Nutrition Notes

The Potential Neuroprotective Role of Feverfew

A migraine is a chronic neurovascular disorder that affects more than 15% of the world’s population. The incidence of migraines is higher in women between 22 and 55 years of age. Some botanicals, such as feverfew, may support the body’s response to conditions, such as migraines.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a traditionally used botanical that can support neurological health in the presence of a migraine, while also supporting the body’s response to inflammation and fever. The active constituents of feverfew include flavonoids, resveratrol, volatile oils, and sesquiterpene lactones, such as parthenolide. These extracts from T. parthenium have recently been a topic of research for their influence on neurological health, gastrointestinal health, and cellular health, in addition to a healthy response to inflammation. 

A recently published study by Recinella and colleagues explored the potential effects of an extract of T. parthenium on inflammatory pathways and neurological markers in a laboratory setting. The study showed changes in measured biomarkers, including interleukin-10, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the presence of T. parthenium extract. BDNF is a protein that plays an important role in synaptic plasticity, nervous system modulation, memory formation, and the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons. The T. parthenium extract was shown to attenuate reductions in BDNF that are typically associated with a migraine. 

This study also indicated that T. parthenium may influence concentrations of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. The gene expression of the dopamine transporter (DAT) was measured in murine hypothalamic cells treated with extracts of T. parthenium. The study results indicated that DAT gene expression was significantly upregulated, indicating that T. parthenium may modulate dopamine levels.

Parthenolide has also been shown to modulate serotonin concentrations in other studies. It also shows promise as a potential support of certain aspects of gastrointestinal health. In a recent animal study, the potential impact of parthenolide on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in murine populations was investigated. Supplementation with parthenolide was shown to modulate disease-related inflammatory markers, improve certain markers related to IBD, influence gut microbial diversity, and increase metabolite short-chain fatty acids. 

Phytochemicals derived from T. parthenium, such as parthenolide, may also support cellular health. Parthenolide has been shown to inhibit nuclear transcription factor kappa B (NF-κB) by interacting with IκB kinase. NF-κB can contribute to the expression of certain genes related to angiogenesis and tumor growth. More research is needed in human populations regarding the potential support of parthenolide for gastrointestinal and cellular health. 

Feverfew has been used for centuries to support neurological health and the body’s response to inflammation. Constituents in feverfew, such as parthenolide, also show promise in their potential to support cellular and gastrointestinal health. 

By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT