Botanical name: Tanacetum parthenium
© Steven Foster
Parts used and where grown
Feverfew grows widely across Europe and North America. The leaves are used in herbal
Feverfew has been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
Feverfew was mentioned in Greek medical literature as a remedy for inflammation and for
menstrual discomforts. Traditional herbalists in Great Britain used it to treat fevers,
rheumatism, and other aches and pains.
Feverfew contains a range of compounds known as sesquiterpene lactones. Over 85% of these
are a compound called parthenolide. In test tube studies, parthenolide prevents excessive
clumping of platelets and inhibits the release of certain chemicals, including serotonin and
some inflammatory mediators.1 2 Feverfew’s parthenolide content
was originally thought to account for the anti-migraine action of this herb, but this has been
a matter of recent debate.3
According to three double-blind trials with migraine patients, feverfew reduces the
severity, duration, and frequency of migraine
headaches.4 5 6 These successful studies employed dried,
powdered leaves. One negative study used an alcohol extract suggesting the dried leaf
preparation is superior.7
How much is usually taken?
Feverfew leaf products with at least 0.2% parthenolide content are generally used.
Standardized leaf extracts may contain up to 0.7% parthenolide. Herbal products in capsules or
tablets providing at least 250 mcg of parthenolide per day may be taken.8 It may
take four to six weeks before benefits are noticed. Feverfew is useful for decreasing the
severity and incidence of migraines. However, it is not an effective treatment for an acute
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Taken as recommended, standardized feverfew causes minimal side effects. Minor side effects
include gastrointestinal upset and nervousness. Chewing feverfew leaves has been reported to
cause canker sores.9 Feverfew is
not recommended during pregnancy or
breast-feeding and should not be used by children under the age of two years.
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions
1. Makheja AN, Bailey JM. A platelet phospholipase inhibitor from the
medicinal herb feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). Prostagland Leukotrienes Med
2. Heptinstall S, White A, Williamson L, Mitchell JR.. Extracts of
feverfew inhibit granule secretion in blood platelets and polymorphonuclear leukocytes.
3. Awang DVC. Parthenolide: The demise of a facile theory of feverfew
activity. J Herbs Spices Medicinal Plants 1998;5:95–8.
4. Johnson ES, Kadam NP, Hylands DM, Hylands PJ. Efficacy of feverfew as
prophylactic treatment of migraine. Br Med J 1985;291:569–73.
5. Murphy JJ, Heptinstall S, Mitchell JRA. Randomised double-blind
placebo-controlled trial of feverfew in migraine prevention. Lancet
6. Palevitch D, Earon G, Carasso R. Feverfew(Tanacetum
parthenium) as a prophylactic treatment for migraine: A double-blind placebo-controlled
study. Phytother Res 1997;11:508–11.
7. De Weerdt CJ, Bootsma HPR, Hendriks H. Herbal medicines in migraine
prevention. Phytomed 1996;3:225–30.
8. Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health. Rocklin,
CA: Prima Publishing, 1996, 91–5.
9. Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health. Rocklin,
CA: Prima Publishing, 1996, 91–5.