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Feverfew for Migraines – A Real Plus!

Under: Feverfew, MigreLief, Nutrients

Peter Rabbit’s mother was onto something when she put him to bed with a cup of wild chamomile tea after his escapade in Mr. McGregor’s garden. People in the modern world often think of chamomile as a sleep or digestive aid. But wild chamomile is another name for the herb Feverfew. A tea of feverfew would not only have relaxed the hapless rabbit but would also have routed his headache, calmed his upset tummy, put his mind at ease, and soothed his jangled nerves after his terrifying turn in the garden.

Feverfew Health Benefits

Native to southeastern Europe, feverfew is now widespread throughout Europe, North America, and Australia. Feverfew is a short perennial that blooms between July and October, and gives off a strong and bitter odor. The herb Feverfew (Tanacetum Parthenium) has been recorded as a medicinal remedy for millennia. One can find references to the Latin “febrefugia” from which Feverfew gets its name in Old Saxon records. Hildegard of Bingen, a great 12th-century abbess and healer made mention of it in her herbal tomes. Febrefugia literally means “Fever flies,” and has always been used as a fever reducer among other purposes. In even more ancient times, the Greeks used Feverfew to treat melancholy which was characterized as much by debilitating headaches as it was by long-term depression.

Studies have confirmed that feverfew has activity similar to  non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin. Extracts of feverfew have been shown to inhibit the release of arachidonic acid from cell membranes as well as the synthesis of compounds that promote inflammation, including inflammatory prostaglandins, leukotrienes, thromboxanes, lactones and tanetin, a lipophilic flavonol. Feverfew constituents have also been shown to have antimicrobial activity and other immune-supporting effects.

Historically Feverfew has been used as a dietary supplement for headaches, constipation, diarrhea, and dizziness. But one of the greatest boons in the modern era is the discovery of Feverfew as an aid for migraine headaches.


Commonly recommended for its ability to support cerebrovascular tone, Feverfew is rich in compounds known as sesquiterpene lactones. One of the more important of these compounds is parthenolide, which represents 85% of the sesquiterpene lactone content in Feverfew. Some scientific studies indicate that while parthenolide may be important there may very well be other phytochemicals in Feverfew that are as of yet unidentified and play a role in its effectiveness.


In addition to its many anti-inflammatory properties, feverfew also inhibits platelet aggregation, the clumping together of platelets in the blood (part of the sequence of events leading to the formation of a blood clot), and secretion of allergic mediators, e.g., histamine and serotonin. Its parthenolide component has been shown to produce a tonic effect on vascular smooth muscle, inhibiting the contraction of smooth muscle normally caused by serotonin and phenylephrine.

Over aggregating of platelets in the blood appear just before a migraine forcing a release of serotonin. Serotonin causes the blood vessel to constrict.  Scientific studies have found parthenolide (one of the many beneficial phytochemicals in feverfew),  inhibits platelet aggregation and the release of serotonin from platelets and polymorphonuclear leukocyte granules thus keeping the blood vessel normal. It has also been shown to inhibit pro-inflammatory prostaglandin synthesis and the release of arachidonic acid. Each of these phenomena is associated with migraines. Studies have shown the benefits of Feverfew on long-term cerebrovascular tone in multiple human studies. (1-10)



Though the exact cause of migraines is unknown, certain triggers like tyramine in aged cheeses, chocolate, scents/perfumes, bright lights, changes in weather/temperature/humidity/altitude, over-use of headache medications, stress, hormonal fluctuations, and many more, can activate certain processes that increase the risk of migraines occurring.

The dysfunctional processes that these triggers can activate are:

*  Excessive platelet aggregation which can result in changes in blood vessels associated with migraines.

*  Decrease in the cellular energy reserves in the brain that is common to migraine sufferers.

NUTRITIONAL APPROACH – When Migraine Sufferers Get These 4 Factors Under Control – The Results Can Be Life-Changing

1.  Maintain normal platelet aggregation
2.  Maintain healthy cerebrovascular tone and function (blood vessels in the brain)
3.  Maintain healthy mitochondrial energy reserves (the powerhouses of cells)
4. Healthy nerve transmission in the brain

A Nutritional Approach for Migraine Sufferers:  Riboflavin, Magnesium, and Feverfew for maintaining normal cerebrovascular function.

Magnesium: Research studies show that almost half of all migraine sufferers have low blood levels of Magnesium, which is critical in controlling vasospasms (the contraction and dilation of blood vessels in the brain which occur during migraines).

Riboflavin: Migraine sufferers also suffer mitochondrial energy deficiencies, which Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) can improve when given in high dosages.

Feverfew: Research studies show Feverfew inhibits blood platelet aggregation and helps maintain a healthy inflammatory response.

The Combination Effect

Migraines are multifactorial. They involve or depend on a number of factors or causes. Combining 3 nutritional ingredients with different mechanisms of action makes sense and is a good place to start for migraine sufferers looking for a nutritional option.


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  2.  Heptinstall S, Awang DVC, Dawson BA, et al. Parthenolide Content and Bioactivity of Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). Estimation of Commercial and Authenticated Feverfew Products. J Pharm Pharmacol 1992; 44:391-5.
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  4.  Heptinstall S, White A, Williamson L, Mitchell JRA. Extracts of Feverfew Inhibit Granule Secretion in Blood Platelets and Polymophonuclear Leukocytes. Lancet 1985; i:1071-4.
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  6.  Sumner H, Salan U, Knight DW, Hoult JRS. Inhibition of 5-Lipoxygenase and Cyclo-oxygenase in Leukocytes by Feverfew. Biochem Pharmacol 1992;43:2313-20.
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  8.  Murphy JJ. Heptinstall S, Mitchell JRA. Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial of Feverfew in Migraine Prevention. Lancet 1988; ii:189-92.Brown D, Gaby A, Reichert R. Clinical Applications of Natural Medicine–Migraine. NPRC 9
  9. Condition-Specific Monograph Series, 1997.
  10.  Lawrence Review of Natural Products, September 1994.