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Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a member of the sunflower family native to western Asia and the Balkans, where it has been used for centuries to relieve menstrual disorders, fevers, headaches, psoriasis, arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions. Today. it is cultivated around the world and is prized for its ability to prevent migraine headaches.
Feverfew & Migraine Relief
While feverfew is mainly considered a preventive measure, some studies indicate this herb may also help reduce the severity of migraines. A placebo-controlled, double-blind trial published in the November 2005 issue of the medical journal Cephalalgia showed that a special extract of feverfew known as MIG-99 significantly reduced the frequency of migraine headaches, although there was no significant difference in the duration of attacks. Participants in the non-placebo group were given 6.25 mg of MIG-99 three times daily. The decrease in migraine frequency began after one month and was maximal after two months of treatment. For participants experiencing an average of 4.76 attacks per 28-day period, the frequency was reduced by 1.9 attacks.
Another study published in the September 2002 issue of Cephalalgia produced similar results, though migraine frequency reduction occurred only in participants experiencing at least four migraine headaches per month. And an earlier British study reported some lessening of intensity in migraines, along with decreased frequency.
A 2011 review of feverfew research published in Pharmacognosy Reviews concluded that “Flowers and leaves…showed significant analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic activities, which confirmed the folk use of feverfew herb for treatment of migraine headache.” And a 2019 study in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics found that feverfew significantly reduced the frequency of tension-type headaches in children.
How Feverfew Works to Stop Migraines
Feverfew is thought to contain numerous active compounds that may be responsible for its migraine-inhibiting effects, including parthenolide. Parthenolide inhibits the release of inflammatory compounds in the body, and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects.
According to the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health, no serious side effects have been reported from feverfew use, although it can cause nausea, digestive problems, and bloating. Additionally, chewing fresh leaves can cause mouth ulcerations and skin irritation. People who are sensitive to ragweed and related plants may also experience allergic reactions to feverfew.
Feverfew is not recommended during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. There are no documented drug interactions with feverfew, although the herb may have blood-thinning effects, so people on anticoagulant medications, including aspirin, should consult their physician.
For migraine prevention, take 125 mg of feverfew leaf daily. Look for capsules or tablets of freezedried extract standardized to contain at least 0.4 percent parthenolide.