FEVERFEW - NOT JUST FOR FEVERS: HISTORY, USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF FEVERFEW: FEVERFEW TISANE
FEVERFEW, TANACETUM PARTHENIUM
Feverfew is a member of the Asteraceae family and related to chamomile, which it resembles, as well as to the sunflower and daisy. Its botanical name has been changed several times and it has swapped genera 5 times. It has been called Chrysanthemum parthenium, Leucantheum parthenium, Pyrethrum parthenium and Matricaria parthenium although it is currently called Tanacetum parthenium. The parthenium Latin name may be because it was associated with the building of the Parthenon and the Acropolis in
, as there is a legend that tells how someone fell off the Acropolis hill during the building work, and was cured by feverfew. It may be that this herb was so revered by the ancient Greeks for its medicinal properties that it was associated with the goddess Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom, whose Temple was built on the Acropolis hill, or it might be that the word “parthenos” is Greek for virgin, and the herb can prevent irregular menstruation and ease the stomach cramps associated with it. Athens, Greece
Feverfew is a native of
and southeastern Greece Europe and was used for a variety of ailments, including headaches and stomachaches. The ancient Greeks used it to treat “melancholy” with feverfew, and this could have meant headaches such as migraines as well as depression in ancient times. Melancholy was something that affected the head and brain. Dioscorides advocated its use for headaches and its early name febrifuga means fever reducer; this is how it comes to have the name feverfew in English as it can work against all types of fever.
Feverfew according to traditional use has the ability to reduce fevers and that was generally what it was used for in Mediaeval times. It has proved effective in recent years against migraine attacks, and people who suffer from migraines should chew a few leaves of this plant every day to prevent the debilitating headaches they are prone to. You can eat them in between slices of bread as they are bitter and give some people mouth ulcers. It is not quite known how feverfew works to prevent migraines, but the whole leaf does help. Perhaps the compounds contained in it block the production of serotonin which is thought to trigger migraines. Chewing the fresh leaf also promotes the liver’s functioning possibly because of the bitter principles in the leaves. These also stop feelings of nausea and prevent vomiting.
If you grow feverfew in the garden it repels insects, and you will probably notice that even bees shun it. If you want to protect other plants from the ravages of insects, feverfew might help.
Feverfew can help with symptoms of the menopause and is used to reduce hot flushes, and it can also regulate the pains and contractions of childbirth. An infusion of the herb can cleanse the uterus after childbirth too so it is another useful herb for women like the Chaste tree and black cohosh, although it has different properties to these.
The plant has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to help in cases of psoriasis. There are studies currently underway to assess its effects on rheumatoid arthritis. It may help to prevent some respiratory problems such as hay fever and asthma, as extracts of the plant have been found to block the release of histamine from mast cells.
The herb has been used to treat many illnesses in traditional medicine around the world, as it has spread to
South America, was introduced to North America in the 19th century, and is found in parts of Asia, and Australia , among other countries. It is said to remove toxins and heat from the body, to relieve the pain associated with arthritis, to relieve nerve pain associated with neuralgia and sciatica, as an expectorant to remove phlegm and mucous, and as a nerve tonic. New Zealand
The 16th century English herbalist, John Gerard thought that feverfew was so powerful against fevers that even if you tied some around the pulse point on your wrist, fevers would be kept at bay. A tincture of the plant is good for insect bites as it reduces the swelling and stops itching. The plant contains essential oil containing camphor among other ingredients.
You can make a soothing balm if you chop or bruise whole leaves and mix with melted fat, then allow it to cool. You can also make a hot poultice with the bruised leaves fried in a little oil and wine, and place the mixture directly on the part of your stomach affected by colic or other pains. (Put the hot leaves in muslin if you don’t like the thought of plastering them on your skin.) You can put some bruised leaves in cold water and put tired or swollen feet into this.
A decoction of the above ground parts of the plant can be mixed with sugar or honey and used for coughs and respiratory problems. The tisane below is used cold, and is good for reducing fevers and to help with migraines, stomach cramps etc.
1 oz fresh herb (leaves and stems), chopped
1 pint boiling water
Pour the boiling water over the chopped herb and leave until cold.
Strain and store the liquid in the fridge.
Use ½ a cupful three times a day. You may need honey or sugar to take away the bitterness.
This has Taste and is a Treat(ment).