Pyrethrum is derived from the Greek pur (fire) due to the hot taste of the root. There are many different varieties and species of feverfew. A member of the daisy family, the name comes from the Latin febrifugia, or “driver out of fevers.” As its name suggests, it is best known for reducing fevers, prompting sweat, as well as its power to cure migraines.

A 1978 British medical journal report suggested that feverfew shares properties with aspirin. A later study reported that it does help stop the pain of migraines in possibly up to seven out of ten sufferers.

According to Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, “Researchers speculate that substances in the plant appear to make smooth muscle cells less responsive to body chemicals that trigger migraine muscle spasms.” Further, Rodale’s book quotes Varro Tyler, Ph.D., dean of the School of Pharmacy, Nursing, and Health Sciences at Purdue University: “If you take feverfew by eating the leaves, it should be in very small doses—from 50 to 60 milligrams, which is three or four of the little feverfew leaves each day. ” [Kowalchik and Hylton, eds., Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, p. 192.]

Feverfew makes medicinal claims by its very name.

Special benefits for women

Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek physician and surgeon in the Roman army in the first century, who compiled the first pharmacopoeia, used the herb for its benefits to the uterus.

Nicholas Culpeper, the famous English astrologer and physician of the early seventeenth century, states in his Complete Herbal and English Physician, “Venus commands this herb, and has commended it to succour her sisters [women] and to be a general strengthener of their wombs, and remedy such infirmities as a careless midwife hath there caused; if they will be but pleased to make use of her herb boiled in white wine, and drink the decoction; it cleanses the womb, expels the afterbirth, and doth a woman all the good she can desire of an herb.” [Culpeper’s Complete Herbal and English Physician, p. 73.]

Variety of uses

Feverfew’s uses are many and varied. John Parkinson used it to help people heal from overdoses of opium. It is a great insect repellent and can be applied externally to treat insect bites. It has also been used to ward off diseases, especially through the scent.

It has been used to diminish freckles, skin discoloration, and brown spots. I use it in our herbal moisturizer because it is anti-inflammatory, healing, skin softening, and a perfect ingredient for sensitive skin. It would also be a desirable ingredient for douches, in toners for dry or sensitive skin, for facial steams for sensitive skin, or as an added herb to a bath.

Chemical constituents: Sesquiterpene lactones, parthenolide and santamarine, volatile oil, and tannins.