Feverfew: A Natural Headache Cure

Updated: Jul. 05, 2016

The extraordinary herb that can treat your migraine.

feverfewiStock/Peter Kovacs

Feverfew has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Its common name is testament to its historical usage as a medicine to reduce fevers, while its botanical name, Tanacetum parthenium, is said to refer to it having saved a man’s life when he fell from the Parthenon in Athens during its construction in the fifth century BC. Historically, feverfew has been used to address headaches from a wide range of sources, as well as many other painful conditions. Today it is almost exclusively taken to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines.

How Feverfew Works

Feverfew appears to work in several ways to help prevent migraines, including decreasing blood vessel constriction and inhibiting the body’s production of inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins. A group of compounds called sesquiterpene lactones are believed to be the most medicinally active constituents of feverfew. Of those, a compound called parthenolide is present in the greatest quantity and is regarded as the most important; however, other compounds may also play significant roles in the herb’s medicinal action.

How to Use Feverfew

Feverfew leaves can be consumed fresh or dried and in supplement form. Fresh feverfew leaves are bitter and may irritate the mucous membranes of the mouth so are best consumed with other food. Feverfew supplements won’t stop a migraine once it has started, but when taken on an ongoing basis may help to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks and make them less severe. Follow label instructions or take as professionally prescribed.

Safety First

Do not take feverfew if you are allergic to plants from the Compositae (Asteraceae) family, which also contains daisies, sunflowers and echinacea. Feverfew has not been widely tested during pregnancy or breastfeeding so it is best avoided or used only under medical supervision during these periods.

Where to Find Feverfew

Feverfew supplements are available in health food stores or from a qualified herbalist.

Natural_Remedies_CoverReader's Digest Association

Get More Natural Remedies Doctors Approve!
The book Doctors’ Favorite Natural Remedies offers effective ways to treat more than 85 health conditions and evaluates the most commonly used alternative therapies and supplements. Learn more and buy Doctors’ Favorite Natural Remedies here.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest