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Feverfew

Feverfew is a short bush with flowers like daisies. People have used feverfew over the years as folk medicine for many ailments.

Today, its dried leaves -- and sometimes stems or flowers -- are made into supplements.

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Why do people take feverfew?

People take feverfew by mouth or sometimes apply it directly to their gums or skin.

Two common reasons people take feverfew are to try to prevent migraine or lessen arthritis symptoms.

Researchers haven't proven the effectiveness of feverfew for rheumatoid arthritis.

Studies for migraine have had mixed results. Some studies show it may help reduce how often you get migraines, especially if you get them often. But more research is needed.

There isn't enough evidence to prove that feverfew is effective for other medical problems. This includes those that affect the gastrointestinal system, such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Gas
  • Parasites

There also isn't enough evidence to show feverfew is effective for the wide range of other reasons people take it. This includes such conditions as:

  • Allergies and asthma
  • Anemia
  • Cancer
  • Common cold
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Muscle tension
  • Toothache

There isn't a clear optimal dose of feverfew for any condition. Quality and active ingredients in supplements may vary widely from maker to maker. This makes it hard to set a standard dose.

Can you get feverfew naturally from foods?

Some people eat the feverfew leaves, but they are bitter and may hurt your mouth.

What are the risks of taking feverfew?

Side effects. People have not reported serious side effects of feverfew. Researchers have used it safely with people in studies lasting up to four months. No one knows whether it is safe if you use it longer than that.

Side effects may include symptoms affecting the mouth, such as:

  • Loss of taste
  • Canker sores
  • Swollen, irritated lips and tongue

These side effects may be more common if you chew on feverfew leaves.

Other side effects from feverfew affect the digestive system. They may include:

  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal pain or bloating
  • Nausea

Other possible side effects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Menstrual changes
  • Palpitations
  • Skin rash
  • Weight gain

Some people have other side effects if they stop taking feverfew suddenly after long-term use. These include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Stiff muscles
  • Joint pain
  • Nervousness

It is also possible to have allergic reactions to feverfew. This is more likely if you have an allergy to plants in the daisy family, such as ragweed.

Risks. Do not take feverfew if you are pregnant. Feverfew may cause your uterus to contract. This may raise the risk of miscarriage or preterm delivery. It's also best to avoid using it when breastfeeding.

Interactions. It is possible that feverfew may affect blood clotting, but this has not been proven in humans. Just to be safe, it may be best to avoid combining feverfew with other blood-thinning supplements or drugs. These include:

  • Turmeric
  • Panax ginseng
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Heparin
  • Warfarin

Stop using feverfew at least two weeks before surgery to lessen the risk of bleeding.

Feverfew may also interact with drugs that are changed by the liver, such as lovastatin or fexofenadine and many others. Don't take feverfew unless your doctor says it is OK.

The FDA does not regulate supplements. Be sure to tell your doctor about any you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications or foods. He or she can let you know if the supplement might raise your risks.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on December 31, 2012

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