What is Feverfew?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Feverfew is a flowering plant that may be grown for its appearance or its medicinal properties. As its name suggests, feverfew has been traditionally used for centuries as a fever reducer. Other applications include the treatment of arthritis, digestive complaints, and headache. More recently, feverfew has shown promise as a remedy for migraine headaches.

Fever few is said to reduce fevers.
Fever few is said to reduce fevers.

The feverfew plant is a bush about 18 inches (46 cm) high, with yellow and white flowers and a bitter citrus scent. It is related to the sunflower and native to southeastern Europe, though it is now grown around the world. In the United States, it is most commonly found in the westernmost parts of the country. Over the centuries, feverfew has been used to treat such diverse conditions as asthma, skin conditions, and menstrual and labor complications.

Feverfew is a popular herbal treatment for migraines.
Feverfew is a popular herbal treatment for migraines.

In the 1990s, feverfew gained in popularity as a treatment for both migraine headaches and arthritis, particularly in Great Britain. A number of studies have shown feverfew to be effective against migraines, particularly when taken on a regular basis. The active ingredients in feverfew are parthenolide and tanetin, which are believed to prevent migraines by inhibiting serotonin and prostaglandins. Some studies on the use of feverfew against migraines did not show the herb to be effective, and a 1989 study on its use for arthritis was similarly inconclusive. Nevertheless, feverfew continues to be prescribed by herbalists for both these conditions, with the support of extensive anecdotal evidence and the added benefit of minimal side effects.

There are a few side effects associated with feverfew, as with any medicinal herb. Gastrointestinal distress, mouth sores and swelling, and nervousness are all documented side effects. Allergies to feverfew are also possible, though rare.

Feverfew can also interfere with the blood's ability to clot, and is therefore not recommended around the time of surgery or for patients taking other blood-thinning medications. In addition, pregnant or nursing women and children under the age of two should not take feverfew. Feverfew and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may reduce each other's effectiveness if taken together.

Feverfew supplements are usually made from the leaves of the plant, but may contain other above-ground portions of the plant as well. The herb may be used fresh or dried to make a tea or taken in capsule, tablet, or tincture form. As with any medicinal herb, always consult a knowledgeable herbalist and discuss any medicines you are taking or planning to take with your doctor.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments


I suddenly stopped feverfew over a week and a half ago. I have had a semi-dull migraine ever since. When will the feverfew be out of my system? Has anyone else gone through this before?


Feverfew can be used along with butterbur for migraine relief, too. I frequent a store in town which carries a variety of naturopathic remedies. You can buy butterbur and feverfew together in one capsule.

Butterbur increases blood flow to the brain. It is also supposed to help with headache pain associated with bright lights and stress. You want to make sure any supplement you get does not have Pyrrolizdine Alkaloids, because this makes it unsafe to take regularly.

Butterbur has side effects similar to feverfew. I read that butterbur reduces migraine pain and frequency by as much as 50%. It sounds like the two herbs used together would be pretty effective against migraines.


I prefer to use natural remedies when ever I can. Feverfew is one of the herbs I have used. Some additional feverfew benefits are said to be lowering one’s blood pressure and improving appetite. I have also read that feverfew can help with colitis, ringing in the ears, and dizziness. Increased kidney function has been reported as well.

I do not have any experience with it, but I have heard of feverfew being used for pets, also. You can steep a few handfuls in hot water. After it cools, the tea can be used as a rinse to naturally get rid of fleas. Sounds much better than chemical treatments.


I have been using feverfew extract for my migraines. Fortunately, I do not have any problems with the side effects. The feverfew actually reduces the nausea I get with my headaches. I order the capsules online and take them regularly.

I talked to my nutritionist and found out that you don’t want to suddenly stop taking feverfew if you have been taking it regularly. If you don’t taper off by reducing the dose, you can have withdrawal symptoms that include joint pain, rebound headaches, muscle stiffness, anxiety, and fatigue.

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