Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Feverfew - Tanacetum parthenium

Family: Asteraceae (Aster family) [E-flora]


"Tanacetum parthenium is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, self.The plant is self-fertile." [PFAF]
"Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure."[PFAF]

Habitat / Range

Origin Status: Exotic [E-flora]


"Feverfew has gained a good reputation as a medicinal herb and extensive research since 1970 has proved it to be of special benefit in the treatment of certain types of migraine headaches and rheumatism[238, K]. It is also thought of as a herb for treating arthritis and rheumatism[254]." [PFAF] "Feverfew is used mainly for migraine, arthritis, rheumatic diseases and allergies." [PDR] "It has been used in cold infusion as a general tonic, and a cold infusion of the flowers as a sedative. Perhaps it is best known in country medicine as a painkiller. Evidently, all that had to be done was to boil the plant in water, and drink the resulting liquid." [DPL Watts] "The herb is also used as a wash for inflammation and wounds, as a tranquilizer, an antiseptic, and following tooth extraction as a mouthwash. The infusion is used for dysmenorrhea."[PDR]

Select Indications
  • Addiction, opium (f; APA; JFM); [HMH Duke]
  • Allergy (1; PHR; PH2; WAM); [HMH Duke]
  • Alzheimer’s (1; COX; FNF); [HMH Duke]
  • Arthrosis (1; AKT; CAN; COX; FAD; FNF; PH2);[HMH Duke]
  • Asthma (1; COX; PED); [HMH Duke]
  • Bacteria (1; HH3; TRA); [HMH Duke]
  • Biliousness (f; CRC; JFM); [HMH Duke]
  • Cancer (1; COX; CRC; FNF; TRA); [HMH Duke]
  • Cold (f; CRC; FAD); [HMH Duke]
  • Colic (f; CRC; GMH; TRA);[HMH Duke]
  • Cramp (1; APA; FAD; PH2; TRA; WAM); [HMH Duke]
  • Diarrhea (f; CRC; JFM);[HMH Duke]
  • Dysmenorrhea (f; FAD; PHR; PNC); [HMH Duke]
  • Dyspepsia (f; CRC; GMH; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Earache (f; CRC; GMH; JFM); [HMH Duke]
  • Fever (f; APA; CRC; PNC); [HMH Duke]
  • Gas (f; CRC; GMH; JFM); [HMH Duke]
  • Headache (1; APA; SKY; WAM); [HMH Duke]
  • Hysteria (f; CRC; GMH; JFM); [HMH Duke]
  • Inflammation (1; AKT; CAN; COX; FNF; PHR; PH2; WAM); [HMH Duke]
  • Insomnia (f; FAD; JFM); [HMH Duke]
  • Migraine (3; APA; FAD; PH2; TRA; WAM); [HMH Duke]
  • Nervousness (f; FAD; JFM; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Pain (1; APA; GMH; PNC; TRA; WAM); [HMH Duke]
  • Parasite (f; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Rheumatism (f; CAN; DEM; PHR; PH2; PNC); [HMH Duke]
  • Salmonella (1; HH3; TRA); [HMH Duke]
  • Staphylococcus (1; HH3; TRA);[HMH Duke]
  • Swelling (f; CRC; DEM); [HMH Duke]
  • Tumor (1; TRA); [HMH Duke]
  • Vertigo (f; AKT; CAN); [HMH Duke]
  • Worm (f; CRC; FAD; PNC); [HMH Duke]
  • Wound (f; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]

Preparation: "To make an infusion, use 2 teaspoonfuls of the drug per cup, allow to draw for 15 minutes. To make a strong infusion, double the amount and allow to draw for 25 minutes."[PDR]

"Sesquiterpene lactones, especially parthenolide, are the active compounds in Feverfew (Groenewegen, 1986; Sumner, 1992). Parthenolide, although a key determinant of biological activity for Tanacetum parthenium leaf extracts, is not the sole pharmacologically active constituent (Brown, 1997). Other sespuiterpene lactones such as 3-beta-hydroxyparthenolide, secotanapartholide A, canin and artecanin, contain an alpha-methylene butyrolactone unit responsible for anti-secretory (anti-inflammatory) activity (Groenewegen, 1986). Physiochemical methods were used to measure partholide in several purported commercial Feverfew products. The results found a wide variation in partholide content and in some products, partholide was not detected (Heptinstall, 1992)."[PDR]

