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Feverfew, a Medicinal Flowering Herb

December 9, 2016 Back to Picks >

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a short lived perennial growing 2-4 feet high. The leaves are flat and lobed. The flower clusters appear in summer and are daisy shaped with white petals and a yellow center. Feverfew self-sows easily but can be controlled without much trouble. The seeds are very fine and tend to clump. When sowing, mix them with a small quantity of fine sand to make it easier to spread them out.

The cheerful flowers of feverfew have inspired breeders to create several cultivars. There’s a double flowered feverfew called ‘Flore Pleno.’ It has a tiny yellow center compared to common feverfew. ‘Aureum’ or Golden feverfew has gold flecked leaves and white daisy-like flowers. ‘White Pompom’ has dense double white flowers on long stems, suitable for cut flowers. ‘White Stars’ is a compact feverfew with double white flowers. Be on the lookout also for ‘Golden Moss’ which is said to bloom throughout the growing season.

Feverfew is one medicinal herb where the common name is completely misleading. The three main seventeenth century English herbalists agree that a tea made from feverfew was effective for a variety of “pains in the head” but make no mention of any use against fevers. Modern tests have demonstrated its value in treating migraines, arthritis, and allergies – but not fevers. So where did the name come from? My guess is that it’s possibly a mis-pronunciation of its ancient name of featherfew.