What is feverfew?

Feverfew is believed to have anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties. You can buy it over the counter from pharmacies, health food shops and supermarkets. Current evidence is limited but it suggests that feverfew doesn’t have a therapeutic benefit for rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Family: Perennial plant of the sunflower (Compositae) family
  • Scientific name: Chrysanthemum parthenium, tanacetum parthenium
  • Other names: Bachelor’s buttons, featherfew, Santa Maria, Mother-herb, altamisa, featherfoil, flirtwort, midsummer daisy, febrifuge plant

Feverfew is a perennial plant originally native to Eastern Europe and Asia Minor but now grown throughout Europe and America. Compounds that are used for medicinal purposes are prepared from the leaves and you can buy it from high-street retailers.

How does it work?

Feverfew is believed to have painkilling and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s been suggested that it reduces the release of an inflammatory substance, serotonin, from your blood cells and slows down the production of a chemical transmitter in your body called histamine. Both serotonin and histamine play an important role in migraines.

Is it safe?

No major safety problems have been identified in short-term use, but we don’t know about the long-term safety. Reported side-effects from previous studies (mainly on participants who have migraines) include:

  • mouth ulceration
  • indigestion and heartburn
  • colicky abdominal pain
  • dizziness
  • rashes.

Interactions with other drugs haven’t been widely studied, but feverfew might increase the risk of bleeding you take them with anticoagulants.

No recommended safe doses have been found for the use in musculoskeletal conditions. Previous RCTs of feverfew in migraine participants, which showed encouraging results, used doses between 50 and 140 mg of powdered or granulated leaf preparations daily.

Trials for rheumatoid arthritis

Twenty participants with rheumatoid arthritis were randomly selected to take one capsule containing 70–86 mg of powdered feverfew leaf, while the other 21 participants were randomly selected to take a placebo capsule daily for six weeks. Both treatment groups were asked to continue their usual medications.

  • No significant differences were found between the two groups in the clinical and laboratory presentation of the disease at the end of the treatment.
  • One patient in the treatment group reported minor ulcerations and a sore tongue.