The Health Benefits of Feverfew

What Should I Know About It?

Feverfew flowers
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What is Feverfew?

Also known as "featherfew" and "wild chamomile," feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a plant belonging to the sunflower family. It has long been used as an herbal remedy in European folk medicine.

Feverfew contains a compound called parthenolide, which may help to ease muscle spasms, reduce inflammation, and prevent the constriction of blood vessels in the brain.

Feverfew is available in capsule, tablet, and liquid extract form, and is sold in most health food stores.

Uses for Feverfew

In alternative medicine, feverfew is typically used as a herbal remedy for the following conditions:

  • Migraines
  • Arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Asthma
  • Skin conditions
  • Stomachaches

Health Benefits of Feverfew

Although research on feverfew's health effects is limited, studies have looked at the use of the herb in these conditions:

1) Migraine

In a 2005 study of 170 migraine patients, researchers found that those who took feverfew extract for 16 weeks experienced 1.9 fewer attacks per month than they had before the study started. (Study members who took a placebo for the same amount of time, meanwhile, experienced 1.3 fewer attacks per month.)

In a 2004 review of five clinical trials, however, investigators found insufficient evidence to suggest that feverfew is more effective than placebo in preventing migraine.

2) Rheumatoid Arthritis

Test-tube experiments have demonstrated that feverfew may help fight the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, although no human studies have proven feverfew to be more useful than placebo in treatment of this disease.

3) Pancreatic Cancer

In a 2005 study, scientists discovered that parthenolide extracted from feverfew inhibited the growth of pancreatic cancer cells in the lab. However, it's too soon to tell whether feverfew may be useful in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Caveats

Side effects may include minor stomach upset (such as nausea, diarrhea, and flatulence).

Patients who stop long-term use of feverfew may also experience muscle stiffness, moderate pain, and anxiety.

If you're allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemum, or marigold, you may be sensitive to feverfew.

Anyone taking anticoagulant or anti-platelet medication should consult their doctor before using feverfew.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Using Feverfew for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend feverfew as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

If you're considering using feverfew for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

Sources:

Diener HC, Pfaffenrath V, Schnitker J, Friede M, Henneicke-von Zepelin HH. "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 Nov;25(11):1031-41.

Pittler MH, Ernst E. "Feverfew for preventing migraine." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(1):CD002286.

Setty AR, Sigal LH. "Herbal medications commonly used in the practice of rheumatology: mechanisms of action, efficacy, and side effects." Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2005 34(6):773-84.

Yip-Schneider MT, Nakshatri H, Sweeney CJ, Marshall MS, Wiebke EA, Schmidt CM. "Parthenolide and sulindac cooperate to mediate growth suppression and inhibit the nuclear factor-kappa B pathway in pancreatic carcinoma cells." Mol Cancer Ther. 2005 4(4):587-94.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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