Feverfew For Migraines
Feverfew, or Tanacetum parthenium,
is a common plant found throughout the United States. It was introduced
from Europe and has firmly taken hold in the U.S. and southern Canada. It
is an ornamental and medicinal herb. Feverfew strongly resembles the Roman
chamomile plant (both are of the Compositae family) and emits a strong,
lasting aroma if touched. The plant contains high amounts of essential oils,
terpenes, esters, and glucosides. It is an upright, firm and stalky plant,
growing up to two and a half feet high. The leaves are alternate and divided
into broad, lobed segments resembling that of the chrysanthemum. It fact,
one of its other botanical names is Chrysanthemum parthenium. Daisy-like
flower heads bloom from June through August, with white ray flowers surrounding
nearly flat yellow centers, and grow about one inch across.
by Eva Urbaniak, N.D.
Historically, the name Feverfew derived from the scientific term, febrifuge,
which means a medicine that reduces fevers, for which it was used apparently
with great success. It received its Greek name parthenion, (girl) from
its reputed power to promote menstruation and treat gynecological problems.
Some of the proven actions of Feverfew are as an antiseptic, a bitter
(a stimulant or tonic for digestive troubles), vermifuge (expels worms),
an anti-inflammatory, vasodilator, bee and insect repellent and a soothing
balm for their bites, inhibition of platelet aggregation, and as a uterine
stimulant. Herbalists have recommended this herb for nervousness, hysteria,
and low spirits. A tea made from the leaves can treat colds, indigestion,
diarrhea, and a tea from the flowers will promote menstrual flow. Sometimes
used to flavor wines and pastries in Europe, the leaves are served with
fried eggs in Italy.
The fragrance of Feverfew is so potent and pleasant, it acts as a mood
elevator for me. Years ago, while still in naturopathic medical school,
I learned about Feverfew as a cure for migraine headaches, which I suffered
from at the time. Since my garden abounded with the plant, I decided to
experiment on myself, to dry the plant and make a tea from the leaves
and flowers. However, the flavor of every part of this plant is so extremely
bitter, I could not taste even the smallest amount without making a terrible
face. I couldn't believe that something with such a wonderful fragrance
could taste so bitter! What we know about bitters is that they aid in
stomach and liver function. The flowers are actually more bitter than
the leaves. I could barely drink the concoction, but that was the beginning
of the end of my migraine headaches. I believe that the fragrance alone
of this wonderful plant is sufficient to cure headache. I have experienced
this phenomenon just sitting next to the plant in full bloom enjoying
its soothing aroma.
When I wrote about my experience with Feverfew in school, I suggested
that the curative power of the herb for headache might be because the
taste is so horrible, it makes one forget about the pain! Luckily, Feverfew
can be purchased in freeze-dried, encapsulated form for ease of ingestion.
Also, it is important to note that headaches can be a symptom of other
problems. See your doctor if you have recurring, severe headaches.
I worked with a dentist at Children's hospital who suffered from blinding
migraine headaches. She tried Feverfew and said it didn't help her. Two
factors I observed which might have been interfering with Feverfew helping
- She regularly performed surgery in the O.R., which exposed her to
Halothane gas and other noxious fumes used as anesthesia (even though
the patient has a mask covering the nose, when working in the mouth
the gases escape into the room),
- She drank about two pots of black tea per day, which could have been
giving her headaches caused by caffeinism. So it is important to explore
all the potential causes for migraines before using herbs to treat them.
When using Feverfew, toxicity can occur with higher doses. Symptoms
include uterine contraction, so its use is contraindicated in pregnancy.
In some people, contact with the plant can cause skin irritation. Signs
of overdose are nausea, ringing in the ears, and headache. For treatment
of migraines, 50 mg. of the freeze-dried leaves twice a day is the recommended
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