Feverfew is a plant that belongs to the daisy/sunflower family of flowering plants. It is widely used in traditional medicine for the treatment of fevers, migraine headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, stomach ache, toothache, insect bites and infertility.
Although much of its activity is attributed to the compound parthenolide, a parthenolide-free extract of feverfew demonstrated free radical-scavenging properties, affording protection against UV-induced sun damage (1). Feverfew extracts also possess antiprotozoal (2), antibacterial (3), anti-inflammatory (1) (4), and antioxidant (5) properties.
In clinical trials, a feverfew extract reduced the frequency of migraine attacks (6) and a feverfew/ginger formulation prevented mild headache before the onset of moderate to severe headache in patients with migraine (7). In another study, a combination of feverfew and acupuncture treatments led to greater improvements in quality of life in women with migraine, compared with feverfew or acupuncture alone (8). Despite anti-inflammatory benefits, a clinical trial did not find benefit for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (9).
Parthenolide from feverfew has demonstrated anticancer effects in vitro (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17). A phase I clinical study involving cancer patients showed that up to 4 mg of parthenolide was well tolerated; however, parthenolide could not be detected in the plasma (18). Consequently, a synthetic analog dimethylamino-parthenolide (DMAPT), a more hydrophilic form of parthenolide, with greater bioavailability has been identified. Oral administration of DMAPT was found to be safe and resulted in increased plasma concentrations in an animal model (19). More studies are warranted.