Growing Feverfew Commercially
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Laura Sabourin
Posted: Before April 1998

Is it commercially viable to grow Feverfew ? When is it harvested ? What type of soil does it like? Do you sell the seed? Where would the market for it be ? (retail, wholesale, fresh, dried ?? )

Yes, feverfew is commercially viable as a field crop. It is being grown commercially in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Kenya, and elsewhere. Its efficacy in treating and preventing migraine headache has been established in clinical studies, attracting considerable attention from industry in recent years.

Because feverfew is relatively new to field cultivation there are no published data on optimum growing conditions. Many growers have found it to be adaptable to well-drained soils, not requiring much nutrient supplementation. It can be sown in plugs and transplanted to the field or sown directly in the field. It is harvested as the plant begins to reach the flowering stage in mid to late summer. Harvests can occur even after the first frosts in fall. The leaves are air dried before being packed.

The plant is hardy to zones 4-9 according to Deni Bown’s "Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses," but farmers in zone 4 in Ontario reported significant losses of all feverfew varieties over the winter of 1995-96. We would put the zone rating at 5-9.

The market for bulk dried feverfew is specialized. The major buyers are botanical manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies. Herb brokers and distributors also buy significant amounts.

In Canada, the government has set a minimum standard for the active constituents, called parthenolides, at 0.2% by dry weight. This means that buyers are looking for feverfew leaf with concentrations higher than this – usually 0.4% or higher. Herbal medicine manufacturers worldwide are increasingly demanding laboratory test results to prove potency.

Some enterprising growers are marketing feverfew products under their own labels to the alternative medicine market. Health food distributors have shown an eagerness to add new locally produced lines.

As far as we know, no one is selling fresh feverfew. We have suggested at conferences that there may be a small, but worthwhile market for fresh-cut medicinal herbs sold in health food stores. No doubt only the largest stores would have the volumes necessary to make fresh medicinal herbs successful. We think that with creative packaging and marketing a line of fresh-cut medicinal herbs, including feverfew, could be successful. The advantage of feverfew is that it needs to be taken over a long time for it to be effective, so a steady market could develop.

Yes, we sell seeds (and potted herbs, plug trays and dried herb). It is important to realize that not all feverfew varieties are created equal. In fact, most have very little of the active parthenolides in the leaves. Make sure that you buy the right seeds. Richters is the only company we know of that offers seeds from tested varieties. Our basic feverfew variety has about 0.4% parthenolides.

For more information on the research and usage of feverfew, Ken Hancock’s book "Feverfew: Your Headache May Be Over" is now back in print and available from Richters.

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