Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a flowering plant of the Asteraceae family.
Its name comes from the Latin word febrifugia, meaning “fever reducer.” Traditionally, feverfew was used to treat fevers and other inflammatory conditions.
In fact, some people call it the “medieval aspirin”.
Feverfew contains a variety of active compounds, such as flavonoids and volatile oils. However, its main compound of interest is parthenolide, found in the plant’s leaves.
Studies show that parthenolide may be behind most of the potential health benefits of feverfew.
This article offers an overview of feverfew and tells you whether it’s effective against migraines.
The Relation Between Feverfew and Migraines
For centuries, people have been taking feverfew to treat migraines.
Migraines are moderate to severe headaches that affect one side of the head. They’re typically accompanied by throbbing, pulsating, or pounding pain.
In test-tube studies, compounds in feverfew — such as parthenolide and tanetin — helped stop the production of prostaglandins, which are molecules that promote inflammation.
Other test-tube studies show that parthenolide may inhibit serotonin receptors, prevent blood platelets from releasing inflammatory molecules, stop blood vessels in the brain from widening (vasodilation), and stop smooth muscle spasms.
All of these factors have been linked to migraines.
However, human studies on feverfew and migraines show mixed results.
In a review of 6 studies in a total of 561 people, 4 studies found that feverfew helped reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines, while 2 studies found no effect.
Additionally, the 4 studies that reported a beneficial effect showed that it was only slightly more effective than a placebo.
For instance, in a study in 170 participants, those taking feverfew experienced only 0.6 fewer migraines per month than people in the placebo group.
Based on current research, feverfew appears to be only slightly effective against migraines. More human studies are needed to draw solid conclusions.
SUMMARY: Current research finds that feverfew is only slightly more effective than a placebo at treating and preventing migraines. More studies are needed to draw a conclusion.
Other Potential Benefits
Aside from treating migraines, feverfew may have other potential health benefits:
- Anticancer effects: Test-tube studies show that compounds in feverfew may inhibit certain cancer cells.
- Pain relief: Anti-inflammatory properties of feverfew may help relieve pain.
- Elevated mood: In studies in mice, feverfew helped reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, human studies on this topic are unavailable.
- Treating rosacea: Topical creams containing parthenolide-free feverfew extract may help treat acne rosacea by reducing inflammation. Parthenolide can irritate skin, which is why it’s removed from topical creams.
SUMMARY: Feverfew may offer several other potential health benefits. It’s associated with providing pain relief, elevating mood, improving rosacea, and anticancer effects.
Possible Side Effects
Feverfew is generally considered safe with few reported side effects.
However, studies have only looked into its short-term effects on the body. Long-term effects (longer than four months) have not been studied.
In some cases, feverfew may cause side effects like stomach aches, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, dizziness, tiredness, and menstrual changes.
Pregnant women should avoid taking feverfew, as it may cause early contractions. What’s more, research to ensure it’s safe for breastfeeding women is insufficient.
People with allergies to ragweed or other related plants from the Asteraceae or Compositae plant families — such as daisies, marigolds, and chrysanthemums — should avoid it as well.
It’s best to first consult your doctor, as the supplement may interact with certain drugs, particularly blood thinners and liver medications.
SUMMARY: Feverfew is generally safe with few side effects, but some people should avoid it. If you have any concerns, it’s best to speak to your doctor.
Dosage and Recommendations
As of now, there’s no official recommended dose for feverfew.
However, studies find that taking 100–300 mg of a feverfew supplement containing 0.2–0.4% parthenolide between 1–4 times daily may treat migraine headaches.
Feverfew is also available as fluid extracts or tinctures, which are typically used to relieve arthritis. However, evidence to recommend it for this purpose is insufficient.
You can also try it as a tea, which is available in health food stores or on Amazon.
Keep in mind that feverfew is unsuitable for some people and those taking certain medications. If you have any concerns, speak to your doctor.
SUMMARY: Though an official recommended dosage for feverfew is unavailable, 100–300 mg of a supplement containing 0.2–0.4% parthenolide 1–4 times daily appears to be most effective at treating or preventing migraine attacks.
The Bottom Line
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is commonly used as a natural treatment for migraines.
Yet, current research shows it’s only slightly more effective than a placebo. More human studies are needed.
Feverfew has also been linked to pain relief, anticancer properties, improved mood, and reduced acne rosacea.
This supplement is generally safe for most people, but if you have any concerns, it’s best to speak to your doctor before trying it.
Title: What Is Feverfew, and Does It Work for Migraines?