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Feverfew: Herbal Remedies

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Feverfew is believed to relieve migraines, on an ongoing basis and during specific headache outbreaks.

Feverfew is indigenous to Europe and the Balkan peninsula and is said to have grown around the Greek Parthenon, thus the species name parthenium. Its common name comes from the Latin febri fugia, which means "driver out of fevers."

Feverfew has made its way to both North and South America, where it is now naturalized. Its leaves have taken on a life of their own as a popular herbal remedy, used to soothe migraines, joint inflammation and more.

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Uses of Feverfew

Feverfew is used to relieve headaches, particularly vascular headaches such as migraines. Doctors aren't sure what causes migraines, but they know these severe headaches involve blood vessel changes.

One theory suggests that migraines occur when the blood vessels in the head expand and press on the nerves, causing pain. Another theory proposes that these headaches occur as the blood vessels react to outside stimuli by affecting blood flow to various parts of the brain. And recent studies suggest that migraines occur when serotonin is released from platelets in blood vessels. Feverfew relaxes tension in the blood vessels in the brain. Studies confirm feverfew's effectiveness as a migraine remedy.

Although some herbalists believe feverfew is most effective when used long term to prevent chronic migraines, some people find it helpful when taken at the onset of a headache. Besides vascular headaches, feverfew may relieve premenstrual headaches, which often are due to fluid retention and hormonal effects. Some physicians recommend feverfew to relieve menstrual cramps and to facilitate delivery of the placenta following childbirth.

Feverfew also is reported to reduce fever and inflammation in joints and tissues. The main constituent of feverfew, parthenolide, has been credited with inhibiting the release of serotonin, histamine, and other inflammatory substances that make blood vessels spasm and become inflamed. Parthenolide, the same substance that helps alleviate migraine headaches, has the overall effect of reducing pain and inflammation throughout the body -- a result similar to taking a daily aspirin but without the side effects associated with daily aspirin use.

Reportedly, the amount of parthenolide varies from plant to plant, so it is wise to know how much of this active ingredient a feverfew product contains before you buy it. One study of commercially available feverfew products found that most of them contained no parthenolide at all: They were dried herbs, and because parthenolide is volatile, it had evaporated. Look for a product that contains 0.2 percent parthenolide.

In the next section, you will learn how to prepare feverfew for herbal remedies and some of the potentially dangerous side effects.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

Like all herbs, there are some precautions you should take before using feverfew medicinally.

Feverfew Preparations and Dosage

Feverfew is dried for tinctures, capsules, and infusions. Since feverfew is a lovely garden plant and easy to grow, many herbalists recommend that headache sufferers plant it in their yards, where it will be readily available. Pick two to four leaves each day and allow them to dry in your kitchen.

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The dosage of feverfew depends on the type and quality of the product used. Consuming two to three of the bitter-tasting dried leaves each day constitutes a medicinal dosage. Limit consumption to a maximum of four or five leaves a day. If mouth irritation occurs, switch to tincture or capsules.

Feverfew Precautions and Warnings

Feverfew is sometimes called tansy, but do not confuse feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) with the herb tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) or with various Senecio species commonly known as the ragworts, which are sometimes also referred to as tansy. Senecio ragwort contains extremely toxic substances (pyrrolizidine alkaloids) that can damage your liver. You can see the value of using botanical versus common names here. Avoid feverfew in pregnancy because it may increase the risk of bleeding or even induce abortion of the fetus.

Side Effects of Feverfew

Feverfew can cause stomach upset. Chewing the raw leaves, day after day, can irritate the mouth, but the irritation subsides once you stop chewing the leaves. Tinctures and capsules do not irritate the mouth. Using the fresh plant also can cause a skin rash. Since feverfew relaxes blood vessels, it can increase blood flow during menstruation. Keep feverfew out of reach of children. More research is needed to determine the herb's long-term safety.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

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