Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium, or Chrysanthemum parthenium)

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium , or Chrysanthemum parthenium)

Other common names: bachelor’s buttons, Pyrethrum parthenium, featherfew, flirtwort, wild chamomile, Santa Maria

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Family: Asteraceae


Diagram courtesy of Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen


Febrifuge, antispasmodic, aperient laxative (in higher doses), bitter, analgesic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, stimulant (mild), emmenagogue, cholagogue (mild), insect repellent.

Harvest: You can harvest feverfew during its flowering period, which runs from late spring to early fall.

Part used: Aerial parts, mostly flowers.


Terpenoids: Chrysantemonin, chrysanthemolide, magnoliolide, parthenolide, santamarine, reynosin; tanetin, volatile oils: camphor, borneol, farnesene and their esters, flavonols, tannins.


Used to treat headaches (migraines especially), digestive disorders, arthritis, fever, inadequate bile production (only with practitioner’s approval), menstrual problems, muscle and joint pain. A key constituent called parthenolide is showing promise in its ability to target cancer stem cells, although further research is needed.


Photo courtesy of Steffen Heinz Caronna / Wikimedia Commons

Medicinal preparation:


Infuse in a tea with honey for wheezing, coughs and colds, nervousness, fevers, stomach upset, menstrual issues or low spirits. For treating or preventing migraines from starting, I prefer the more concentrated dosage you get in a capsule form. People with chronic migraines often stay on feverfew long-term with breaks. You can also, for migraines with nausea, combine feverfew and ginger.


Bugs hate feverfew, so you can wash your skin with feverfew tea or diluted tincture to ward off pests when hiking. Also you can use the same wash to treat any bites or stings you might get. Apply the herb in a hot compress for wheezing in the chest, colic and flatulence. If brewed into a strong tea and allowed to cool, it has been applied to patients to reduce their sensitivity to pain (especially if that sensitivity is due to nerves). It can also be used for ear ache (infuse in olive oil) and facial pain in this way. I have also seen it used as an addition to salves, creams and shampoos for psoriasis, eczema and other skin conditions. Use it in a foot bath for bruised or swollen feet.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Do not use if pregnant, nursing or taking birth control pills. People with allergies to seasonal grasses and pollen may be sensitive to this plant. Do not use in patients with kidney stones, obstructed bile duct or gallstones, or those taking cytochrome P450 3A4 substrates, blood-thinners or liver medications. Stop using feverfew at least 72 hours prior to surgery as it could cause unwanted bleeding. Side effects can (rarely) include nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain and flatulence – if this occurs, lower the dose or discontinue. If the herb is chewed directly in the mouth it can cause irritation, swelling and numbness. Do not use long-term without taking a few days off every two weeks – using high doses daily for weeks and then discontinuing abruptly may cause muscle and joint rebound pain and headaches.

Energetic/traditional use:

Has protective, healing and disease-warding energetic properties. It is known to also ward off negativity, anxiety and depressed state of mind in those who are around it. Insects are not the only “pests” that it repels effectively – some hang it over their doors with St. John’s Wort to encourage a happy, harmonious, safe home.

The name pyrethrum comes from the Greek word for fire, due to the root’s hot flavour. Planted around the house, it was meant to ward off disease and protect those inside from getting sick. In the middle ages it was burned or infused in the air to prevent malaria. Feverfew was used in funeral rituals by the Greeks and Romans to cover the smell of the corpses, and has been used by other cultures to break hexes.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.

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