Matricaria Parthenium. Feverfew, Wild Camomile.

Botanical name: 

Description: Natural Order, Compositae. This is the Pyrethrum parthenium of Smith, and the Chrysanthemum parthenium of Persoon. It is a perennial herb that has been introduced to this country from Europe, and is mostly cultivated in gardens. It commonly grows two feet high, having a smooth stem with corymbs of snowy-looking flowers on the tops of the branches. Leaves alternate, bi- or tri-pinnate; segments ovate. Peduncles long and branching, with terminal flowers arranged nearly like a corymb. Flowers compound; rays either white and pistillate, or wanting; disk florets yellow and perfect, sometimes cultivated so as to enlarge the corollas into ligulate or terete limbs; pappus membranaceous. Receptacle hemispherical, naked. Involucre hemispherical, imbricated and pubescent; scales with membranous margins. Several varieties are cultivated by gardeners. The plant blossoms from September onward.

The whole herb is used for medical purposes, and has long enjoyed a reputation as a popular remedy in various forms of fever. There does not seem to be any difference in the qualities of the several varieties. The species balsamia is the English mint of our gardens.

Properties and Uses: This plant is a diffusible relaxant and stimulant, expending its influence upon the skin, uterus, nervous system and kidneys. In warm infusion, it secures a gentle and warm diaphoresis, inviting the blood outward, and relieving the head when there is pressure upon the brain with nervous prostration and excitement. This condition is often found after recent exposures to cold, in some cases of pleurisy, and as a sequence to parturition in some plethoric women where the lochia have been partially suppressed. It is in such cases that the feverfew will be most appropriate, securing a return of the lochia under the latter circumstances, as well as when the menstrual secretion has been choked from exposure; and it is second only to camomile in all such cases. Its combined influence upon the uterus and nervous system fits it for those acute cases of hysteria where the circulation is deranged and the uterus is irritable. For such purposes, it is best when given by warm infusion; but a cold infusion will often relieve mild cases of hysteria connected with flatulency. The action upon the kidneys is secondary–rather following as a consequence of the relief given to nervous excitement, and carrying out water only, than eliminating solids and proving serviceable in dropsies.

It would not be appropriate to use feverfew in cases of pneumonia, inflammation of the uterus, irritation of the spinal column, or inflammation of the brain. Those febrile and nervous excitements which are most common to the fall and winter, and where there is no local inflammation, are the cases to which it is best fitted. It may be used in mild typhoid cases after the system has been well cleansed of morbific materials.

The feverfew has enjoyed a reputation as a fomentation to the bowels in colic, and as a poultice in severe pain in the head, breast, or elsewhere. I can say nothing of these uses from individual experience. It is also said to be useful in those cases of worms where there are pain, swelling, and rumbling in the bowels.

It is used as either a warm or cold infusion. Some of its properties are volatile, and the vessel in which a warm infusion is prepared should be covered. Half an ounce of the dried herb to a quart of nearly boiling water is a convenient formula; and one-fourth of a cupful of this may be given every half hour, or oftener, according to the necessities of the case. The cold infusion is mostly used in female "nervousness" and worms.

The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at