When my Daughter the Daisy Lover was about 15, she went out to pick flowers for her room and came roaring back into the house waving a thin bouquet.”What are these little ratty phoneys posing as daisies?” she demanded.
They were feverfew (Tanecetum parthenium).
A rather rude way to describe a flower that has long been used as a highly effective headache remedy, for arthritis, migraines and more. Scientists (in The Lancet, a British medical journal) suggest that feverfew shares properties with aspirin and that it appears to smooth muscle cells that trigger migraine muscle spasms.
The ancient Greek physician Dioscorides was way ahead of those modern medicos. He valued feverfew for its effect on the uterus and often used it in childbirth to help delivery of the afterbirth. The 17th-century herbalist John Parkinson said it helped in recovery from opium overdose and Cotton Mather — that proponent of the Salem witch trials (despite being a scientist of his time) — recommended feverfew for toothache.
Feverfew is a corruption of febrifuge, which simply refers to any medicine that reduces fever.
Boil and strain it to make a tonic. A decoction with sugar or honey is said to be good for coughs, wheezing and difficult breathing. I’ve made cough syrup by tincturing feverfew and horehound in a fruity schnapps. It should be diluted (as much as 3 or 4 to 1) before being given to anyone under 12.
The herb bruised and heated, or fried with a little wine and oil has been used as a warm external application for wind and colic. A tincture of feverfew (in grain alcohol) will relieve insect bites.
Feverfew is a gift and like so many of Nature’s gifts…it grows just about anywhere.