Two Very Old-Very Popular Herbs

U.S. Pharmacopia research news from Rockville, MD- as published in Virginia Nurses Today.

Rockville, MD-USP (U.S. Pharmacopia) has announced that "while there is insufficient evidence for USP to support the general use of either botanical, its expert advisory panelists do recognise that St. John's Wort and feverfew have bee used for many years by many people." USP stated that no serious side or adverse effects have been reported, but stressed that little is known about the specific effects of the plants, their safe use during pregnancy or while breast feeding, or their possible interaction with other botanical or medicinal products. USP does encourage further research, including at least one well-controlled clinical trial, for each of the products.

St. John's Wort is made from the plant Hypericum perforatum(L.) and has been studied for the treatment of mild to moderate mental depression. Feverfew, made from the dried leaves of the plant Tanacetum parthenium(L.) Schultz-Bip, has been used to prevant migraine headaches.

**Editorial Note: If you are planning to grow Feverfew, or St. John's Wort in your garden, please see additional information on these plants located at the end of this article:
.....Its not quite as confusing as the begining of it indicates.

USP has released botanical monographs that contain information on the two plants, yhe historey of use, the pharmacology, potential risks, overviews of clinical studies (evidence Tables), a chemistry chart of the principle constituents, and comprehensive reference lists on the two substances.

USP warns that consumers should check with a health care provider berfore using these produsts, especially if the consumer has a medical condition such as severe depression, suicidal tendencies or skin sensitivity to sunlight (St. John's Wort), or allergy to *chamomile, ragweed or yarrow that indicate an allergy to feverfew. (*SEE ED. NOTE AT END)

Also: The quality and content of such herbal products varies according to conditions in which the products are grown, harvested and manufatured. (*ED. several reputable herb companies grind their herbs at temperatures well below zero to preserve the chemical content.) Currently, there are no official standards of quality for these preperations, but USP is working to publish standards in the near future.

Consumer information for these and other products is available from USP's web site at no charge ( (WANT TO LINK; GO TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE)

FEVERFEW:Chrysanthemum parthenium (L) In various locals called; Bachelor's-button, Feather few, Featherfoil, Wild Chamomile, AND depending on where you are looking for further information:

If you are looking to buy seed for your garden; look under Maticaria (Feverfew), Park Seed(address elsewhere this home page). Too: If your are looking for chemical constituentes at your local library "THE MERICK INDEX" (chemistry), look under Matricaria, German Chamomile, Hungarian Chamomile, Wild Chamomile... Garden (as in R.D.'s) look under Matricaria parthenoids (feverfew). Matricaria by definition is called by many botanists Chrysanthemum parthenium, but is not considered Feverfew, instead-Matricaria parthenoids, and to make matters worse, German Chamomile is sold as Matricaria chamomilla (an annual)-which is not the same as Matricaria parthenoids... Confused yet? Well, we're back to Tanacetum parthenium, Feverfew.

Which in many respects, looks similar to Roman chamomile. The flowers alone could pass for eighther, but aside from this single feature, however, feverfew has a quite distinct appearance. Unlike Roman chamomile, feverfew is an upright plant, growing to 2 1/2 feet, and its foliage is bolder and coarser. The whole herb once had a reputation as a remedy for all sorts of fevers; indeed, the name feverfew is derived from febrifuge, a scientific term for a medicine that reduces fevers. Feverfew, which gives off a strong, lasting odor, was also planted around houses to purify the air.

Feverfew was introduced from Europe, and is now a common garden escape in much of the U.S. and southern Canada

St. John's Wort, was too, introduced from Europe, and is now a common garden escape in most of the U.S. and southern Canada. Its bright yellow, five petaled flowers can be found in meadows, dry pastures, and along roadsides in glorious solstice gold from June to September.

Early settlers who imported feverfew called it featherfew. In some locals the name survives to date; a bit of Elizabethan English in modern America.

By the 18th century, plumes of smoke from Roman, summer solstice bonfires made from St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), was rededicated to the martyr, John the Baptist, and was hung in the doorways to repel evil demons and witches (which was also how the sun worshipers used it).

Native to Europe, St. John's Wort is naturalized in much of the eastern half of the United States. In different locals it may also be refered to as: Amber Tough-and-heal, Goatweed, Klamath Weed, or Rosin Rose.

The early Christians converted the herb into a symbole of St. John the Baptist because it flowers about June 24, the day the church designated as St. John's Day. After the plant naturalized, the American Indians used a tea brewed from the plant for tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments. Although a tea from the herb is still used in herbal medicine, some researchers warn against taking it because the plant contains hypericin, a photosentizing agent that reacts with light to cause skin burns in light -skinned persons.


USP, For health care professionals ask for USP's Document Disclosure Department.


  • 2665 TABLE ROCK RD
  • OAKLAND, MD 21550