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Tanacetum parthenium

To the untrained eye this herb looks a lot like Chamomile, except its flowers are not conical but rather flat-topped and its leaves resemble those of Coriander. They have a peculiar, strongly aromatic but not exactly pleasant smell, which is why bees avoid it and it is generally very useful as an insect repellent. In the old days this little herb was much praised for its benefits as a woman's herb, but somehow it drifted into oblivion and its healing virtues were forgotten. Until in the 1980s it turned out that apparently quite a few people were relying on this herb as a preventative remedy migraine. Some clinical, double blind studies were undertaken which confirmed the effectiveness of the herb, although the actual mechanism by which it does its trick still eludes science. It is thought, however, that one of feverfew's compounds inhibits serotonin release from the blood platelets. Serotonin is an important brain chemical, which is indicated in triggering migraine attacks by restricting blood vessels, thus inhibiting the flow of blood to the brain. It must be stressed that not all migraines are caused by this mechanism and thus this herb does not offer a sure cure, but in some cases it appears to be very effective. However that is not the only use of this old fashioned remedy.

Apart from preventing migraines (for which fresh feverfew leaves may actually be better), the ancients also recommend it for melancholy and depression. It can help in cases of dizziness and vertigo, and may ally nerve pain, offering cooling, analgesic relief to affected areas. The ancients also praise it highly as a woman's herb, effective to regulate menstruation, bring on delayed periods, expel the afterbirth, and cure inward and outward inflammations of the female reproductive organs, especially a hardened or prolapsed uterus. It also used to be used for coughs and fevers. Externally it was applied as a cosmetic agent to remove spots. Do not use during pregnancy.

Feverfew is planted around the house for purification and protection. In ancient folklore Feverfew was believed to grow from leftovers that had been ritually set aside at the Christmas dinner table and had been thrown out into the garden a few days later. An amulet of feverfew can be worn to prevent all afflictions to the head and to keep one's bearings straight.

Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.