"Major flavonol and flavone methyl ethers (tanetin) of the herb inhibit the major pathways of arachidonate metabolism in leukocytes (Williams, 1999)."[PDR]


"Unproven Uses: In folk medicine, Feverfew is used for cramps, as a tonic, a stimulant, a digestive agent and a blood purifier. Other uses in folk medicine include migraine prophylaxis, digestion problems, intestinal parasites and gynecological disorders. The herb is also used as a wash for inflammation and wounds, as a tranquilizer, an antiseptic, and following tooth extraction as a mouthwash. The infusion is used for dysmenorrhea. In post-natal care, Feverfew is used to reduce lochia. The drug is used externally as an antiseptic and insecticide." [PDR]

"Mode of Administration: Feverfew preparations are used both internally and externally." [PDR]

"Tablets — 12mg (standardized to 600 meg sesuiterpine lactone content)
Preparation: To make an infusion, use 2 teaspoonfuls of the drug per cup, allow to draw for 1 5 minutes. To make a strong infusion, double the amount and allow to draw for 25 minutes.
Daily Dosage:
Capsules — 200 to 25 0 mg daily for the treatment of migraines; the usual standardization level is 0.2% parthenolide content (Brown, 1996). Freshly dried powdered Feverfew of 25 mg is approximately equal to 0.1 mg of sesquiterpine lactones (SL) (Mervyn,1986).
Fresh leaf — 1 to 3 leaves (25 to 75 mg) once or twice daily has been recommended (Johnson et al, 1985; O'Hara, 1998).
Unproven uses — 3 cups of the infusion are taken per day. The stronger infusions are used for washes.
Storage: Store the herb in sealed containers." [PDR]

"600 µg parthenolide 1–3 ×/day (AKT); 250 µg parthenolide (APA); 2–3 leaves chewed daily with or without food (APA; CAN); 50 mg freeze-dried leaf daily with or without food (CAN); 0.25–0.5 tsp fresh leaf (PED); 0.2–0.4 g dry leaf (PED); 0.3 g dry leaf:2 ml alcohol/1 ml water (PED); 4–8 ml liquid leaf extract (APA; PNC); 50–200 mg dried shoots daily (CAN); 2 (380 mg) capsules 3 ×/day (NH). DANGEROUS ERROR ->250 mg parthenolide/day [should have said 250 µg] (SKY)." [HMH Duke]



FEVERFEW (Tanacetum parthenium (L.) Sch. Bip.) ++ [HMH Duke]
Select Activities
  • Analgesic (1; APA; PNC; TRA; WAM); [HMH Duke]
  • Antiaggregant (1; CAN; PHR; TRA); [HMH Duke]
  • Antialzheimeran (1; COX; FNF); [HMH Duke]
  • Antiarthritic (1; COX; FNF); [HMH Duke]
  • Anticancer (1; COX; FNF); [HMH Duke]
  • Antihistaminic (1; CAN; PHR); [HMH Duke]
  • Antiinflammatory (1; AKT; CAN; COX; WAM); [HMH Duke]
  • Antiprostaglandin (1; CAN; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Antiseptic (1; CRC; FAD; HH3; PHR); [HMH Duke]
  • Antiserotonin (1; APA; PED);[HMH Duke]
  • Antispasmodic (1; APA; TRA; WAM); [HMH Duke]
  • Antitumor (1; TRA); [HMH Duke]
  • Bitter (1; GMH; PED); [HMH Duke]
  • Carminative (f; CRC; GMH; JFM); [HMH Duke]
  • COX-2 Inhibitor (1; COX; FNF); [HMH Duke]
  • Digestive (f; CRC; JFM; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Emmenagogue (f; APA; CRC; GMH; JFM); [HMH Duke]
  • Insectifuge (1; APA; GMH); [HMH Duke]
  • Insecticide (f; CRC; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Sedative (f; FAD; JFM); [HMH Duke]
  • SSRI (1; JAD; PHR); [HMH Duke]
  • Stimulant (f; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Stomachic (f; CRC; PNC); [HMH Duke]
  • Tonic (f; CRC; JFM; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Tranquilizer (f; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Vermifuge (f; CRC; PNC). [HMH Duke]

