Feverfew for Headaches, Pain & More

As you may have inferred from its interesting name, feverfew’s benefits most often revolve around its use for aches, pains, and fevers.  Traditionally, the herb was used as a remedy for headaches, toothaches, insect bites and problems related to fertility and menstruation.  More recently, there is much anecdotal evidence of its usefulness in treating migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, dizziness, nausea, psoriasis, allergies, and earaches, among other health conditions.

What forms is it available in as a supplement?

It is usually the dried leaves that make up most supplements on the market, but all of the above ground parts of the plant can be found.  In addition to dried it can be fresh as well as freeze-dried.  They are available as capsules, tablets and liquid extract in various dosages.

What do the studies show?

The scientific evidence is mixed, but studies have shown that feverfew may be effective in the prevention of migraine headaches.  Research suggests that oral use of the supplement can aid in reducing pain, light/noise sensitivity, vomiting, and nausea for migraine sufferers, as well as limiting the frequency of the migraines themselves.  

Though some studies have shown feverfew to be ineffective for migraines, it is thought that the differences in dosage between studies might account for the different findings.  In fact, the Canadian government even allows a specific feverfew product (that contains a small amount of the chemical parthenolide) to advertise their formula as a migraine preventative.

In its use as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, the scientific research is also inconclusive.  It appears that it is not effective for those whose arthritis did not respond to more conventional medications, but more research is needed to determine its effectiveness for those who suffer from a milder form.  Likewise, there is no evidence as to feverfew’s effectiveness for its more traditional uses, such as treatment of fever, psoriasis, allergies, asthma, earaches, headaches, fevers, etc.

Is feverfew safe to take?

Feverfew is considered generally safe for short-term use, though there is concern that long-term users may experience side effects like insomnia, joint stiffness, or muscle aches (especially after taking feverfew for an extended period and then stopping).  Though most users do not experience them, possible side effects include nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, gas, headache, bloating, or vomiting.  Those who chew feverfew (as opposed to swallowing it in pill form) may experience swelling of the mouth, tongue, and lips, loss of taste, or canker sores.

As always, those taking medication should check with their doctor or health provider about possible interactions before taking feverfew. Likewise, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take feverfew, as there is concern that it may cause early contractions or even miscarriage.  Finally, those who are allergic to ragweed or related plants (such as chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others in the Asteraceae/Compositae family) may experience an allergic reaction to feverfew.  If you have allergies, it is a good idea to speak to your healthcare provider before attempting to make use of feverfew’s benefits.

What's the verdict?

Feverfew is considered safe, so it may be helpful for mild to moderate cases of aches and pains as well as the other conditions it's been known to help alleviate.  If you think this might be a good option for you speak to your doctor or other medical professional and decide together.  It may be a safer, more effective alternative to over the counter and prescription pain medications.

Have any experience with feverfew?  Tell us about it and we'll share it with our visitors.

Find related supplements on our medicinal herbs page or return to the HSG home


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