The pyrethre herb is supposedly named after a famous temple in ancient Greece called Parthenon, hence the name Parthenium.
In the 13th century, Welsh physicians used pellitory (pyrethre) as a remedy for toothache. It was also mentioned by Arabian medical writers and is a favorite remedy in the East.
An old superstition held that it was planted around dwellings to purify the air and ward off diseases.
Otherwise known as feverfew, pellitory or chrysanthemum parthenum, pyrethre has round, leafy branching stem that bears alternate, bipinnate leaves (having ovate divisions) with deeply cut segments. Each plant bears one flower, with yellow disks measuring an inch and 10 to 20 toothed rays, much like the daisy. The plant grows 1 to 3 feet tall. Pyrethre gives off a distinctive, bitter and pungent smell and taste.
This plant is native to Southeastern Europe and America. It is often cultivated but occasionally it can be found wild in waste places, roadsides and wood borders throughout North America.
Legends and superstitions aside, this plant is a proven pest repellant. Some people plant it in their garden as a means of pest control. Insects like bees are said to dislike this plant and keep their distance. In fact, the insecticide property of the feverfew plant is known as pyrethrin, hence its namesake.
The pellitory (pyrethre) root has a pungent smell and is efficient in relieving toothache and promoting saliva flow. This is done with the tincture made from the dried root and may be applied to cotton wool and rubbed on the gums.
The powdered root can be used to cure chronic catarrh and nostrils by encouraging flow of nasal mucous and tears.
Other uses include relieving headaches, migraines, arthritis, indigestion and muscle tension. Its antispasmodic characteristic makes it traditionally useful in treating menstrual discomfort.
The plant contains chemicals that calm the smooth stomach muscles of the digestive tract. It is recommended after a hearty meal.