Friday, 3 February 2012


Tansy is native to Europe including the British Isles and has become naturalized in North America where it has become and invasive species in some states. It has been used medicinally for centuries as have its close relatives, feverfew and costmary or alecost.
  It is believed that the name Tanacetum (from athanasia in Greek meaning immortal) refers to either that in legends it was given to Ganymede to make him immortal or because it was used to preserve corpses and prevent from rapidly decaying, or because its odour is long-lasting and was used in perfumes in the ancient world.
  It can grow to around a metre high and is quite a distinctive plant when in flower as it has yellow flowers which are long-lasting. It was used as a strewing herb both for its smell and for the fact that it repels insects especially when mixed with elder leaves (Sambuccus nigra). It belongs to the daisy family of plants the Asteraceae family so is also related to chamomile.
 Young tansy leaves and eggs were once used to make tansy cakes, which were eaten at Easter time as they were believed to purify the bodies’ humours after fasting during Lent. Later they became symbols of the bitter herbs such as horehound which were used during the Jewish Passover meal. The plant was used for fevers and hysterical and nervous disorders and such remedies must have been safer than those which employed Stinking Hellebore or the Christmas rose (Helleborus niger). In cookery it was used as a substitute for the more expensive spices, nutmeg and cinnamon, although I doubt it had the same results!
  The plant and its essential oil can be used - but in small quantities only as it is considered poisonous in large doses, for flatulence and spasms. In some oil from tansy plants thujone is present although it is not present in oil from all tansy plants. The roots were at one time made into conserves with honey or sugar and given for gout. In Scotland the dried flowers and seeds were used for this complaint. The green leaves can be pulverized and used as a poultice for swellings and to relieve pain and the bruised leaves can be applied to skin problems to bring relief.
  Clearly it was in favour as a medicinal herb in the Middle Ages and in the 17th century as Culpeper writing then in his Complete herbal waxes lyrical on common tansy which he distinguishes from “garden tansy”.
 “Government and virtues. This herb is undoubtedly under the government of Venus. It is an agreeable bitter, a carminative, and a destroyer of worms, for which case a powder of the flowers should be given from six to twelve grains at night and mornings. Worms are often the cause of putrid fevers and epileptic fits, and sometimes bring on a consumption. The medicines usually administered against these are often ineffectual, and many of them very mischievous. Hellebore has brought on convulsions; and ever one knows the danger of mercurials. Besides, it is from these deleterious compounds that half the defective teeth in young people are owing. The flowers are the part to be used, and they should be given in powder, but there requires care in the collecting of them, to obtain all their virtue. Clip off a quantity of Tansy flowers, before they are over blown, close to the stalk. This must be done in the middle of a dry day; spread them on the bottom of a hair sieve turned upside down; shake them often about, and let the wind pass through them, but keep them from the sun, and thus you may have them always. The leaves only are used, and are accounted restringent and vulnerary, good to stop all kind of fluxes and preternatural evacuations, to dissolve coagulated blood, to help those who are bruised by falls: outwardly it is used as a cosmetic, to take off freckles, sun-burn, and morphew; as also in restringent gargarisms. The powder of the herb taken in some of the distilled water, helps the whites in women, but more especially if a little coral and ivory in powder be put to it. It is also commended to help children that are bursten, and have a rupture, being boiled in water and salt. Being boiled in water and drank, it eases the griping pains of the bowels, and is good for the sciatica and joint-aches. The same boiled in vinegar, with honey and alum, and gargled in the mouth, eases the pains of the tooth-ach, fastens loose teeth, helps the gums that are sore, settles the palate of the mouth in its place, when it is fallen down. It cleanses and heals ulcers in the mouth or secret parts, and is very good for inward wounds, and to close the tips of green wounds, and to heal old, moist, and corrupt running sores in the legs or elsewhere. Being bruised and applied to the soles of the feet and handwrists, it wonderfully cools the hot fits of agues, be they never so violent. The distilled water cleanses the skin of all discolourings therein, as morphew, sun-burnings, &c. as also pimples, freckles, and the like; and dropped into the eyes, or cloths wet therein and applied, takes away the heat and inflammations in them.”
   In more recent medicine it has been found that tansy possesses potent antioxidant properties, probably due to the phenolic compounds and flavonoids in the plant. It has also been the subject of research as an antiviral herb and it may be a treatment for the herpes simplex virus. (Wiley - Blackwell (2011, February 22). Old folk remedy revived: How tansy may be a treatment for herpes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 28, 2012)
  The tisane below may be used for colds, stomach pains, cramps, and also it has been used in the past to get rid of children’s intestinal worms, especially effective when combined with wormwood. However that was probably a stronger infusion than the one here. For a stomach ache you can combine tansy with chamomile too.
  The young leaves of tansy yield a green dye while a combination of leaves and flowers produce a yellow one. For medicinal use the leaves and flowers should be collected when the plant is in flower during June through to September, and then dried for later use. The flowers were used to flavour Chartreuse.

1 tsp dried herb, leaves only or leaves and flowers OR
1 tbsp fresh herb
1 cup boiling water
a little honey to taste

Pour the boiling water over the herb and leave to steep for 10 minutes.
Strain, flavour with honey and drink twice a day only for colds and stomach cramps.
This has Taste and is a Treat(ment).

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