Feverfew (a corruption of Febrifuge, from its tonic and fever-dispelling properties) is a composite plant growing in every hedgerow, with numerous, small, daisy-like heads of yellow flowers with outer white rays, the central yellow florets being arranged on a nearly flat receptacle, not conical as in the chamomiles. The stem is finely furrowed and hairy, about 2 feet high; the leaves alternate, downy with short hairs, or nearly smooth-about 4 1/2 inches long and 2 inches broad - bipinnatifid, with serrate margins, the leaf-stalk being flattened above and convex beneath. It is not to be confounded with other wild chamomile-like allied species, which mostly have more feathery leaves and somewhat large flowers; the stem also is upright, whereas that of the true garden Chamomile is procumbent. The delicate green leaves are conspicuous even in mild winter. The whole plant has a strong and bitter smell, and is particularly disliked by bees. A double variety is cultivated in gardens for ornamental purposes, and its flower-heads are sometimes substituted for the double Chamomile.
Country people have long been accustomed to make curative uses of this herb, which grows abundantly throughout England. Gerard tells us that it may be used both in drinks, and bound on the wrists is of singular virtue against the ague.
A decoction with sugar or honey is said to be good for coughs, wheezing and difficult breathing. The herb, bruised and heated, or fried with a little wine and oil, has been employed as a warm external application for wind and colic. A tincture made from Feverfew and applied locally immediately relieves the pain and swelling caused by bites of insects and vermin. It is said that if two teaspoonfuls of tincture are mixed with 1/2 pint of cold water, and all parts of the body likely to be exposed to the bites of insects are freely sponged with it, they will remain unassailable. A tincture of the leaves of the true Chamomile and of the German Chamomile will have the same effect.