Fleetneedles' Forage: Feverfew

As part of our Save Our Skills year, we are looking at foraging. These post were originally published on our Facebook Page, we'd like to thank Claire Fleetneedle for allowing us to publish them here.

Identifying feverfew #foraging #saveourskills

Uses of feverfew for #foraging #saveourskills

Feverfew (Tanacetum Parthenium)

Feverfew is a powerful herb, which grows wild and cultivated. This aromatic plant has yellowish green leaves and daisy-like flowers.

Contains vitamins A & C plus iron and niacin.

Some people experience allergic reactions to feverfew, especially when eaten – this presents itself as mouth ulcers, sore tongue and or skin rash. Please test a tiny amount before consuming it in any quantity.

Do not take during pregnancy as it has been known to cause contractions.
Do not take feverfew alongside aspirin or ibuprofen.
Not to be used while breast feeding.
Avoid entirely if you have an allergy to ragwart or chrysanthemums.
Do not use feverfew if you are taking the contraceptive pill.
Do not take if you are on any blood thinning, NSAID’s or vitamin E medication.

Anti-allergy, anti-arthritic, anti-asthmatic, anti-migraine, anti-nausea, digestive, fertility treatment, haemaroid treatment, menstruation regulator, mild tranquiliser, nerve tonic, pain reliever, reduces fever, soothes skin disorders.

Everyday Use
Feverfew has a myriad of names such as bachelors buttons, midsummer daisy, devil daisy, fetherfew and flirtwart. Its most common name of feverfew is a corruption of ‘febrifuge’, meaning fever reducer - properties it is still thought to possess. The plant is believed to repel bees and other mites and insects, it was used as a strewing herb for this reason.
It can be eaten finely chopped and added to salad or sautéed, however its aromatic smell belies a very bitter flavour. Even in tea form it is not for the faint hearted as it is equally bitter and can cause mouth irritation. Capsules of the freeze dried herb are the preferred method these days, but a syrup/medicine can be made from the leaves, its sweetness masking the flavour.

Whatever form feverfew is taken in, it must be ingested on a full stomach otherwise it can cause irritation to the stomach lining. Despite this, some herbal books mention that Feverfew is good for the liver and digestive issues such as excess gas and stomach bugs. There was also an ancient belief that the plant quelled nausea. One of my folk remedy books suggests that the pulped leaves of this herb can be compounded with bland soap to make suppositories for the treatment of piles.

Feverfew is now generally known as an anti-migraine herb although, in truth, it has been used for this purpose for many centuries. Studies have shown that it is more of a migraine preventative than cure whilst research has demonstrated that the plant inhibits serotonin and histamine, substances which dilate the blood vessels. This can prevent spasms in blood vessels which are known to trigger migraines. Its pain relief action mean it is a cure for headaches in general, and is also a mild tranquiliser.

The anti-inflammatory/pain relief properties of feverfew mean it was historically considered an effective treatment for arthritis although recent research has found people with only mild arthritis respond well to feverfew remedies.  It was once a popular folk remedy for the common cold; its known abilities as a pain reliever, fever reducer and headache cure would make it very effective for this purpose. The plant is considered equally effective as a treatment for allergies specifically hay fever and asthma. 
Many of my older sources considered feverfew to primarily be a female herb, they believed it capable of regulating menstrual periods, improving fertility, assisting in labour and even preventing miscarriages, although I have also read that it can cause contractions and is best avoided during pregnancy.

Feverfew also has a long history as a skin healer despite its ability to cause rashes, extracts of the plant have been used to treat psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema. Its flowers can be made into an ointment to soothe insect bites and a spray made from the entire plant can be used as an insect repellent.

Herbalists in the 1600’s considered the plant valuable for a variety of nerve disorders specifically hysteria which was thought to be a female malady partly caused by the womb wandering around the body, affecting the brain. In reality it is a tonic for the nervous system, and is thought to be a useful remedy for depression and to aid a peaceful sleep.
These are some of my personal experiences using Feverfew combined with information I have researched over a number of years. The extensive list of ‘Cautions’ is indicative of the strength and potency of this herb. I am not encouraging people to self-medicate, in the treatment of specific conditions it is best to consult with a herbalist or your GP. If you should develop an adverse reaction to any of the above please stop using the herb immediately. And always take care when identifying the plant.

Happy Hunting, Claire Fleetneedle

LIFE ON PIG ROW DISCLAIMER: We’d like to thank Claire for this wonderful piece, as she points out, this is her personal experience and common sense must prevail in homemade herbal remedies. Therefore, if you are out and about foraging and aren’t confident that what you are about to pick is edible or medicinal the best advice is to leave it where it is. In the event of an adverse reaction to any homemade herbal remedy or foraged edible food you are advised to seek out medical advice. While every care is taken in the production of these posts neither Claire Fleetneedle nor Life on Pig Row are responsible for adverse reactions. Please remember to check local by-laws before foraging and never forage on private land without permission. Please use common sense when foraging.


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