Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Tanacetum
T. parthenium
Binomial name
Tanacetum parthenium
(L.) Sch. Bip.
  • Chrysanthemum parthenium (L.) Bernh.
  • Matricaria parthenium L.
  • Pyrethrum parthenium (L.) Sm.

Tanacetum parthenium, known as feverfew,[1] is a flowering plant in the daisy family, Asteraceae. It is a traditional medicinal herb that is used commonly to prevent migraine headaches. Occasionally, it is grown for ornament. It usually is identified in the literature with its synonyms, Chrysanthemum parthenium and Pyrethrum parthenium.


The plant is a herbaceous perennial that grows into a small bush,[2] up to 70 cm (28 in) high, with pungently-scented leaves. The leaves are light yellowish green, variously pinnatifid. The conspicuous daisy-like flowers are up to 20 mm across, borne in lax corymbs. The outer, ray florets have white ligules and the inner, disc florets are yellow and tubular. It spreads rapidly by seed, and will cover a wide area after a few years.[3][4]

Distribution and cultivation[edit]

Feverfew is native to Eurasia, specifically the Balkan Peninsula, Anatolia, and the Caucasus, but cultivation has spread it around the world and it now is found in the rest of Europe, North America, and Chile.[5]

A perennial herb, it should be planted in full sun, 38 to 46 cm (15–18 in) apart, and cut back to the ground in the autumn. It grows up to 70 cm (28 in) tall. It is hardy to USDA zone 5 (−30 °C (−22 °F)). Outside of its native range, it may become an invasive weed.


Leaf of feverfew

In traditional herbal medicine, feverfew has been used for fever, headache, arthritis,[6] and digestive problems.[7][8][9]

The active ingredients in feverfew include parthenolide.[10] There has been some scientific interest in parthenolide, which has been shown to induce apoptosis in some cancer cell lines in vitro and, potentially, to target cancer stem cells.[11][12][13] There are no published in vivo studies of parthenolide or feverfew for humans with cancer.

The parthenolide content of commercially available feverfew supplements varies substantially, by more than 40-fold, despite labeling claims of "standardization". A study found that the parthenolide content of these supplements bore little resemblance to the content claimed on the product labels.[14]

In August of 2019, ScienceDaily reported that researchers at the University of Birmingham announced that they had developed a method to produce parthenolide directly from the plants and a way of modifying that parthenolide to produce a number of compounds, both of which techniques seem promising to enable clinical research into the potential of feverfew for medical applications.[15]

Long-term use of feverfew followed by abrupt discontinuation may induce a withdrawal syndrome featuring rebound headaches and muscle and joint pains.[16] Feverfew may cause allergic reactions, including contact dermatitis.[17] Other side effects have included gastrointestinal upset such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and flatulence. When the herb is chewed or taken orally it may cause mouth ulcers and swelling and numbness of the mouth.[16] Feverfew should not be taken by pregnant women.[18] It may interact with blood thinners and increase the risk of bleeding, and also may interact with a variety of medications metabolized by the liver.[16]


The word "feverfew" derives from the Latin word febrifugia, meaning "fever reducer",[16] although it no longer is considered useful for that purpose.

Although its earliest medicinal use is unknown, it was documented in the first century (AD) as an anti-inflammatory by the Greek herbalist physician, Dioscorides.[19]


  1. ^ "Tanacetum parthenium". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  2. ^ National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. "FeverFew". Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  3. ^ Parnell, J. and Curtis. 2012. Webb's An Irish Flora. Cork University Press. ISBN 978-185918-4783
  4. ^ Clapham, A.R, Tutin, T.G. and Warburg, E.F. 1968. Excursion Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-04656-4
  5. ^ Jeffrey C (2001). "Tanacetum parthenium". Mansfeld's World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops.
  6. ^ University of Maryland Medical Center. "Feverfew". Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  7. ^ Pittler MH, Ernst E (2004). "Feverfew for preventing migraine". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1): CD002286. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002286.pub2. PMID 14973986.
  8. ^ "Feverfew". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. July 2010. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
  9. ^ Pareek A, Suthar M, Rathore GS, Bansal V (January 2011). "Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.): A systematic review". Pharmacogn Rev. 5 (9): 103–10. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.79105. PMC 3210009. PMID 22096324.
  10. ^ Meschino Health. "Comprehensive Guide to Feverfew". Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  11. ^ Guzman ML, Rossi RM, Karnischky L, et al. (June 2005). "The sesquiterpene lactone parthenolide induces apoptosis of human acute myelogenous leukemia stem and progenitor cells". Blood. 105 (11): 4163–9. doi:10.1182/blood-2004-10-4135. PMC 1895029. PMID 15687234.
  12. ^ Guzman ML, Jordan CT (September 2005). "Feverfew: weeding out the root of leukaemia". Expert Opin Biol Ther. 5 (9): 1147–52. doi:10.1517/14712598.5.9.1147. PMID 16120045.
  13. ^ Lesiak K, Koprowska K, Zalesna I, Nejc D, Düchler M, Czyz M (February 2010). "Parthenolide, a sesquiterpene lactone from the medical herb feverfew, shows anticancer activity against human melanoma cells in vitro". Melanoma Res. 20 (1): 21–34. doi:10.1097/CMR.0b013e328333bbe4. PMID 19949351.
  14. ^ Draves AH, Walker SE (2004). "Parthenolide content of Canadian commercial feverfew preparations: Label claims are misleading in most cases" (PDF). Canadian Pharmacists Journal. 136 (10): 23–30. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-20.
  15. ^ Hidden chemistry in flowers shown to kill cancer cells, ScienceDaily, August 1, 2019
  16. ^ a b c d "Feverfew". University of Maryland. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  17. ^ Killoran, CE; Crawford, GH; Pedvis-Leftick, A (2007). "Two cases of compositae dermatitis exacerbated by moisturizer containing feverfew". Dermatitis : Contact, Atopic, Occupational, Drug. 18 (4): 225–9. PMID 18021604.
  18. ^ Yao M, Ritchie HE, Brown-Woodman PD (November 2006). "A reproductive screening test of feverfew: is a full reproductive study warranted?". Reprod. Toxicol. 22 (4): 688–93. doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2006.04.014. PMID 16781113.
  19. ^ "Agricultural (Herbs and Spices): Feverfew Information". Government of Saskatchewan. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2012.

Further reading[edit]

Johnson, E. S.; Kadam, N. P.; Hylands, D. M. (August 31, 1985). "Efficacy Of Feverfew As Prophylactic Treatment Of Migraine". British Medical Journal (Clinical Research Edition). 291 (6495): 569–573. doi:10.1136/bmj.291.6495.569. JSTOR 29520398. PMC 1418227. PMID 3929876.

External links[edit]