- Tanacetum vulgare (Tansy) Herb Plant
- Tansy and Its Many Uses
- Tansy Seeds – Golden Buttons Herb Seed
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Tanacetum vulgare (Tansy) Herb Plant
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) Herb in 1 Litre Pot
Tansy or Tanacetum vulgare, is a decorative and pungent hardy perennial that was once important medicinally but is now seldom used. Tansy can grow to a height of 60-120 cm in dry, stony soil and a sunny site, Tansy will produce a beautiful display of finely divided compound leaves which are a rich green, and clusters of bright yellow button-like flowers held above on long stems in late summer (July-Sept). Tansy is also attractive to bees and butterflies as it is a good source of nectar, so is a welcome addition in the herbaceous border as well as the herb garden.
Tansy is an easy-going plant that thrives, in most positions except where very wet it likes good drainage, it makes an excellent container plant when grown in a large pot and kept well-watered in summer. It can self-seed or be divided in late Spring or Autumn it can spread quite vigorously but can be controlled by pulling up unwanted rhizomes.
Tansy has a strong aromatic flavour, similar to Rosemary and therefore can be used with meat like rosemary. The leaves can also be stewed with rhubarb or used to flavour sausages, omlettes, or stuffing. Many consider Tansy to be useful as a natural insect repellent, the leaves and flowers can be dried and hung in bouquets to ward flies out of the kitchen and moths out of the clothes cupboard! Can also be used in a pot-pourri for the same purpose. The flowers can be dried for arrangements and have also been used to produce a yellow/orange dye.
Warning: Tansy should not be eaten any time during pregnancy
Buy Tansy Online
Our potted Tansy Herb Plants are generally available to buy online between March and September
Tansy and Its Many Uses
Tansy is the common name for the flowering plant species known as Tanacetum vulgare L. If you live in the U.S., Canada, or Europe, there’s a pretty good chance you can find this plant in local environments such as pastures, rural roadsides, stream banks and fence lines. Tansy has a long history of use as a medicinal herb, pesticide, ornamental flower, and preservative. However, the plant is also toxic to human beings and livestock, and as a result, it has been largely excluded from modern herbal and medicinal guides.
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In addition to tansy, T. vulgare L. is known by a variety of other names, including golden buttons, garden tansy, scented fern, parsley fern, and, my personal favorite, stinking Willie. It belongs to the aster family, and also has the alternate scientific name Chrysanthemum vulgare L.
Although the plant was originally found only in Europe, its long history of use led to its cultivation and intentional spread to the U.S. and Canada. The only states in the U.S. that don’t have a significant tansy population are Texas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama.
In late summer, you can identify tansies by the camphor-like scent of their leaves, as well by their button-shaped yellow flowers, which grow in flattened clusters from a straight, leafy stalk that’s roughly two to three feet tall. The plants differ in several ways from a similarly named species, called tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobea), which is also toxic and found in pasture-like environments. In a garden setting, tansy grows relatively easily in any temperate environment. It’s also fairly drought-resistant and can flourish in soils with a fairly wide range of pH values.
Historical Medicinal Uses
Medicinal use of tansy goes back at least as far as the ancient Greeks. Since that time, internal preparations of the plant’s leaves and tops have been used for purposes that include:
- Purging parasitic intestinal worms from children
- Increasing female fertility
- Reducing the chances for a miscarriage
- Reducing intestinal gas
- Easing stomach distress and intestinal spasms
- Reducing the frequency of epileptic seizures
- Relieving anxiety, “hysteria” or nervousness
- Reducing low-grade fevers
- Easing the effects of the arthritic condition called gout
External preparations of the plant have been used for purposes that include:
- Relief of rheumatoid arthritis
- Relief of skin eruptions
- Treatment of sprained joints
Tansy’s Use in the Garden
Most gardeners now grow tansy for ornamental purposes as a border plant or more casual planting. However, tansy has a variety of additional uses that can be adapted to your home garden/farming environment. One of the best things the plant can do for your garden is improve the viability of your soil by increasing its potassium content. The plant can also improve the viability of specific plants growing in your garden or on your farm. For instance, when planted together with potato plants, tansies can significantly reduce or entirely eliminate the presence of a damaging beetle species called the Colorado potato beetle. Tansy achieves this effect because Colorado potato beetles don’t like certain aromatic substances found in the oil in the plant’s interior.
Other plants that are helped in one way or another by the close presence of tansy include corn, squash, roses, beans and peppers, as well as raspberries and various other kinds of fruit. Other insect species that are deterred by the presence of tansy include squash bugs, striped cucumber beetles, Japanese beetles, sugar ants, moths, Ichmeumoid wasps, and fleas. Mice also tend to stay away from areas planted with tansy. In addition, certain insects are deterred by tansy oil extracts, including mosquitoes, greenhouse whiteflies, cabbage aphids, flour beetles, and spider mites.
Additional Modern and Historical Uses
Cut tansy has relatively strong benefits as a preservative, and it was commonly used in the original U.S. colonies to prevent spoilage in meat and other goods that decayed easily. Modern researchers have verified the effectiveness of this usage, and have identified tansy’s ability to kill or inhibit various types of bacteria and fungi, including Escherichia coli (E. coli), Candida krusei, and Bacillus subtilis.
The use of tansy as an ornamental flower quite possibly dates all the way back to funeral services held by the ancient Greeks. Colonial Americans also sometimes used tansies when making funeral wreaths and funeral shrouds. The plant is still commonly used in dried form for ornamental purposes. In addition, you can use tansy as a source of dye for non-synthetic clothing or other textile products.
