The plant feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a flowering plant belonging to the daisy family (Asteraceae) and it produces a profusion of daisy-like flowers. The leaves are pungently-scented.
The English name feverfew is derived from the Latin word febrifugia, which means “fever escape” and is indicative of the leaves traditional use as a fever reliever in Europe. The Greek herbalist physician Dioscorides, who lived in the 1st century AD, described it as anti-inflammatory in a text.
Feverfew is believed to have its origin on the Balkan Peninsula. From there, it spread to adjecent regions such as Anatolia, the Caucasus, and northern Africa.
Because of its desirability as a medical and ornamental plant, it was deliberately planted in many parts of Euroasia, and later also in places such as the Americas and Oceania. Today, it can be found growing in the wild in countries such as Australia, Argentina, Guatemala, the Caribbeans, the United States, and Canada – just to mention a few.
- Feverfew is a perennial herb that develops into a small bush.
- It can become up to 70 cm tall.
- Leave at least 40 cm between each feverfew when you plant them.
- Feverfew likes to grow in full sun.
- It is hardy to USDA zone 5.
- It spreads rapidly by seed, and after a few years it might have colonised more of your garden than you originally intended.
Feverfew in traditional medicine
In traditional European medicine, feverfew leaves have been used to decrease fever and some also considered it an anti-inflammatory herb.
Today, some claim it ingesting one or two leaves per day will prevent migraines.
Withdrawal symptoms can occur of you abruptly stop taking feverfew after long-term continuous use. Examples of reported withdrawal symptoms are headache, muscle pain, and joint pain.
Feverfew can cause contact dermatitis in those who are allergic to it.
Feverfew is not recommended for use during pregnancy.
Feverfew may interact with blood thinners and medicines that are metabolised by the liver.
Do not combine with NSAIDs.
Chewing feverfew leaves can result in mouth ulcers and digestive upset.
Feverfew contains parthenolide
Parthenolide is a sesquiterpene lactone of the germacranolide class which occurs naturally in the plant feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and is named after this plant. The highest concentrations of parthenolide is found in the flowers and the fruits. It is not soluble in water.
Parthenolide has a variety of reported in vitro biological activities, including:
- Being an agonist of the adiponectin receptor 2 (AdipoR2)
- Inhibiting the HDAC1 protein
- Inhibiting mammalian thioredoxin reductase
- Modulating of the NF-κB-mediated inflammatory responses in experimental atherosclerosis
- Inducing cell death in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) cells, while leaving normal bone marrow cells relatively unscathed.
- Killing stem cells that give rise to AML.
- Activity against the parasite Leishmania amazonensis.
- Activity against the Herpes simplex virus 1. For more information about this, read the study https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30001535/ (PMID: 30001535, DOI: 10.1159/000490055)