Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium, Chrysantheim parthenium or Pyrethrum parthenium) is a short-lived perennial native to southeastern Europe which is now widespread across North America, Europe, and Australia. It is a member of the Asteraceae family along with sunflowers and dandelions and has small ray flowers, similar to daisies, which appear in a dense cluster at the top of the stalk in late summer and autumn. It has a compact, bushy habit (once establish) reaching a height of 9 to 24 inches. The leaves are alternate, hairy, yellowish-green and give off a bitter odor when crushed.
Other Names bachelor’s button, featherfew, featherfoil, ague plant, devil daisy, feather-fully, flirt wort, maid’s weed, midsummer daisy, Missouri snakeroot, nosebleed, prairie-dock, rainfarn, vetter-voo, wild chamomile, Matricaria
History and Folklore
The ancient Greeks and Egyptians used feverfew for inflammation and menstrual pain as well as general aches and pains.
Dioscorides documented feverfew’s use for inflammation and swellings in the first century of the common era.
In medieval Europe, it was used for just about everything and it has enjoyed long popularity in cottage gardens. During the time of the plagues, it was planted around houses to protect those inside from the disease. (It may have actually prevented plague-carrying vermin from entering)
The name parthenium is from the Greek meaning “girl” and alludes to its traditional use for female complaints.
Feverfew can be grown from seed, cuttings or by division. It is not picky about soil as long as it isn’t soggy and prefers full sun, but will also do well in partial shade. Feverfew is also a good container plant but should not be brought inside to overwinter but instead placed in a sheltered area so that it can have a dormant period. It’ll die anyway if you bring it in.
It will reseed if seed heads are left on the plant at the end of the season. Due to the fact that it reseeds like crazy, this plant can be very invasive. Deadhead spent flowers to control its spread and save the seeds to plant them where you want them later.
It is said the bees do not like this plant. I can’t vouch for the truth of this, but you may want to keep it in mind when placing it in your garden.
Harvesting & Storage
Cut fresh leaves as needed or lay flat on a screen to dry and store in an airtight container away from light and heat.
Feverfew is masculine in nature and is associated with the planet Venus and the element of water.
Feverfew is often used in mojo bags. Alone or combined with hyssop and rosemary in a bag it is used to prevent general accidents. To prevent accidents while traveling, put it in a bag with comfrey root and a St Christopher medal and put it in your glove box, rearview mirror or carry on bag.
Likewise, using feverfew as a bath tea will help break hexes designed to make you more accident-prone.
Growing this plant outside your home is said to prevent illness from entering.
Binding the flowers to the wrist is said to assist in drawing out pain as well.
Feverfew can be used to keep away bees and other insects.
Feverfew is good for migraines and other headaches and PMS symptoms. Chewing the leaf at the first sign of a migraine is traditionally effective at stopping it in its tracks. Because the leaf tastes awful and can cause blistering inside the mouth, it is suggested that you add it to a sandwich instead of eating it straight. Drying seems to weaken the medicinal effect of this herb.
Feverfew can be used as an infusion but tinctures are more effective. Fresh is best, however.
Feverfew has blood-thinning qualities and should not be used by anyone who is taking blood thinners or planning surgery.
Pregnant women should not use feverfew.
Feverfew doesn’t taste very good and large quantities aren’t very good for you. It can cause sores to form on the inside of your mouth and stomach upset and thins the blood.