Feverfew: Tanacetum parthenium or Chrisanthemum parthenium is also known as Bachelor’s Buttons, Featherfew, Featherfoil, Febrifuge, and last but absolute favorite: Flirtwort!
The name comes from the Latin word febrifugia or “fever reducer”. It is a perennial in the daisy family that re-seeds itself quite prolifically and will grow and bloom heartily in most gardens. Mine seems to bloom all year round, demands little to no attention and will take over any space if left alone for a few years. It has a strong and very bitter “camphoric” odor when crushed and insects don’t like it. I grow some under my rose bushes for that reason.
The lore and history of this plants goes way back as an herb of protection against accidents or “mishaps” while traveling and was included in love spells and tussie mussies, being considered a plant of Venus. It was taken as tea to remedy fevers, headaches, trouble sleeping and arthritis, and was considered a “woman’s herb.” Nicholas Culpepper (an English botanist from the 1600’s) said it cured those who were “troubled with melacholy and heaviness or sadness of spirits.”
Modern science has decided that the active ingredients to be credited with all these miracles are “sesquiterpene lactones” and I found quite a lot of modern literature on its recent comeback as a reliever of migraines and arthritis. The only major negative side effect I could find was that chewing the leaves fresh could cause mouth ulcers. I figured this was common sense you should know just by smelling the leaves – this is pretty strong stuff. Thanks, but I’ll stick to drinking the tea!
I like to cut mine and put it into bud vases around the house. The flowers are cheerful and last a long time. They can be propagated by seed (which they do wildly on their own) or from cuttings: chop of a chunk and put a good part of the stems and leaves underground. Once you have an established feverfew plant, you will always have feverfew. This is one of my favorite ‘go-to’ herbs and is like an old friend in the garden.
Disclaimer: I am in no way recommending this plant be used medicinally…I’m a gardener, not a doctor. Also, I found plenty of warnings that specifically stated feverfew should not be ingested by pregnant women, children or anyone taking blood thinning meds. As with any plant that you choose to ingest or smoke or cook with….do your research and pay attention to your body’s reactions. Amen.