The Heart of Feverfew

Posted by Nathan on 23rd Jun 2014

It was a soggy spring, which made for a lot of fast growth in the gardens. Above is a photo of our herb wheel, where an assortment of medicinals and volunteer weeds currently reside. One thing I learned early on about tending plants is that you never know how the growing season will turn out. This year, I discovered a lone Monarda leaping up between a stand a of snap peas. Meanwhile, the old, giant Joe Pye Weed I planted 5 or 6 years ago has vanished.

Maybe it'll return next year in some other place. Or maybe it's been transformed into something else. The cycle of life doesn't give away all of its secrets. 

The taller plant in the back of the photo is Feverfew. Here's a slightly blurry closeup of the flowers I took the other day. 

Feverfew is a master medicine for addressing headaches and migraines. Its anti-inflammatory properties put it on par or even better than pharmaceuticals like aspirin, without the side effects.

There are many other medicinal benefits of Feverfew, however, if you want to truly get an understanding of this plant, you need to spend some time with it in person. Feverfew is a quick grower, reaching ever skyward until it blooms. The sturdy stems emit a quiet strength, while even a few minutes in the presence of the bright, daisy-like flowers will bring good cheer. Rub the leaves and inhale the plant's bitter, slightly citrus-like scent. Bees hate it, but I like its uniqueness. 

Interestingly, Feverfew has long been a kind of rogue medicine. Widely used in folk remedies, it rarely found its way into the old, official herbal records in the US or Europe. During the middle ages, it was planted around homes and other dwellings out of a hope that the plant would keep contagious, often deadly diseases at bay. In addition, while it has been used as a treatment for fevers, that at best is a minor quality of the herb, even though the name suggests otherwise. 

I've always found larger, fast growing herbs kind of mysterious. The seed to 8ft sprint that Sunflowers do every summer. The high rising bolt of Joe Pye Weed. And here, the rapid unfolding of Feverfew leaves in a matter of weeks, with a sudden burst of flowers around solstice time. How does it all happen so quickly? And what does this say about these plant's healing abilities? 

Be on the lookout for Feverfew in your neighborhood. And if you're plagued with headaches or migraines, consider giving it a try.