Extracts (Feverfew)
  • "Inhibit leukotriene, prostaglandin, and thromboxane production; inhibit phospholipase A2 (facilitating the release of arachidonic acid from the phospholipid cellular membrane; clinical relevance questionable) (CAN)." [HMH Duke]
  • "Extracts inhibit interaction of platelets with collagen substrates. Inhibits granule secretion in blood platelets and neutrophils (associated with etiology of migraine and rheumatoid arthrosis, respectively). SLs with an alpha-methylene butyrolactone unit may explain antisecretory activity (CAN)." [HMH Duke]
  • "Extracts produce a dose-dependent inhibition of anti-IgE-induced histamine release from mast cells (differently than cromoglycate and quercetin) (CAN)." [HMH Duke]
  • "Contains several COX-2 inhibitors, but one of best sources of parthenolide (COX)." [HMH Duke]



"Seed - sow spring in a greenhouse. Only just cover the seed and do not allow the pot to dry out. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in early summer, after the last expected frosts. If you have sufficient seed it can be sown outdoors in situ during the spring. Plants usually self-sow freely and so, once you have the plant, further sowing is usually unnecessary[K]. Division in spring. Since the plants are quite short-lived, this method is not really very serviceable[K]."[PFAF]


"A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in an ordinary garden soil[1]. Thrives in any kind of soil[7], plants can even be grown in walls[219]. Often grown in the flower garden, feverfew is a short lived perennial but usually self-sows prolifically[7, K]. There are many named varieties selected for their ornamental value[238]. The cultivar 'Golden' (syn 'Yellow') has yellow tinted leaves[183]. The leaves have a refreshing aromatic aroma[245]." [PFAF]



Family: Asteraceae (Compositae)

"Annual, perennial herb; <= 150 cm, glabrous or hairy, often aromatic. Stem: 1 or 2–5+, prostrate to erect, branched proximally and/or distally, glabrous or hairy. Leaf: basal and/or cauline, alternate, petioled or sessile, ovate or elliptic to obovate or spoon-shaped, generally 1–3-pinnately lobed, ultimate margins entire, crenate, or dentate. Inflorescence: heads radiate or radiant to disciform [discoid], generally in ± flat-topped clusters, subsessile or peduncled; involucre generally hemispheric or wider; phyllaries 30–60+, ± equal or graduated in 3–5+ series, free, persistent, lanceolate to oblong or ± ovate, outer sometimes keeled, margins and tips scarious, pale to sometimes ± brown or black; receptacle flat to conic or hemispheric, epaleate, glabrous or hairy. Ray flower: 0 or 10–21, pistillate or sterile, ray oblong to fan-shaped, ± yellow or white [pink] (in disciform heads, peripheral pistillate flowers 8–30+, corolla pale yellow, ± bilateral, 3–4-lobed). Disk flower: 60–300+; corolla yellow, tube < narrowly funnel-shaped throat, lobes (4)5, triangular; anther tip narrowly triangular; style tips truncate, brush-like. Fruit: obconic or ± cylindric, generally 5–10 ribbed, generally resin-gland-dotted; pappus a crown of short scales."
"160 species: Europe, Asia, North America. (Possibly Greek through Latin: immortality) [Watson 2006 FNANM 19:489–491]" [Jepson]

Key to the Species and Taxonomic Notes
1. Heads disciform, numerous, usually 20-200.......................T. vulgare
1. Heads with ray and disk flowers, few to many, usually less than 20
2. Rays flowers white; leaves once or twice pinnately divided, the relatively broad segments often overlapping.......................T. parthenium
2. Rays flowers yellow; leaves twice to three times pinnately divided, the segments not at all overlapping........................T. bipinnatum

Local Species;

  1. Tanacetum bipinnatum - dune tansy [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]
  2. Tanacetum parthenium - feverfew [E-flora][PCBC]
  3. Tanacetum vulgare - common tansy [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]

Dune Tansy - Tanacetum bipinnatum

Family: Aster - Asteraceae Family



  1. [E-flora] [Accessed: 12/16/2014]
  2. [E-flora] [Accessed: 12/16/2014]
  3. [Jepson]Linda E. Watson 2012, Tanacetum, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on July 16, 2018.
  4. [PFAF], Accessed Dec 16, 2014