Feverfew Herb

Tanacetum parthenium, Asteraceae

feverfew Feverfew is a strongly aromatic perennial chrysanthemum, a species of the Asteraceae family, has been used for treating fevers, headaches,arthritis, rheumatism, and menstrual disorders since the time of Dioscorides (circa 78 A.D.) The leaves are yellowish-green in color and pinnatesect in ovate segments, subdivided into entire or crenate lobes. The plant’s flower grows with five to twenty flowerheads in a dense corymb, with heads of yellow tubular flowers and white ligulate, female flowers with ray florets.[6] The name chrysanthemum is from the Greek word chrys, meaning golden, and the Latin word anthemum, meaning flower. The common name feverfew is a corrupted version of the Latin febrifugia, meaning fever reducer.[4] The name parthenium comes from the Greek, parthenos, meaning virgin, in reference to young women who used the plant to treat menstrual irregularities.

The principal active constituent of feverfew is a sesquiterpenoid lactone called parthenolide.[1] Other sesquiterpenoid lactones present in feverfew and known to possess pharmacological activity include canin, epoxy-artemorin, artecanin, tanaparthin-α-peroxide, and seco-tanapartholides A & B.[4] The chemical composition of the plant appears to fluctuate qualitatively depending on the origin of the plant and its vegetative cycle. The parthenolide content is concentrated in the flowering tops and the leaves. The plant also contains various flavonoids and polyynes.[2] The strong odor of feverfew is due to an essential oil consisting of camphor, camphene, germacrene D, p-cymene, linalool, borneol, and chrysanthemyl acetate.[6] It has been demonstrated through animal studies that feverfew extracts inhibit platelet aggregation and the ADP- or epinephrine-induced release of serotonin, as well as decreasing prostaglandin synthesis and the release of inflammatory compounds called histamines. Feverfew reduces the release of serotonin from thrombocytes and polymorphonuclear leukocytes.[6] Compounds such as parthenolide are called spasmolytic, meaning that they cause the smooth muscles in the walls of the cerebral blood vessels to be less reactive to endogenous chemicals such as norepinephrine, prostaglandins, and serotonin which cause vasoconstriction and inflammation.[3][4] The body reacts to this vasoconstriction by releasing autocoids, which are anti-inflammatory compounds with vasodilating properties which counteract the vasoconstriction and inflammation. The pain receptors which are activated during migraine headaches are wrapped around the cerebral blood vessels and receive pressure from the vasoconstriction-vasodilation activity resulting in a throbbing migraine headache.

Thus feverfew acts in a similar manner as a seronin antagonist, preventing the serotonin dumping which triggers the initial vasoconstriction and resultant vasodilation that leads to activation of the pain receptors of the cerebral blood vessels.[6] Another mechanism of action is presumed to be the inhibition of arachidonic acid, a precursor to prostaglandins that are involved in clotting mechanisms as well as inflammatory responses.[5] Extracts of feverfew also contribute a protective effect on vascular endothelial cells.[2] Due to its inhibitory effect on platelet aggregation and arachidonic acid, feverfew should not be taken in conjunction with anticoagulant medications or prior to surgery. Feverfew should not be taken by pregnant or lactating women.[4]

[1] Pittler, MH; Ernst, E (2004). “Feverfew for preventing migraine”. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1): CD002286. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002286.pub2. PMID 14973986.

[2] Feverfew – National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine-NIHhttp://nccam.nih.gov/health/feverfew/

[3] Blood. 2005 Jun 1;105(11):4163-9. The sesquiterpene lactone parthenolide induces apoptosis of human acute myelogenous leukemia stem and progenitor cells. Guzman ML, Rossi RM, Karnischky L, Li X, Peterson DR, Howard DS, Jordan CT. PMID:15687234.

[4] Hoffmann, David, Medical Herbalism (2003) Healing Arts Press Rochester, VT, p. 580. ISBN 0-89281-749-6.

[5] University of Maryland Complementary Medicine. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/feverfew-000243.htm.

[6] Bruneton, Jean, Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medicianl Plants (1995) LaVoisier Publishing. p.505-6. ISBN 1-898298-13-0.

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