Feverfew is a composite plant, a hardy biennial to perennial with alternate leaves, covered with soft short hairs or may be almost smooth, 8-10cm long and 3-6cm across, bipinnatifid, with serrate margins, the leaf-stalk is flat on top and round beneath. The leaves differ from those of the otherwise similar Chamomile, whose leaves have a feathery appearance. An upright plant, it can grow to a height of 25-50cm and has many, small, daisy-like yellow flowers arranged in tiny flat clusters and surrounded by a circle of white rays, the whole being no more than 2cm across. The stem is hairy and finely furrowed. The seeds are brown, tiny, and numerous. All parts of the plant have a strong bitter smell and taste.
A plant of European origin, it has naturalized in many areas of North America and is a common volunteer in flower beds. Once planted, Feverfew requires very little care. The best time to plant is around the end of April. Almost any soil will suffice but best is a well-drained loamy mix, treated with rotted manure. It grows easily from seed, cuttings, and root division. Seeds are best sown indoors February and March, then planted out in June. Divisions may be made any time the roots are active, and cuttings may be made from young shoots from the base of a plant at any time. Cuttings must be shaded and well-watered while rooting. This plant is susceptible to snails, slugs, and black fly. Pepper spray will deter the flies and ashes or lime sprinkled around the plants will stop snails and slugs. Mrs. Grieve makes the delightful suggestion to place half buried flower pots on their sides to attract toads to your garden as pest control. The leaves may be harvested through spring and summer but quality is best just before the flowers open.
Feverfew is most widely known as a prophylactic for migraine headaches. It is effective and will reduce episodes and severity, but must be taken on a routine basis to enjoy these benefits and it may take several months of daily use to get the full effect.
What is not as well known is that it takes some properties from other members of the Asteraceae family, like Chamomile and Tansy. It reduces inflammation and spasmodic pain, improves blood consistency and helps circulation, stimulates appetite and digestion and settles an upset stomach, will reduce cold and allergic symptoms, is relaxing and calming, and will even help eliminate gastrointestinal parasites. As such, it may be used for menstrual pain, amenorrhea, headaches, nervousness, bronchitis or any catarrhal condition of the airways, arthritic, colitis or whenever digestive calming and strengthening is needed, minor fever, muscle tension, allergies, asthma, Meniere’s disease, vertigo, external use is an insect deterrent and treats such bites.
Cautions and Considerations
Not for use by pregnant women as it is oxytocic, however, as an antispasmodic it has been used for threatened miscarriage (only under the care of a qualified person).
Not recommended for children younger than two.
Those with ragweed allergy should avoid using this plant as it may cause a skin rash.
Chewed fresh, the leaves may cause canker sores in the mouth.
For migraines, use must be discontinued gradually to avoid possible ‘rebound
As a thrombolytic (anti-coagulant), use must be monitored carefully where this is a concern. Avoid use with prescription anti-clotting agents.
How to Use Feverfew Leaves
Fresh leaves may be eaten in amounts of 1 or 2 large or 3 or 4 small per day. Eat in a salad or sandwich to mask the taste and avoid mouth sores.
As powder, one or two 250mg capsules or tablets per day is recommended. Dried is the least effective form to use Feverfew.
Tincture is best prepared within two hours of harvest. Use one part fresh leaves to five parts 45% alcohol. Dose is 1ml three times per day to a maximum of 20ml per week.
An infusion of 3 tsp fresh herb and 1 cup boiling water, made with sugar or honey can be taken for cough.
Externally, a wash, lotion or cream may be used.
May be formed into a suppository for haemorrhoids.
Volatile oil; Sesquiterpene lactones
May be used in combination with other antispasmodics or muscle relaxants for pain: Crampbark or Jamaican Dogwood for muscular pain,
Hyssop or Thyme for respiratory distress, Chamomile or Hops for nervous or spasmodic digestion.
* It is said to purify the air and prevent disease if planted around the home.
* It has been claimed that Feverfew can bring relief to those suffering from opium overdose.
* In Italy it was used as a seasoning for fried eggs.