By: Erin Stair, MD, MPH
The Feverfew in my garden is out of control! Seriously, it must be one of the easiest plants to grow, because it’s everywhere. I love that it is everywhere, too, because the plant is a rock star. Feverfew is such a powerful healer that I think I’m going to start calling it Feverfew, M.D. 🙂
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a really pretty plant with daisy-like flowers ( See the picture I posted from my garden…..) :
It is most studied and known for preventing migraines, and it does so with a lot of success. Doctors at the London Migraine Clinic have conducted studies showing that patients who take Feverfew had improvements in the frequency, severity, and duration of migraines. Dr. Peter Hylands and friends conducted a randomized controlled trial showing that study participants who took Feverfew on a regular basis had reduced frequency of migraines. If you suffer from migraines ( or if you are like me and get the infamous PMS migraine) and want to try a natural approach, give Feverfew a chance. While I am a fan of growing herbs and using the WHOLE herb if possible, you can try Feverfew supplements. I just can’t recommend any, because there is no way of knowing what is actually IN them. If you are lucky enough to grow it or get the whole plant, you can try eating a leaf or two a day. Seriously. People have tried that for their migraines and have succeeded. There is a chance, and it is reported in the literature, that some people get mouth sores from chewing on the Feverfew leaves. If that happens to you, stick to drinking it as a tea or ingesting it as a supplement.
No one really knows how Feverfew prevents migraines. We do know that the plant has three active components: 1) Parthenolide, 2) Canin and 3) Artecanin. Why should you care about them? You really shouldn’t unless you’re a nerd and need to have a clue as to how things work. But seriously, these active components act as anti-inflammatories that possibly inhibit prostaglandins, histamine, and blood vessel spasms that often trigger migraines.
Is Feverfew ONLY good for migraines? NO!
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it has been used for anything and everything that ends in “itis.” So, arthritis, osteoarthritis, bullshititis, whateveritis, I’mdyingitis…etc…
A recent study published in BMB Report ( 2013) showed that Feverfew helps prevent bone loss in bone destructive disorders. ( Think, osteoporosis.) Good news for aging folks and anorexics who don’t like their milk and Vitamin D!
Flower extract from Feverfew is shown to effectively reduce the pain associated with diabetic neuropathy. (The Feverfew leaves didn’t work. It has to be the flowers for this particular ailment.) Diabetic patients often get really painful nerve pain ( Diabetic neuropathy), so Feverfew might be a good natural alternative to conventional meds.
Feverfew can also help you maintain younger and healthier skin! A 2013 study published in the Journal of Dermatological Science shows that Feverfew extract effectively helps protect the skin from UV-damage ( the sun) and from many environmental aggressors and oxidants that make our skin age. Our body’s natural level of antioxidants declines as we age. Feverfew is shown to activate a powerful antioxidant pathway ( NrF2/ARE) in skin cells, which is how it keeps our skin healthy.
TIP: To make a Feverfew skin cream from the whole plant, I take a handful of the plant and throw in a pot with 25 g of white beeswax, lanolin, 100 ml of coconut oil, 25 ml glycerine and 75 ml of water. Boil- stir well- and then cool overnight in a tight container. You should be able to use it as a face cream the following day.
CANCER KILLER & PREVENTION: “From plant shoots to cancer roots”
Some of the coolest research is being done on Feverfew and its effects on cancer. A 2013 study published in Drug Discovery Today shows that Feverfew’s active component, Parthenolide, is the first small molecule shown to be effective at destroying cancer stem cells. This means that it could potentially kill cancer at its roots.
Another study published in the May 2014 edition of the International Journal of Molecular Medicine shows that Feverfew’s active component, Parthenolide, can inhibit the blood supply to colorectal cancer cells. ( In nerd terms, this is called “inhibiting the effects of angiogenesis.”) Tumor cells have a higher blood supply than normal cells, so this is great, great, great news. By cutting off the blood supply to tumor cells, you are preventing them from getting nutrients and will starve them. Colon cancer rates are only expected to rise around the world, and wouldn’t it be great if we can utilize something green and natural to combat it?
HOW to use FEVERFEW: Here are a few thoughts if you have access to the whole plant:
1) Eat the leaves. Seriously. Every other animal eats leaves and does just fine. We don’t always need to be fancy.
2) Boil the leaves and flowers and drink as a tea. ( But it tastes bitter, so consider adding lemon.)
3) To create a Feverfew flower or leaf extract, store either in a jar of vodka and/or vinegar. Make sure the jar is air-tight. Store in dark place for 2-6 weeks, allowing the healing chemicals to be extracted by the alcohol or vinegar solvent. Then, BOOM! You have a Feverfew extract that should last you a while. ( You shouldn’t drink extracts. Instead use them as drops to add to teas, drinks, yogurts, etc…)
You can try the supplements. But I can’t recommend a company! 😉