Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Feverfew and Pedanius Dioscorides

(Tanacetum parthenium) Feverfew - the Eurasian Asteraceae species.

In my back garden there is a bit I euphemistically name my wild life garden. You've probably guessed this is the place where things tend to grow wild and many interesting plants appear in it, sometimes overshadowed by those that grow very vigorously. 

Feverfew is one of those plants which I don't purposely cultivate, but likes to pop up anyway. I wouldn't want to do without it though - even if I howk it out very readily when I allow too many seedlings to shoot up at a fast rate and they become unwieldly.

The benefits of feverfew - apart from the pretty flowers it produces in my July garden - have been documented for almost a couple of thousand years.

The Greek physician and botanist, Pedanius Dioscorides, wrote about feverfew in his book ( Latin title) De Materia Medica. (dates approx AD 40 - 90). His pharmacopeia on herbal medicine and related substances was a revered book for hundreds of years.
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Dioscorides noted feverfew as an anti- inflammatory and it has been used to as a herbal remedy to reduce fever, help with headaches and arthritis.

Today it is used with caution, the parthenolide content both useful and requiring careful handling.  If ingested orally it may cause mouth ulcers or inflamation. Physical handling of it should be with care as contact dermatitis can result. There is a cautionary note on herbal use of it if pregnant and there are other possible side effects to its use.

Since feverfew has been around for a long time across Europe, I like to think that my Nara of the Selgovae (The Beltane Choice) or Meaghan and Ineda in my recently completed manuscripts, would have collected feverfew as one of their healing herbs.

As healers, they would have used it to control the fevers which often resulted after the warriors suffered at the hands of the Roman Army in the battles I've written about. If the wounds were not treated properly or adequately after the infliction it was not uncommon for disabling fevers to result- sometimes fevers which were so severe the warriors died.

My healers might also have used feverfew to control infantile high temperatures during childhood ailments.

Sadly, there is one of my minor characters who could have done with some medication containing feverfew if it would have saved her from what was later named as 'childbed fever'. But that story is yet to hit the shelves!

I'll go off now and find out which other interesting plants grow in my garden that might have been used by my Celtic or Roman healers in the period AD 71-84.


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