Used for centuries in by herbalists in the folk medicine traditions of Europe, feverfew comes from Tanacetum parthenium, a perennial wildflower that is native to the Balkan region and grows across Europe, North and South America. This aromatic plant is related to the daisy and blooms through summer with clusters of strongly scented white and yellow blossoms.
Though its name suggests otherwise, feverfew is not effective at lowering fevers. The name is thought to stem from the original name “featherfoil,” which refers to the plant's feathery, green-yellow foliage. Over time, “featherfoil” became “featherfew” and eventually morphed into “feverfew.”
Feverfew’s inflammation-modulating activity has been used in traditional wellness practices for joint aches and menstrual cramps. The herb is far more famous, however, for its apparent ability to soothe away tension and discomfort in the neck muscles and head. Evidence supports this use of feverfew: Research suggests that the plant is a rich source of parthenolide, a naturally occurring substance that inhibits a protein called I-kappa-B, which may cause inflammation by triggering the contraction and dilation of blood vessels. Parthenolide's anti-inflammatory action is thought to help reduce spasms in the smooth muscle tissues of the head and neck.
In addition to feverfew benefits for head and neck comfort, studies suggest that the herb has anti-protozoic properties that may promote healthy gums. In addition, it has been used in folk wellness practices as a “bitter” that helps to stimulate appetite and support healthy digestion.
Feverfew supplements come in many forms, including tinctures, capsules, liquid extracts, tablets or dried leaves. Fresh leaves can be ingested or rubbed on the gums. Sometimes feverfew is taken in combination with ginger, magnesium or white willow.