Feverfew

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(Tanacetum parthenium) The name is OE feberfugen, from Latin febris, fever, and fugare, to drive away. Yet there is only one specific mention of fever in the list of recorded examples of the plant's medicinal uses, even though that mention seems to pay proper homage to the plant's traditional powers, for according to a Derbyshire belief all you had to do to cure a fever was to put a piece of feverfew in the bed (Addy). But it must have been important, for it was apparently grown commercially for the London markets as a medicinal plant (Grigson. 1955), and gypsies used it extensively, often in place of camomila (Vesey-Fitzgerald). Perhaps it is best known in country medicine as a painkiller. Evidently, all that had to be done was to boil the plant in water, and drink the resulting liquid (Vickery. 1995), though a Suffolk practice of curing toothache by tying feverfew on to the wrist on the opposite side (V G Hatfield) sounds more like a charm than a remedy. It has been used in cold infusion as a general tonic, and a cold infusion of the flowers as a sedative (Brownlow). Perhaps that was what Gerard had in mind when he recommended it for "such as be melancholicke, sad, pensive, and without speech. It is certainly effective in curing a headache, even migraine, it seems (V G Hatfield), and apparently, it was said, warm, on the ear for earache, according to a Suffolk record (Kightly. 1984). But the dried flowers have been used in home remedies in Europe to induce abortion (Lewis & Elvin-Lewis).

East Anglian horsemen favoured the use of feverfew on their charges. In Cambridgeshire, the way to control unruly horses was to rub the freshly gathered leaves (or those of rue) on their noses (Porter. 1969), while Suffolk horsemen used it for colds, and for giving their horses an appetite (G E Evans. 1960).

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