Power Plants: Feverfew

via Bryce Wylde

Biohacks, Remedies

Power Plants

FEVERFEW (Tanacetum parthenium)
Feverfew is a member of the daisy family (Asteracea) and features clusters of small white-petalled flowers with yellow centres. The plant gives off a strong, bug-deterring smell reminiscent of camphor. Feverfew is native to Europe but also widespread throughout North America and Australia.
The plant’s common name comes from the Latin for “fever reducer,” as that was one of its traditional uses. It’s also known as featherfew or bachelor’s buttons.
Feverfew was used in ancient Greek medical practice as a remedy for inflammation and menstrual discomforts. Over the years, traditional herbalists have also used it to arthritis and aches and pains. As its name suggests, the herb was used traditionally to treat fevers, but this in no longer the case.
Today feverfew is commonly taken orally for the prevention of migraines. It is believed to reduce inflammation and prevent blood vessel constriction in the head and neck, and research suggests feverfew may reduce the incidence of headache attacks in patients who experience chronic migraines.
The plant’s most active ingredient is believed to be parthenolide, a compound that has anti-inflammatory properties..
Difficulty: Easy
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 5-9
Time to Plant: Spring (or start seeds indoors)
Time to Harvest: Early summer (foliage)
Location: Full sun
Soil Type: Moist, well-drained
A close relative of chrysanthemums, feverfew has been grow in gardens for centuries. While it’s mainly grown for medicinal purposes, this tender perennial is cherished for its foliage and its mounds of showy daisy-like flowers, which typically bloom from July to early fall.
Common Varieties: Tanacetum parthenium has many cultivars, including Aureum, Flore Pleno, Golden Ball, Plenum, Snowball and Wild. [Can you recommend one or two?]
Sow seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before last frost date. Plant the seedlings (or transplants from the garden centre) outdoors after risk of frost. Choose a location with full sun and well-drained soil, or grow them in containers. Space plants 30 cm (1 ft) apart. Water deeply and infrequently until established.
What’s in a plant’s name? It can be confusing to identify plants if they have several common names, nicknames, marketing names or regional names. The only reliable way to ensure you get the plant you’re looking for is to pay attention to the Latin name. Whether it’s called feverfew, featherfew or bachelor’s button, the scientific name is Tanacetum parthenium. Look for it on the tag.
You can successfully grow feverfew with very little effort: it’s an insect- and disease-resistant plant. Deep infrequent watering, regular weeding, the occasional application of fertilizer and frequent deadheading are the keys to success. When deadheading, consider removing some buds to promote leaf growth—but don’t strip all of the flowers! Feverfew will easily self-sow if you leave some flowers to dry on the plants.
In late fall or early spring, cut the plant back to the ground while it is dormant.
Harvest when in bloom, or when foliage has matured. Wash the plants the day before harvesting by watering their foliage in the morning. The next morning after dew has dried cut the foliage, stems and all, removing no more than half the plant at a time. Use a sharp, clean knife and do not tear the stems.
Hang the stems in a dark, dry space for up to 2 weeks. Space them out to increase air flow and minimize rot. After drying, store feverfew in a clear sealed container out of direct light.
Prone to migraines? Say hello to feverfew Jell-O!
Feverfew may be nature’s answer to unbearable migraine pain, but the research seems to suggest you’ll need to take it every day for it to be most effective. It also requires about 100 mg per day for 4 to 6 weeks before it starts to really work. I admit this can be something of an ordeal. What’s more, it tastes horrible. And you need to take it in the whole-leaf form, which is particularly foul-tasting. You’ve been warned.
Fortunately, there is a solution that make this remedy more palatable. This recipe is adapted from herbalist James Green.
First get two ice cube trays. Harvest two large feverfew leaves for each cube in your trays and toss them in a blender. Now boil enough water to fill one-and-a-half trays and add this to the blender and pulse until the leaves are evenly dispersed in the boiling water.
Now add a box of Jell-O powder to a mixing bowl. (I recommend a citrus flavor to mask the taste of the feverfew.) Pour the boiling water/feverfew mix into the bowl and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, making sure that the gelatin is fully dissolved. Add an additional 1/8 cup of very cold water and continue to stir well.
Using a tablespoon or turkey baster, place equal amounts of the concoction into each compartment in the ice cube tray and place in the refrigerator to set. (Because of the additional cold water, the mixture should now fill both ice cube trays.)
Enjoy one Jell-O cube every day. You won’t love them, but you will love not having headaches!
Fast forward to the health food store to purchase Genestra Feverfew Capsules or equivalent. Follow the instructions on the label.
Known side effects of feverfew are usually mild. Ulcers in the mouth, swelling of the lips, tongue irritation, and bleeding of the gums (primarily from chewing the leaves) as well as loss of taste have been reported, but all are reversible. Also, sensitivity to light, nausea, abdominal bloating, and heartburn have been recorded very rarely.
If you have been taking feverfew regularly for more than week, do not stop abruptly or you may experience headache, fatigue, anxiety and sleeplessness, or stiffness of the muscles or joints.
Pregnant women should not take feverfew.
Diener HC, Pfaffenrath V, Schnitker J, et al. Efficacy and safety of 6.25 mg t.i.d. feverfew CO2-extract (MIG-99) in migraine prevention – a randomized, double-blind, multicentre, placebo-controlled study. Cephalalgia 2005;25:1031–41.
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.
Murphy JJ, Hepinstall S, Mitchell JR. Randomized double-blind placebo controlled trial of feverfew in migraine prevention. Lancet 1988;2:189–92.
Johnson ES, Kadam NP, Hylands DM, Hylands PJ. Efficacy of feverfew as prophylactic treatment of migraine. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;291:569–73.
James Green. The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook – A Home Manual. Crossing Press, Dec 2000. ISBN 0895949903.

Join our mailing list

Sign up for occasional newsletters from Bryce Wylde