Feverfew is a bushy perennial herb. The dried leaves are used in capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts. Parthenolides and glycosides are thought to be the components responsible for its purported anti-inflammatory effects and relaxant effects on smooth muscle.
(See also Overview of Dietary Supplements.)
Feverfew is said to be effective in the prevention of migraine headaches and useful for relieving menstrual pain, asthma, and arthritis. In vitro, feverfew inhibits platelet aggregation (1).
A 2015 Cochrane review of feverfew for migraines evaluated 6 trials (561 subjects). The 5 earlier studies showed varying results, but the most recent study was larger and more robust and showed a significant decrease of 0.6 attacks per month in migraines versus placebo (2). Differences among study findings may result from differences in formulations of feverfew used and dosage. Evaluations of feverfew on rheumatoid arthritis are few. One study showed no apparent benefit from oral feverfew in rheumatoid arthritis (3).
Mouth ulcers, contact dermatitis, dysgeusia, and mild gastrointestinal symptoms may occur. Abrupt discontinuation may worsen migraines and cause nervousness and insomnia. Feverfew is contraindicated in pregnant women as it may cause the uterus to contract. Feverfew is not recommended for children or for women who are breastfeeding.
Groenewegen WA, Heptinstall S: A comparison of the effects of an extract of feverfew and parthenolide, a component of feverfew, on human platelet activity in-vitro. J Pharm Pharmacol 42:553-557, 1990.
Wider B, Pittler MH, Ernst E: Feverfew for preventing migraine.Cochrane Database Syst Rev 4:CD002286, 2015. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002286.pub3.
Pattrick M, Heptinstall S, Doherty M: Feverfew in rheumatoid arthritis: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Ann Rheum Dis 48:547-549, 1989.
The following is an English-language resource that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.
National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: General information on the use of feverfew as a dietary supplement