Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Feverfew - Herb-of-the-Week

Last week I focused on Tansy.  This week I wanted to focus on its cousin Feverfew.  Both are in the Tanacetum family and share a rather bitter taste, but unlike Tansy, whose medicial properties have fallen into disfavor, this herb is well documentd and studied for treament of migrines.

So the Herb of the Week this week is: Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)

The medicinal properties of Feverfew were first recorded by Plutarch writing in 1st century Athens.  The Greek philosopher said that the plant was named parthenium after treatment with feverfew saved the life of a workman who fell from the Parthenon.  For many centuries herbalists recommended Feverfew, usually mixed with honey or sweet wine to mask the bitterness, was prescribed for various ills.  It was used as a treatment for stomach ills, toothaches, insect bites, and even women troubles according to Culpepper in his book the English Physician (1653).  But is most recognized value was for relief of headaches.  In fact in modern times it has been used for chronic migraine and rheumatism.  Studies have been done and it has been found to be relatively effective and safe remedy to migraines and other body and joint pains.

To Grow
A bushy, hardy perennial which can grow up to 3 feet high, Feverfew is bright-green, has pungently aromatic leaves and a mass of white daisy-like flowers with yellow centers in midsummer.  Originating in southern Europe it has been introduced all over the world now and is hardy to zone 5.  It will grow in any poor, well-drained soil and even tolerate drought.  You can propagate by seed sewn in spring or by cuttings or division in spring.  It will self-seed prolifically and can be seen as invasive.  There are golden and double-flowered varieties too.  The Golden is a slightly more compact variety.  It can grow in containers, but not indoors.

To Use
All parts of the leaves or flowering tops can be used both fresh and dried.  Feverfew lowers fevers and dilates blood vessels.  Fresh leaves are sometimes eaten to reduce the effects of migraine headaches.  If eaten it is best mixed with honey as the leaves are very bitter.   The young leaves can be added to salads, but sparingly. A dosage of no more than 3 to 5 leaves a day is recommended for treating pain and headaches.  Feverfew has a cumulative effect so it works best when taken in small does over longer periods, especially in treating migraines.  A decoction or infusion of the leaves is a mild disinfectant and the leaves when used in sachets make a good moth repellant.  The leaves, especially of golden varieties can be used in wreaths.

NOTE:  Do not self-medicate with feverfew.  It should not be taken by pregnant women, avoided by people with certain allergies to daisies, and not used by anyone taking blood-thinning drugs, as it can affect clotting rates.  The leaves can also cause mouth ulcers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...