Medicines made from plant material have been in use for thousands of years. And, in many parts of the world herbal medicines are still the main source of medicine.
Feverfew is a medicinal plant with a history of use for helping with fever, as its name suggests. It also has benefits for rheumatic conditions and digestive problems. It became known as a remedy for migraines after a Welsh doctor’s wife described using it. After decades of migraine attacks she ate three leaves of feverfew daily. And her migraines completely disappeared in ten months. Since then there have been a lot of studies on feverfew for migraine prevention.
Migraines are intense pounding headaches. They are often accompanied by nausea or vomiting and visual disturbances. The headaches may last for hours or days. And the frequency can vary dramatically. The recurrent pain is usually confined to one side of the head or face. And during an attack the person will usually prefer to find a quiet, dark place until the headache subsides.
Migraines are usually triggered by something. Such as, certain foods, food additives, lack of sleep, stress, strong smells, sunlight or changes in the weather. So, of course the best way to prevent migraines is to find what your personal triggers are and avoid them. But, avoiding known triggers does not guarantee you will not suffer another migraine. So you need to have effective remedies to help prevent them. So what is the best way to use feverfew for migraine prevention?
The bitter tasting leaves of the feverfew plant are the part used. Eaten fresh from the plant they don’t taste great. Eating them with food helps to disguise their flavour. However, research suggests that the dried leaves have a better effect than the fresh. And these can be in the form of tablets or capsules.
The studies show that it is better to start with higher doses and then reduce the dose to a maintenance level. Even then, it could take three months or more before the remedy shows an effect. With lower doses it could take six to nine months to see a benefit with feverfew for migraine prevention.
How much feverfew for migraine prevention?
For adults, an effective dose is 250 mg of dried leaf in the form of a tablet or capsule. Or, 3 to 5ml of 1:5 tincture of dried leaf. Or, three or four fresh leaves of feverfew per day.
These are high doses and could be reduced to an equivalent of 50mg of dried leaf to maintain the benefit.
Children under twelve years should not take feverfew. For children with migraines consult a qualified medical herbalist for guidance.
Feverfew is not without potential side effects. Yet, these are more often seen when using the fresh leaf. The most common side effects are mouth ulcers, mouth or throat soreness or inflammation. It is best to discontinue use if you experience any of these side effects.
Yet, the reported side effects of feverfew are not all bad. Some people taking the remedy had better digestion, better sleep and an improved sense of well-being.
Though feverfew has a good safety record there are some cautions. It should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding without medical advice.
Also, feverfew inhibits the activity of platelets in the blood. People taking blood thinning medications such as aspirin or warfarin should take advice. Consult your doctor or a qualified medical herbalist before taking feverfew with these medcines.
If you decide to try feverfew for migraine prevention and find it beneficial, continue taking it. In trials, people found their migraines returned when they stopped taking it. If you need to stop feverfew it is best to gradually reduce the dosage. Perhaps over a period of a month, rather than suddenly stopping.
As with any remedy there is the possibility of an allergic reaction. This is more likely if you also have a known sensitivity to other members of the daisy family. In this case, it is better not to try feverfew. The daisy family of plants include chamomile, ragweed and yarrow.
If you try feverfew for migraine prevention I would be happy to hear your experiences of it in the comments section below.