FEVERFEW, Chrysanthemum parthenium

Feverfew Plant

A couple of thousand years ago, a Greek physician named this plant feverfew, because it was the best herb they had for malaria fevers. However, about a hundred or so years ago, they found out that cinchona bark from Peru was the best herb for malaria fevers. So, the herb feverfew fell out of favor and popularity. However, many country people continued to use feverfew for arthritis, female problems and other ailments. People in Europe, and especially in England knew that feverfew was good for migraine headaches.

About twenty years ago in England, a coal miner was talking to a doctor who was a medical board officer. The doctor's wife had suffered from migraine headaches for years. In the conversation, the miner told the doctor that he and most of his family and friends chewed on feverfew leaves to get rid of a migraine headache. Ordinarily, the medical officer would have smiled and given a polite reply, but his wife was really suffering from a migraine headache at the time. The miner got the woman some feverfew leaves and she chewed them and got relief from her headache. After about a year, the woman no longer had any migraine headaches.

The husband told the incident to a Dr. Johnson who was the head of the migraine clinic in London, England. He got some feverfew leaves and gave them to some of his patients. All of them said they felt improvement. Some said they felt like they were cured.

Then this Dr. Johnson gave feverfew leaves to almost 300 more patients. About three quarters of these showed good improvement, where the standard medical treatment gave little relief. Three double-blind studies were done by Dr. Johnson and his associates, where placebo capsules were used and fields reserved. The final results showed that feverfew as a vasodilator was effective against migraine headaches. Almost everyone who took it during the study, or otherwise, showed improvement. However, for some, it wasn't a complete cure. They needed to keep taking feverfew for pain relief. Feverfew is a perennial plant that is usually tame and cultivated. However, many grow wild in fields, along roadsides and it waste places. Feverfew grows to a height of about two feet. It has a ray flower like a daisy. The flower heads are small like a camomile. The center disk is yellow or gold and there are about 15 white-toothed petals or rays. These flowers grow in cluster, the flower growing from the top of each stem. They bloom fro m May until July. The leaves are deeply lobed and downy. They grow about two inches wide by four inches long, they grow alternately and upward out of the stalk.

About the most distinctive thing about feverfew is the smell of the plant. It smells somewhat musty. Feverfew is a member of the chrysanthemum family and smells rather similar. The bees do not like the smell of of this plant, so if you have plants that need bee pollination, don't plant them close to feverfew. In medieval times, people would plant feverfew around their homes. They said the smell would purify the atmosphere and keep the evil spirits away.

Since the time of the Greeks and Romans, feverfew has been used against many problems. It has been used to overcome the pain and discomfort of arthritis. As a bitter herb, feverfew is a digestant; it helps the stomach to digest the food we eat. It is also a carminative; in other words, it helps to relieve gas from the stomach. For thousands of years, feverfew has been used as an emmenagogue, or an herb to help women when they have trouble with a sluggish menstrual cycle including cramps. An old herbal says, “Is also employed in hysterical complaints, nervousness and lowness of spirits and is a general tonic.”

If you love beautiful flowers and if you dislike headaches, especially migraine headaches, then maybe you should plant some feverfew.

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