Herbfacts

Herb Health: Feverfew

Belonging to the daisy family, feverfew gets its name from the Latin ‘Febrifugia’ which means to reduce fever although these days it is not often used for this. Ancient Greek physicians used feverfew to treat inflammation and menstrual cramps and it has been used traditionally to treat headaches, migraines, dermatitis and arthritis.

One in five women and one in fifteen men in the UK suffer from migraines. While there are some great medications that help control the pain, they don’t really address how to prevent the problem occurring in the first place. In this respect the herb feverfew may be beneficial; users have reported a reduction in both frequency and severity of attacks with some sufferers claiming to be completely free of symptoms after taking it.

MIGRAINE

To prevent migraine attacks, feverfew needs to be taken regularly on a daily basis. Studies have shown that it not only prevents pain, but also reduces other symptoms of migraine including nausea and vomiting, as well as sensitivity to light and noise.

For optimal results try taking feverfew alongside 400mg of magnesium. This essential mineral is key to healthy nerve and muscle function and its muscle relaxing effects can reduce the tension pain associated with migraines.

FEVERFEW’S ACTIVE INGREDIENT

The active constituent in feverfew is a chemical known as parthenolide, which is thought to be responsible for its therapeutic effects, which includes relieving spasms in smooth muscle tissue. It is found in the leaves but these have a bitter taste and can result in pain and ulceration of the mucus membrane of the mouth so it is best to avoid chewing them. Most clinical trials have used the freeze-dried extract, which indicates that capsules appear to be the best way to take this herb.  Feverfew is also available as a tea or tincture.

WATCHPOINTS

Feverfew is generally well tolerated although some people have reported side effects such as gastrointestinal problems, anxiety and sleep problems. If you are allergic to any plants from the daisy family you should avoid feverfew. This herb should not be taken during pregnancy or by people taking blood-thinning medications such as warfarin and should not be given to children under the age of five.

It should be noted that if you have been using feverfew regularly for migraine prevention and suddenly stop taking it, it might cause what is known as ‘feverfew rebound syndrome’ in which symptoms can return dramatically and acutely. If you wish to stop taking this herb, you should gradually reduce the dose.