Tanacetum parthenium, the feverfew, is a traditional medicinal herb which is commonly used to prevent migraine headaches, and is also occasionally grown for ornament. It is also commonly seen in the literature by its synonyms, Chrysanthemum parthenium and Pyrethrum parthenium. It is also sometimes referred to as bachelor's buttons or featherfew.
The plant is covered by flowers reminiscent of daisies and grows into a small bush up to around 46 cm (18 in) high with citrus-scented leaves. It spreads rapidly, and will cover a wide area after a few years. The species grows to up to 60 cm high. The leaves are variously pinnatifid with conspicuous flowers up to 20 mm across. The outer florets are all ligulate and white. The inner florets are yellow and tubular in lax corymbs.
A perennial herb, which should be planted in full sun, 38 to 46 cm (15-18 in) apart and cut back to the ground in the autumn. It grows up to 61 cm (24 in) tall. It is hardy to USDA zone 5 (-30 °C (-22 °F)). Outside of its native range it can become an invasive weed. Feverfew was native to Eurasia: specifically the Balkan Peninsula, Anatolia and the Caucasus, but cultivation has spread it around the world and it is now also found in the rest of Europe, North America and Chile.
Feverfew has been used as a herbal treatment to reduce fever and to treat headaches, arthritis and digestive problems. There is some clinical data backing up these uses though more scientific research is needed in order to prove feverfew's efficacy conclusively.
The active ingredients in feverfew include parthenolide. There has been some scientific interest in parthenolide, which has been shown to induce apoptosis in some cancer cell lines in vitro and potentially to target cancer stem cells. There are no published studies of parthenolide or feverfew in humans with cancer. The parthenolide content of commercially available feverfew supplements varies substantially, by over 40-fold, despite labeling claims of "standardization". A study found that the actual parthenolide content of these supplements bore little resemblance to the content claimed on the product label.
Long-term use of feverfew followed by abrupt discontinuation may induce a withdrawal syndrome featuring rebound headaches and muscle and joint pains. Feverfew can cause allergic reactions, including contact dermatitis. Other side effects have included gastrointestinal upset such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and flatulence. When the herb is chewed or taken orally it can cause mouth ulcers and swelling and numbness of the mouth. Feverfew should not be taken by pregnant women. It may interact with blood thinners and increase the risk of bleeding, and may also interact with a variety of medications metabolized by the liver.
The word "feverfew" derives from the Latin word febrifugia, meaning "fever reducer". although it is no longer considered useful for that purpose. Though its earliest medicinal use is unknown, it was documented in the first century (AD) as an anti-inflammatory by the Greek herbalist physician Dioscorides.
Johnson, E. S.; Kadam, N. P.; Hylands, D. M. (August 31, 1985). "Efficacy Of Feverfew As Prophylactic Treatment Of Migraine". British Medical Journal (Clinical Research Edition) 291: 569-573. Retrieved 29 April 2015.