

This powerful herb has been grown and used in Europe for more than 2,000 years. References to the use of feverfew for pain and headaches are numerous and date back to John Gerard’s famous Herbal of Apothecary published in 1597.

In the mid 1980s the City of London Migraine Clinic and the University of London renewed their research on feverfew. Based on the successful historical results, animal studies were bypassed in favour of human volunteers. Findings were published in the Lancet in 1988, with research confirming “a reasonable basis for the herb to reduce the symptoms of migraine headaches.”

Feverfew seems to appear uninvited in the flower garden. I have difficulty eradicating this plant because it doesn’t seem right to pull out a plant that plays such an important role in herbal medicine.

Feverfew’s demure appearance hides its powerful properties in the effective treatment of the debilitating condition of migraine.

Prevent Migraines With These Healthy Habits

  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Include regular exercise such as a daily walk
  • Take time to relax and wind down after a stressful day
  • Enjoy regular vacations away from the demands of work or home
  • Try acupuncture and chiropractic treatments

Migraine Triggers

  • Stress
  • Excessive noise and pollution
  • Chronic lack of sleep
  • Abusive substances such as alcohol or illegal drugs
  • Foods such as cheese, chocolate, fatty foods, and wheat
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