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Could Feverfew Cure Your Migraine?

Aug 17, 2007
Over the centuries, healers made great use of feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). The feathery green leaves of this plant have been used as treatment for all kinds of illnesses, including headaches, stomach upset, rheumatoid arthritis, and menstrual problems.

The feverfew plant bears flowers that are bright yellow and sometimes white. When in full bloom, feverfew blossoms emit a powerful aroma, leading the ancient people to believe that its flowery scent can purify the air and prevent diseases.

Tanacetum parthenium grows wild throughout Europe and South America. Because of its strong smell, the feverfew plant has been used in gardens to repel bees and various insects. And true its name, it was a popular traditional remedy for fever.

However, the herb somewhat lost its allure. The use of feverfew as a medicinal plant only started to pick up in the late 1970s. This was during the time when science took an interest in providing relief for migraine sufferers. Scientists and medical practitioners turned to feverfew as a potential to ward off these often debilitating headaches. Since then, feverfew has been used in several well-designed studies to treat and prevent diseases such as migraines.

The Health Benefits of Feverfew

Parthenolide is a chemical substance present in feverfew. All the therapeutic powers of the plant were once attributed to this sole constituent. However, new studies have shown that feverfew contains other substances as well that contribute to its many health benefits. Now, the herb is an effective therapeutic supplement against a variety of ailments, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Feverfew and Migraines

Despite the advances of science, it has yet to grasp the exact cause of migraines. Some experts believe that headaches due to migraines may be triggered by the contraction and then sudden dilation of blood vessels in the head. This causes the brain to release neurochemicals which cause pain and inflammation.

How feverfew exactly helps in preventing migraines is also another mystery. Most likely, the parthenolides in feverfew are responsible. These substances can, among other things, inhibit the production of certain inflammatory compounds in the body. Like aspirin, parthenolides prevent blood platelets from clumping together. Feverfew is taken preventively. It is said to assuage and lessen the intensity of a migraine as well as the occurrence of symptoms associated with headaches, such as nausea and vomiting. However, once the migraine is underway, there is very little that feverfew can do to reduce the pain.

Action against Menstrual Cramps

Another important action of feverfew is to provide relief for menstrual cramps. Discomforts experienced by women during menstrual cycle are said to occur when the uterine lining produces too much prostaglandin, a hormone that can cause pain and inflammation. Feverfew can limit the amount of prostaglandin during menstruation and in this way, the herb plays a role in easing menstrual cramps.

Although there are only few research studies conducted on feverfew's role in menstruation, there's probably no harm in starting to take the herb a day before you anticipate that your menstrual cramps will begin.

Feverfew: Buying Tips

Feverfew comes in several forms, including tincture, tablet, fresh herb, dried herb/tea, and capsule. When you buy this herbal supplement, select your supplement brand with care. Make sure that the product you're buying contains the critical ingredient, parthenolide. Check for Tanacetum parthenium in the label and the standardized 0.4% minimum of parthenolide.
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