Tanacetum vulgare

Other Names: Buttons, Daisy, Hindheal, Parsley Fern

The feathery leaves of the Wild Tansy are beautiful, especially when growing in abundance on marshy ground, and it has a more refreshing scent than the Garden Tansy.

Tansy was one of the Strewing Herbs mentioned by Tusser in 1577, and was one of the native plants dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Perhaps it found additional favor as a ‘Strewing Herb’ because it was said to be effectual in keeping flies away, particularly if mixed with elder leaves. The oil, which contains thujone, is an insect repellent.

It is connected with some interesting old customs observed at Easter time, when even archbishops and bishops played handball with men of their congregation, and a Tansy cake was the reward of the victors.

tansyThese Tansy cakes were made from the young leaves of the plant, mixed with eggs, and were thought to purify the body after the limited fare of Lent. In time, this custom obtained a kind of symbolism, and Tansies, as these cakes were called, came to be eaten on Easter Day as a remembrance of the bitter herbs eaten by the Jews at the Passover.

Coles (1656) says the origin of eating it in the spring is because Tansy is very wholesome after the salt fish consumed during Lent, and counteracts the ill-effects which the ‘moist and cold constitution of winter has made on people…

Tansy as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

The medicinal part consists of the dried flowering herb. The herb has a strong aromatic smell. The taste is bitter and camphor-like. The plant is poisonous.

Tansy is used to expel worms from the body in children with an infusion of 1 ounce to a pint of boiling water being taken in tea-cupful doses, night and morning, fasting. Externally it is used to treat cuts and bruises.

In moderate doses, the plant and its essential oil are stomachic and cordial, being anti-flatulent and serving to allay spasms.

In Scotland, an infusion of the dried flowers and seeds (1/2 to 1 teaspoonful, 2 or 3 times a day) is given for gout. The roots when preserved with honey or sugar, have also been reputed to be of special service against gout, if eaten fasting every day for a certain time.

A tansy herbal tea made from the leaves is used to water plants (1 handful of herb to 1 pint of water). Aside from treating menstrual problems, tansy also is useful as a vermifuge and as a poultice to treat skin infections.

Tansy flower and herb folk medicine: Tansy preparations are used as an anthelmintic, for migraine, neuralgia, rheumatism, bloating and loss of appetite.

Tansy oil folk medicine: Tansy oil is used internally for gout, rheumatic complaints, joint pains, stomach cramps, gastrointestinal infections, intermittent fever, dizziness and dysmenorrhea. It is used externally for rheumatism, gout, contusions, sprains and wounds.

Tansy lotions are considered cleansing and soothing and also helpful for acne. The flowers in the herbal bath are considered soothing.

Culinary Uses of Tansy

From an old cookery book: ‘A Tansy
‘Beat seven eggs, yolks and whites separately; add a pint of cream, near the same of spinach-juice, and a little tansy-juice gained by pounding in a stone mortar; a quarter of a pound of Naples biscuit, sugar to taste, a glass of white wine, and some nutmeg. Set all in a sauce-pan, just to thicken, over the fire; then put it into a dish, lined with paste, to turn out, and bake it.’

Folklore & Magical Uses

Tansy gets its name from “athanasia,” the Greek word for “immortality.” It was the prime ingredient in the potion which made Ganymede, the cupbearer of the gods, immortal. It is carried to lengthen the life span.


The administration of therapeutic dosages of drugs that have a high thujone content can lead to poisoning.

Tansy oil: Poisonings occur chiefly through the misuse of the drug as an abortifacient.

From 1 to 4 drops of the essential oil may be safely given in cases of epilepsy, but excessive doses have produced seizures.

The drug should not be used during pregnancy.

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