Feverfew leaves and flowers are used medicinally. Among its many uses, the herb has become a popular and proven herbal remedy for the treatment of migraine headaches. This important use of the plant was recorded as far back as 1633 by the British herbalist Gerard. With frequent use, over time, feverfew can reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of migraine headaches and allay nausea and vomiting. It is most effective when used as a preventive. It acts to inhibit serotonin and histamine, substances that dilate blood vessels, and helps to prevent the spasms in blood vessels that trigger migraine headaches. This much-researched herb has been shown to inhibit production of leukotines and other inflammatory substances. It is an effective remedy for relieving the pain and inflammation of arthritis and alleviating hay fever, asthma and other allergy symptoms.
Other traditional uses of feverfew dating back to ancient Greece and Rome include its use as an emmenagogue, which is an infusion taken in cases of sluggish menstruation to relieve congestion and promote periodic flow. The herb has also been used after childbirth to help expel the placenta.
Feverfew was valued in past centuries for its believed protection against the plague and the bite of mad dogs. In the seventeenth century the herbalist John Parkinson recommended feverfew as a remedy to speed recovery from opium overdose. It has also been used in treating alcoholic delirium tremens, and to expel intestinal worms. The English physician Culpeper recommended an external application of the fresh herb to treat ague, as the disease malaria was once called. Feverfew is a bitter digestive and liver tonic. A hot infusion may reduce fever and congestion from colds. The infusion, taken cold, has tonic properties. Feverfew may relieve mild depression, promote restful sleep, and ease the nerve pain of sciatica and shingles. Externally the strong infusion is an antiseptic skin wash for treatment of insect stings and bites. The wash may also be used as an insect repellent. Feverfew leaves and stems, gathered fresh, may be used as a dye plant, with a chrome mordant, to produce a light green-yellow color in natural fibres such as wool. Feverfew flowers have a purgative action if ingested, and if the blossom heads are carried into areas where bees are located, the insects will fly away.
The active compounds in feverfew include sesquiterpene lactones, predominantly parthenolide. Other phytochemicals include pyrethrin, volatile oils, tannins, bitter resin, and flavonoids.
Clare Hanrahan, Rebecca J. Frey PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,