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This image of Feverfew comes from De historia stirpium commentarii insigne, a book produced by Leonhart Fuchs in 1542. This book was one of the most celebrated herbals from the sixteenth century, which features over 500 woodcut illustrations, all of which were hand-colored.  This book is available in the John R. Martin Rare Book Room in Hardin Library.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)

Feverfew is a perennial plant with leaves that are similar to those of chrysanthemum and daisy-like flowers. It is native to the Balkans and Asia Minor, though it has been introduced widely throughout Europe and North America. As the name suggests, Feverfew has long been used as a traditional medicine to reduce fevers and has been used in a variety of other treatments.

Historical Use

In Parkinson’s text (1640), Feverfew is noted as being useful to treat a great many ailments. He advises to use it to treat menstrual issues and and to assist in expulsion of placenta during the birthing process. Feverfew is also noted to be useful in treating coughs and chest congestion as well as to help expel bladder stones. Parkinson also states that the plant is “effectuall for all paines of the head” and was also used to treat vertigo. Feverfew was even recommended to be used to remove freckles and as a remedy for overdose of opium. While many of these uses would seem laughable now, there is an increasing body of research investigating the use of Feverfew to treat headaches and migraines.

Modern Use

A number of biologically active chemicals have been isolated from Feverfew essential oils, including camphor, camphene, juniper camphor, bornyl acetate, bornyl isovalerate, and borneol (Mohsenzadeh, Chehregani, & Amiri, 2011). In addition, sesquiterpene lactones, including parthenolide, are produced in the leaves and have been the target of an increasing amount of study (Rabito et al., 2014). Many studies have been conducted regarding the use of Feverfew extracts to treat or prevent migraines, and clinical studies have provided promising but mixed results (Wider, Pittler, & Ernst, 2015). However, the sesquiterpene lactones have seen recent promising evidence in studies examining their use as an anti-parasitic agent, and have even been investigated in treating Covid-19 . While Feverfew is generally regarded as safe, it can cause gastrointestinal issues, ulcers of the mouth, and can occasionally induce allergic reactions (“Feverfew,” 2006).

Latest Research


Feverfew. (2006). In Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US).

Mohsenzadeh, F., Chehregani, A., & Amiri, H. (2011). Chemical composition, antibacterial activity and cytotoxicity of essential oils of Tanacetum parthenium in different developmental stages. Pharm Biol, 49(9), 920-926. doi:10.3109/13880209.2011.556650

Parkinson, J. (1640). Theatrum botanicum: The theater of plants, or An herball of a large extent. . London: Tho. Cotes.

Rabito, M. F., Britta, E. A., Pelegrini, B. L., Scariot, D. B., Almeida, M. B., Nixdorf, S. L., . . . Ferreira, I. C. (2014). In vitro and in vivo antileishmania activity of sesquiterpene lactone-rich dichloromethane fraction obtained from Tanacetum parthenium (L.) Schultz-Bip. Exp Parasitol, 143, 18-23. doi:10.1016/j.exppara.2014.04.014

Wider, B., Pittler, M. H., & Ernst, E. (2015). Feverfew for preventing migraine. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 4(4), Cd002286. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002286.pub3