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Feverfew and Migraine

Feverfew and Migraine

Feverfew is a herb that has been traditionally used for the treatment of fever and headaches, including migraine headaches. Find out how this herb can help manage your migraine headaches, in this HolisticZine article.
Chandramita Bora
Feverfew is a herb of the sunflower family, and it has been used to treat fever, arthritis, and headaches for a considerable period of time. In fact, the name 'feverfew' is derived from the Latin word, febrifuge, which means 'fever reducer'. The plant and its leaves have been an integral part of European folk medicine for a long time.

Recently, this herb has become a subject of several studies conducted to determine its effectiveness in relieving migraine headaches. Some of these studies have noted that the daily use of this herb can significantly reduce the frequency, as well as the intensity of migraines. However, this is not the only health benefit of this herb.

Health Benefits

Feverfew is native to Europe, Asia, and North America, and it can be found in many herb gardens. The flowers of this plant resemble the daisy flowers. In traditional medicine, this plant has been used for an array of health conditions, including fever, headaches, digestive ailments, abdominal pain, arthritis, joint pain, nervousness, menstrual irregularities, menstrual cramps, asthma, and labor difficulties.

It can also be used for treating skin conditions like psoriasis, and for relieving the pain caused by tooth problems. The herb is renowned for its anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, vasodilatory, antirheumatic, and emmenagogic properties. It is also considered a uterine stimulant. The main active ingredients of this herb are, 'parthenolide' and 'tanetin'.

Can Feverfew Really Cure Migraines?

A migraine is a throbbing headache that typically affects only one side of the head, and is related to vascular headaches. The exact causes of migraine headaches are not known, though a number of theories have been proposed in this regard.

According to one theory, a migraine headache is caused when the blood vessels in the brain constrict and expand inappropriately. The blood vessels first constrict and then expand to become too wide, which makes their wall permeable. This results in fluid leakage, due to which the body releases certain chemicals that can cause inflammation. When the blood passes through such an area, it produces intense throbbing pain, which characterizes a migraine headache.

Another theory is that a migraine headache occurs when serotonin is released from the platelets present in the blood vessels. Again, a few studies have found that migraines can have an association with a hormone like substance, known as prostaglandin. The prostaglandins are released by the body in response to an injury or trauma. The release of prostaglandins is a part of the inflammatory response of the body.

It is believed that feverfew can inhibit the release of both serotonin and prostaglandin, and thus reduce the inflammation of the blood vessels associated with migraine headaches. It possesses anti-inflammatory and vasodilatory properties, which may also explain its effectiveness in treating migraines. However, it is not very useful for curing an acute migraine attack. Rather, it can be more effective for the long-term management of this condition.

Though it has been quite an old practice to use feverfew for headaches, this herb gained popularity only in 1980, when a survey conducted among 270 migraine sufferers pointed out that more than 70% of them experienced significant improvement after taking the leaves of this plant daily. This survey was conducted in Great Britain.

But still, only limited evidence is available regarding the effectiveness of this herb in curing migraine headaches. However, people who are already taking this herb should not discontinue its use all of a sudden, as a sudden withdrawal has been observed to cause headaches, fatigue, joint pain, irritability, and stiffness of the muscles.

The most common side effects of this herb are abdominal pain, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, nervousness, mouth ulcers, and loss of taste. If the raw leaves of the plant are chewed, one can also experience swelling of the tongue, lips, and the mouth. The incidence of allergic reactions to this herb is quite rare. Some people can however, develop an allergic reaction to this herb, especially if they are allergic to certain related plants like chamomile and ragweed. The pregnant and nursing mothers are usually advised to avoid this herb. Similarly, individuals having bleeding disorders, as well as those taking anticoagulant drugs should not take this herb without consulting their physicians.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.