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What is Parthenolide?

By Donn Saylor
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Parthenolide is a natural medicine that comes from the feverfew plant. It is a sesquiterpene lactone — a naturally occurring, plant-based chemical — and is utilized primarily for migraine relief and to prevent blood clots. Among its other applications, parthenolide is a noteworthy anti-inflammatory and has shown potential in combating particular kinds of cancer.

As a stand-alone drug, parthenolide is not available to everyday consumers. The feverfew herb, however, is sold by many natural medicine retailers and health food outlets. Parthenolide is a key chemical in feverfew, and users can reap its benefits by purchasing feverfew in extract or tablet form.

The main reason parthenolide is not sold as a drug, despite its reported health benefits, is the fact that it is not soluble in water. This greatly restricts the efficacy of parthenolide as a drug. But given its potential, scientists are working to develop compounds with similar properties that can be more easily absorbed by the system.

Chronic migraine sufferers find great relief from the parthenolide in feverfew. Parthenolide, however, is not a quick fix for pain alleviation. Instead, it slowly builds up in the body and functions as a preventative measure, greatly reducing the number and intensity of migraine headaches. Parthenolide targets the blood supply in the brain and works to reduce the expansion of blood vessels and prevent inflammation.

Given its anti-inflammatory properties, parthenolide also aids in the treatment of arthritis. Patients have found it to be extremely beneficial when taken during the early stages of arthritis. Parthenolide also helps alleviate the painful symptoms of other rheumatic diseases.

Parthenolide possesses the unique ability to keep the blood "slippery." It hinders the buildup of platelets that lead to blood clotting. This quality helps the chemical prevent blood clots before they start and ensures the smooth flow of blood through the system.

One of parthenolide's most impressive characteristics is its capacity to fight certain kinds of cancer. Studies have shown that parthenolide targets and kills both acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and melanoma cells. It also prevents further cells from developing. In the case of AML, parthenolide not only eradicates the damaging cells but leaves the bone marrow cells intact.

Due to its blood thinning capabilities, experts suggest that parthenolide not be taken with other blood thinning medications. It has been found to be well-tolerated, though some users report mild side effects. Vomiting, abdominal pain, and indigestion are among the most commonly experienced side effects.

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Discussion Comments
By JessicaLynn — On Sep 22, 2011

@sunnySkys - Taking feverfew might not be a bad idea. I'd check with my doctor first if I were you though. The blood thinning capabilities make me a little nervous.

Also, I wouldn't get my hopes up too much. If the feverfew makes you vomit I doubt you will be able to keep taking it. Still, it may be worth a try.

By sunnySkys — On Sep 21, 2011

Wow! Parthenolide sounds extremely promising as a drug. Protects against migraines, treats cancer, and stops blood clot. This sounds like a miracle drug almost!

I know the article said it isn't sold to consumers because it isn't water soluble. I can only hope that scientists find a way to make this drug more accessible soon.

In the meantime, I may look into taking some feverfew. I take birth control pills and I always get nervous about potential blood clots.

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