Tanacetum parthenium is a member of the sunflower family, and its name a corruption of the word “febrifuge” denoting its fever-dispelling qualities. It grows in Europe and the Middle East, and it was known and used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Its main active ingredients are sesquiterpene lactones, such as parthenolide, chrysanthemonin, chrysartemin A and B, and santamarin, tannins, and essential oils like borneol, camphor, miscellaneous esters, etc.
- Anti-inflammatory. Extracts of the herb inhibit the manufacture of the inflammatory series 2 prostaglandins, leukotrienes and thromboxanes at the initial stage of their synthesis. Thus acting more like cortisone, than aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs), but without the side effects of either. Useful for arthritis, swellings, and other inflammations.
- Fever reducer. This use of the plant dates from ancient Greek times, and it is most probably due to the suppression of prostaglandins. Research has shown that parthenolide, michelfuscalide and chrysanthenyl acetate inhibit prostaglandins, which in turn decrease the secretion of histamine, reduce the activity of inflammatory cells and bring about the reduction of fever.
- Pain reliever. The ancients used feverfew also for relieving headaches, and recent scientific research has focused on the herb’s ability to curb the number and severity of migraine headaches. But it is also useful for other headaches, chronic pain, etc.
- Platelet inhibitor. The herb inhibits platelet aggregation, while parthenolide components seem to exert a tonic effect on vascular smooth muscles.
Caution: Feverfew has no known contra-indications, but some people may experience minor gastric irritation if high doses are taken on an empty stomach. Chewing the leaves of the plant may result in aphthous ulcerations, while some sensitive persons may well develop exudative dermatitis from external contact.