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The efficacy and safety of feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.): an update of a systematic review*

  • E Ernst (a1) and MH Pittler (a1)
Abstract
AbstractObjective

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.) is a popular herbal remedy often advocated for the prevention of migraine. The aims of this systematic review are to update the evidence from rigorous clinical trials for or against the efficacy of feverfew for migraine prevention and to provide a safety profile of this herbal remedy.

Design

Literature searches were performed using the following databases: Medline, Embase, Biosis, CISCOM and the Cochrane Library (all from their inception to December 1999). Only randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trials of feverfew mono-preparations for the prevention of migraine in human subjects were included. All articles were read by two independent reviewers. Data were extracted in a pre-defined, standardized fashion. The methodological quality of the trials was evaluated by the Jadad score. For the assessment of safety issues, major reference texts were also consulted.

Results

Six trials met the inclusion/exclusion criteria. The majority favour feverfew over placebo. Yet important caveats exist. The data also suggest that feverfew is associated with only mild and transient adverse effects and few other safety concerns.

Conclusions

Feverfew is likely to be effective in the prevention of migraine. There are no major safety problems.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Corresponding author: Email e.ernst@exeter.ac.uk
Footnotes
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A previous version of a similar paper was first published in 1998 (Vogler BK, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Feverfew as a preventive treatment for migraine: a systematic review. Cephalalgia 1998; 18: 704–8).

Footnotes
Linked references
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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

1: DM Eisenberg , RB David , SL Ettner , Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990–1997. JAMA 1998; 280: 1569–75.

3: CJ De Weerdt , HPR Bootsma , Hendriks. Herbal medicines in migraine prevention: randomized double-blind placebo-controlled crossover trial of a feverfew preparation. Phytomedicine 1998; 3: 225–30.

4: AR Jadad , RA Moore , D Carrol , C Jenkinson , DJM Reynolds , Gavaghan, Assessing the quality of reports of randomized clinical trials: is blinding necessary?. Controlled Clin. Trials 1996; 17: 112.

5: ES Johnson , NP Kadam , DM Hylands , PJ Hylands . Efficacy of feverfew as prophylactic treatment of migraine. BMJ 1998; 291: 569–73.

7: D Palevitch , G Earon , Carasso. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) as a prophylactic treatment for migraine: A double-blind placebo-controlled study. Phytother. Res. 1998; 11: 508–11.

16: P Tfelt-Hansen , SL Nielsen . Patient numbers needed in prophylactic migraine trials. Neuroepidemiology 1997; 6: 214–19.

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18: WJ Pugh , K. Sambo Prostaglandin synthetase inhibitors in feverfew. J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 1988; 40: 743–5.

20: DVC Awang . Prescribing therapeutic feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium (L.) Schultz Bip., syn. Chrysanthemum parthenium (L.) Bernh.). Integrative Med. 1998; 1: 1113.

21: PJ Goadsby . How do the currently used prophylactic agents work in migraine?. Cephalalgia 1997; 17: 8592.

22: AMG Brown , CM Edwards , MR Davey , B Power , KC Lowe . Pharmacological activity of feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium (L.) Schultz-Bip.): Assessment by inhibition of human polymorphonuclear leucocyte chemiluminescence in-vitro. J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 1998; 49: 558–61.

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24: SJ Murch , CB Simmons , PK Saxena . Melatonin in feverfew and other medicinal plants. Lancet 1997; 350: 1598–9.

25: J Brun , B Claustrat , P Saddier , G. Chazor Nocturnal melatonin excretion is decreased in patients with migraine without aura attacks associated with menses. Cephalalgia 1995; 15: 136–9.

27: D Anderson , PC Jenkinson , RS Dewdney , SD Blowers , ES Johnson , NP Kadam . Chromosomal aberrations and sister chromatid exchanges in lymphocytes and urine mutagenicity of migraine patients: a comparison of chronic feverfew users and matched non-users. Hum. Toxicol. 1988; 7: 145–52.

28: JN Burry . Compositae dermatitis in South Australia: Contact dermatitis from Chrysanthemum parthenium. Contact Dermatitis 1980; 6: 445.

31: PJ Easterbrook , JA Berlin , R Gopalan , DR Matthews . Publication bias in clinical research. Lancet 1991; 337: 867–72.

32: E Ernst , MH Pittler . Alternative therapy bias [letter]. Nature 1997; 385: 480.

33: MH Pittler , NC Abbot , EF Harkness , E. Ernst Location bias in controlled clinical trials of complementary medicine. J. Clin. Epidemiol. 2000; 53: 485–9.

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Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
  • EISSN: 1475-2727
  • URL: /core/journals/public-health-nutrition
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