Tanacetum parthenium

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Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Tanacetum
T. parthenium
Binomial name
Tanacetum parthenium
  • 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 may be grown as an ornament, and may be identified by its synonyms, Chrysanthemum parthenium and Pyrethrum parthenium. It is also used as a herbal medicine in the traditional sense and a dietary supplement to treat headache and other ailments, as well more recently in topical skin care as an antioxidant.


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 millimetres (34 in) 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] The plant produces achene fruit, and grows in stony slopes and river beds.[5]

Location 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 the rest of Europe, North America, and Chile.[2][6]

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 or −22 °F). Outside of its native range, it may become an invasive weed.[7]


Leaf of feverfew
The chemical structure of parthenolide

Traditional medicine[edit]

In traditional medicine, feverfew has been used to treat headache, but there is no confirmed scientific evidence that it has such an effect.[2][8][9] Feverfew contains parthenolide, which is under basic research to assess its properties on cancer.[9] Feverfew is registered as a traditional herbal medicine in the Nordic countries under the brand name Glitinum. Only powdered feverfew is approved in the European Union herbal monograph.[10]

Dietary supplement[edit]

The parthenolide content of commercially available feverfew supplements varies substantially (by more than 40-fold) despite labeling claims of "standardization".[11]

Topical skin care[edit]

In topical skin care, bioactive compounds derived from the feverfew plant are used for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.[12] These bioactives are obtained through processing the aerial parts of the feverfew plant—specifically the flowers, leaves, and stem—when the plant is in full bloom, utilizing methods such as grinding, maceration, and pressing.[12] This process yield an extract, separated from the plant's fibrous material.[12]

Research in vivo has identified four primary compounds mostly responsible for feverfew's effects: camphor, parthenolide, luteolin, and apigenin.[13] Camphor stands out for its aromatic nature, while luteolin and apigenin are classified as flavonoids.[13] However, due to their less favorable cosmetic profile, camphor, luteolin and apigenin, might be omitted from cosmetic formulations.[original research?]

A systematic review focusing on the consumption of feverfew liquid extract, specifically formulations containing a minimum of 0.2% parthenolide, has validated its anti-inflammatory activity, capacity to inhibit histamine release, and potential as a chemotherapeutic agent through the suppression of microbial growth and cytotoxicity linked to the disruption of DNA replication.[14] Nonetheless, given parthenolide's significant potential as a skin sensitizer, its application in topical treatments is deemed unfeasible.[15]

Further research explored the use of parthenolide-depleted feverfew extract in vitro (PD-feverfew) to mitigate the risk of allergic reactions and contact dermatitis associated with parthenolide. This investigation, which involved 1,200 participants, demonstrated clinical tolerance and affirmed that the removal of parthenolide does not compromise the extract's antioxidant efficacy. The findings indicate that PD-feverfew reduced smoke- and UV-induced DNA damage, cellular apoptosis and inflammation.[15]

Adverse effects[edit]

Long-term use of feverfew followed by abrupt discontinuation may induce a withdrawal syndrome featuring rebound headaches and muscle and joint pains.[9] Feverfew may cause allergic reactions in those allergic to the daisy family, including contact dermatitis or swelling and numbness of the mouth.[9] Other side effects have included gastrointestinal upset such as mild nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and flatulence, which are, fortunately mild and transient.[9] When the herb is chewed or taken orally it may cause mouth ulcers.[9] Feverfew should not be taken by pregnant women.[9] 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.[9]

History and etymology[edit]

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 1st century CE as an anti-inflammatory by the Greek herbalist physician Dioscorides.[17]


  1. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Tanacetum parthenium". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b c National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, US National Institutes of Health. "Feverfew". Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  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. ^ Izadi Z, Esna-Ashari M, Piri K, Davoodi P (2010). "Chemical Composition and Antimicrobial Activity of Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) Essential Oil". International Journal of Agriculture & Biology: 459–463 – via CABI Digital Library.
  6. ^ Jeffrey C (2001). "Tanacetum parthenium". Mansfeld's World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops.
  7. ^ Hadjikyriakou G, Hadjisterkotis E (2002). "The adventive plants of Cyprus with new records of invasive species". Zeitschrift für Jagdwissenschaft. 48 (S1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC: 59–71. doi:10.1007/bf02192393. ISSN 0044-2887. S2CID 42896188.
  8. ^ Pittler MH, Ernst E (2004). Pittler MH (ed.). "Feverfew for preventing migraine". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1): CD002286. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002286.pub2. PMID 14973986.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "Feverfew". Drugs.com. 10 December 2020. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  10. ^ "Tanaceti parthenii herba". European Medicines Agency. 20 October 2020. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  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. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-20.
  12. ^ a b c "Feverfew". AveenoMD. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2023. Retrieved 2024-03-14.
  13. ^ a b Wu C, Chen F, Wang X, Kim HJ, He Gq, Haley-Zitlin V, Huang G (May 2006). "Antioxidant constituents in feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) extract and their chromatographic quantification". Food Chemistry. 96 (2): 220–227. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2005.02.024.
  14. ^ Pareek A, Suthar M, Rathore G, Bansal V (2011). "Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.): A systematic review". Pharmacognosy Reviews. 5 (9): 103–110. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.79105. ISSN 0973-7847. PMC 3210009. PMID 22096324.
  15. ^ a b Martin K, Sur R, Liebel F, Tierney N, Lyte P, Garay M, Oddos T, Anthonavage M, Shapiro S, Southall M (February 2008). "Parthenolide-depleted Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) protects skin from UV irradiation and external aggression". Archives of Dermatological Research. 300 (2): 69–80. doi:10.1007/s00403-007-0818-x. ISSN 0340-3696. PMID 18071724.
  16. ^ "Feverfew". University of Maryland. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  17. ^ "Agricultural (Herbs and Spices): Feverfew Information". Government of Saskatchewan. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2012.

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