Tanacetum parthenium

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This article is about the Eurasian Asteraceae species. For the North American Asteraceae genus, see Parthenium. For the band, see The Feverfew.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Tanacetum
Species: T. parthenium
Binomial name
Tanacetum parthenium
(L.) Sch. Bip.

Chrysanthemum parthenium (L.) Bernh.
Matricaria parthenium L.
Pyrethrum parthenium (L.) Sm.

Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) is a traditional medicinal herb which is commonly used to prevent migraine headaches, and is also occasionally grown for ornament. The plant grows into a small bush up to around 46 cm (18 in) high with citrus-scented leaves, and is covered by flowers reminiscent of daisies. It spreads rapidly, and they will cover a wide area after a few years. It is also commonly seen in the literature by its synonyms, Chrysanthemum parthenium and Pyrethrum parthenium. It is also sometimes referred to as bachelor's buttons or featherfew.[1]


A perennial herb, which should be planted in full sun, 38 to 46 cm (15–18 in) apart and grows up to 61 cm (24 in) tall. It is hardy to USDA zone 5 (−30 °C (−22 °F)) and should be cut back to the ground in the autumn. Outside of its native range it can become an invasive weed. Feverfew was native to Eurasia; specifically the Balkan Peninsula, Anatolia and the Caucasus, but cultivation has spread it around the world and it is now also found in the rest of Europe, North America and Chile.[2]


Leaves of Feverfew

Feverfew has been used as a herbal treatment to reduce fever and to treat headaches, arthritis[3] and digestive problems. There is some clinical data backing up these uses though more scientific research is needed in order to prove feverfews efficaciousness conclusively.[4][5][6]

The active ingredients in feverfew include parthenolide and tanetin.[7] 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.[8][9][10] There are no published studies of parthenolide or feverfew in humans with cancer. The parthenolide content of commercially available feverfew supplements varies substantially, by over 40-fold, despite labeling claims of "standardization". A study found that the actual parthenolide content of these supplements bore little resemblance to the content claimed on the product label.[11]

Long-term use of feverfew followed by abrupt discontinuation may induce a withdrawal syndrome featuring rebound headaches and muscle and joint pains.[12] Feverfew can cause allergic reactions, including contact dermatitis.[13] 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 can cause mouth ulcers and swelling and numbness of the mouth.[12] Feverfew should not be taken by pregnant women.[14] It may interact with blood thinners and increase the risk of bleeding, and may also interact with a variety of medications metabolized by the liver.[12]


The word "feverfew" derives from the Latin word febrifugia, meaning "fever reducer".[12] although it is no longer considered useful for that purpose. Though its earliest medicinal use is unknown, it was documented in the first century (AD) as an anti-inflammatory by the Greek herbalist physician Dioscorides.[15]


  1. ^ National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "FeverFew". Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Jeffrey C (2001). "Tanacetum parthenium". Mansfeld's World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops. 
  3. ^ University of Maryland Medical Center. "Feverfew". Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  4. ^ Pittler MH, Ernst E (2004). "Feverfew for preventing migraine". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1): CD002286. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002286.pub2. PMID 14973986. 
  5. ^ "Feverfew". National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. July 2010. Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Meschino Health. "Comprehensive Guide to Feverfew". Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Feverfew". University of Maryland. Retrieved 6 October 2011. 
  13. ^ Killoran, CE; Crawford, GH; Pedvis-Leftick, A (2007). "Two cases of compositae dermatitis exacerbated by moisturizer containing feverfew". Dermatitis : contact, atopic, occupational, drug : official journal of the American Contact Dermatitis Society, North American Contact Dermatitis Group 18 (4): 225–9. PMID 18021604.  edit
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ "Agricultural (Herbs and Spices): Feverfew Information". Government of Saskatchewan. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 

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