Feverfew is used mostly to treat and prevent headaches.
Feverfew was popular in Great Britain in the 1980s as a treatment for migraines. A survey of 270 people with migraines in Great Britain found that more than 70% of them felt much better after taking an average of 2 - 3 fresh feverfew leaves daily. Several human studies have used feverfew to prevent and treat migraines. Overall, these studies suggest that taking dried leaf capsules of feverfew every day may reduce the number of migraines in people who have chronic migraines.
One study used a combination of feverfew and white willow (Salix alba), which has chemicals like aspirin. People who took the combination twice a day for 12 weeks had fewer migraines and they didn't last as long or hurt as much.
Another study found that people who took a special extract of feverfew had fewer average number of migraine attacks per month compared to people who took placebo. A 3-month study with 49 people found that a combination of feverfew, magnesium, and vitamin B2 led to a 50% decrease in migraines.
Not all studies have found that feverfew worked for migraines, however. Whether it reduces migraine pain and frequency may depend on which supplement you take. Ask your doctor to help you find out more.
Some laboratory tests show that feverfew can reduce inflammation, so researchers thought it might help treat rheumatoid arthritis. But a human study found that feverfew didn't work any better than placebo in improving rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and that can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a health care provider qualified in the field of botanical medicine.
Side effects from feverfew can include abdominal pain, indigestion, gas, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and nervousness. Some people who chew raw feverfew leaves may have mouth sores, loss of taste, and swelling of the lips, tongue, and mouth.
Rarely, allergic reactions to feverfew have been reported. People with allergies to chamomile, ragweed, or yarrow may be allergic to feverfew and should not take it.
Feverfew may increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you take blood-thinning medications such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin. Ask your doctor before taking feverfew if you take blood-thinners.
Pregnant and nursing women as well as children under 2 should not take feverfew.
If you are scheduled for surgery, be sure to tell your doctor if you are taking feverfew. It may interact with anesthesia.
Do not abruptly stop taking feverfew if you have used it for more than 1 week. Stopping feverfew too quickly may cause rebound headache, anxiety, fatigue, muscle stiffness, and joint pain.
Feverfew may change how many prescription and nonprescription medications work. If you take any of the following medications, you should not use feverfew without first talking to your health care provider.
Blood-thinning medications -- Feverfew may increase the risk of bleeding. Ask your doctor before taking feverfew if you take blood-thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin.
Medications broken down by the liver -- Feverfew can interact with many medications that are broken down by the liver. To be safe, ask your doctor before taking feverfew if you take any prescription medications.
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