Lastly, Medieval Europeans used tansy in their diets as:
- A substitute for cinnamon or nutmeg in certain recipes
- An ingredient in certain baked goods
- A main ingredient in a pudding served during Lent
- The main ingredient in a form of tea
Potential Problems With Medicinal Use
Tansy contains chemicals known to be toxic to humans and grazing livestock. If you eat whole fresh or dried preparations of the plant, you will probably not be in any immediate physical danger unless you consume it in very high amounts. However, the toxic effects of tansy build up in your system over time, and if you regularly use large amounts the plant, you can eventually go into convulsions and/or die. You can also die if you drink significant amounts of tansy tea or consume ten or more drops of concentrated tansy oil.
In addition to convulsions, potential symptoms of tansy poisoning include:
- Abnormal or uncontrolled bleeding from your uterus
- Intense forms of a stomach inflammation called gastritis
- Spasms that cause major uncontrolled muscle movements
- A pulse that’s unusually fast and/or unusually faint
If tansy comes into regular or extended contact with your skin, it can produce an allergic condition called contact dermatitis. Potential symptoms of this condition include moderate to severe itching in the affected skin, pain, a burning sensation, and the formation of a rash that features scaly or thickened skin, raised red bumps that sometimes turn into blisters, drainage of fluid from those blisters, and unusual skin tenderness or warmth.
Common areas for the onset of tansy-related contact dermatitis include your hands, fingers, forearms, and face. In addition to direct contact with tansy, you can develop contact dermatitis if you use natural products that contain tansy as one of their ingredients, including shampoos, soaps, or cosmetics. You may have heightened risks for developing a tansy allergy if you have an allergy to chrysanthemums or other members of the Aster family of plants.
Because of the problems associated with ingesting or touching tansy, the plant is no longer commonly used as an herbal medicinal remedy. Also, because of its limited medicinal use in modern times, there is no current reliable dosing information on tansy, and doctors don’t know much about its interactions with other herbal preparations, or with supplements or medications. In addition, while we have plenty of anecdotal information on the ways in which tansy was used medicinally in the past, researchers have not conducted many clinical trials to verify the plant’s effects in our bodies. All in all, it’s best to stay away from medicinal preparations of the plant, especially if you’re pregnant or nursing.
Potential Problems With Garden Use
While the species has clear aesthetic and practical value in your garden, it’s also quite prolific, and can easily grow out of control. In fact, many government agricultural agencies view the plant primarily as an invasive weed species and go to considerable lengths to keep its presence under control. If you use tansy in your garden, make sure to plant it carefully and monitor its spread. It roots itself very easily in any disturbed or broken ground, so be especially cautious when planting near this type of environment. Also make sure to keep any pets or grazing animals away from the plant.
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Botanical: Tanacetum vulgare (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
- Parts Used
- Medicinal Action and Uses
- Preparations and Dosages
- Steadman Shorter’s Medical Dictionary, 1942, Poisons & Antidotes: Tansy Oil
—Habitat—Tansy, a composite plant very familiar in our hedgerows and waste places, is a hardy perennial, widely spread over Europe. —Description—The stem is erect and leafy, about 2 to 3 feet high, grooved and angular. The leaves are alternate, much cut into, 2 to 6 inches long and about 4 inches wide. The plant is conspicuous in August and September by its heads of round, flat, dull yellow flowers, growing in clusters, which earn it the name of ‘Buttons.’ It has a very curious, and not altogether disagreeable odour, somewhat like camphor.
It is often naturalized in our gardens for ornamental cultivation. 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.
—Cultivation—Tansy will thrive in almost any soil and may be increased, either in spring or autumn, by slips or by dividing the creeping roots, which if permitted to remain undisturbed, will, in a short time, overspread the ground. When transplanting the slips or portions of root, place therefore at least a foot apart.
The name Tansy is probably derived from the Greek Athanaton (immortal), either, says Dodoens, because it lasts so long in flower or, as Ambrosius thought, because it is capital for preserving dead bodies from corruption. It was said to have been given to Ganymede to make him immortal.
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 favour as a ‘Strewing Herb’ because it was said to be effectual in keeping flies away, particularly if mixed with elder leaves.
Parkinson grew Tansy amongst other aromatic and culinary herbs in his garden.
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. These Tansy cakes were made from the young leaves of the plant, mixed with eggs, and were thought to purify the humours of 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 . . . though many understand it not, and some simple people take it for a matter of superstition to do so.’
‘This balsamic plant,’ says Boerhaave (the Danish physician), ‘will supply the place of nutmegs and cinnamon,’ and the young leaves, shredded, serve as a flavouring for puddings and omelets. Gerard tells us that Tansy Teas were highly esteemed in Lent as well as Tansy puddings.
From an old cookery book:
‘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.’
Culpepper says: ‘Of Tansie. The root eaten, is a singular remedy for the gout: the rich may bestow the cost to preserve it.’
Cows and sheep eat Tansy, but horses, goats and hogs refuse to touch it, and if meat be rubbed with this plant, flies will not attack it. In Sussex, at one time, Tansy leaves had the reputation of curing ague, if placed in the shoes.
The Finlanders employ it in dyeing green.
—Parts Used—The leaves and tops. The plant is cut off close above the root, when first coming into flower in August.
—Medicinal Action and Uses—Anthelmintic, tonic, stimulant, emmenagogue.
Tansy is largely used for expelling worms in children, the infusion of 1 OZ. to a pint of boiling water being taken in teacupful doses, night and morning, fasting.
It is also valuable in hysteria and in kidney weaknesses, the same infusion being taken in wineglassful doses, repeated frequently. It forms an excellent and safe emmenagogue, and is of good service in low forms of fever, in ague and hysterical and nervous affections. As a diaphoretic nervine it is also useful.
In moderate doses, the plant and its essential oil are stomachic and cordial, being anti-flatulent and serving to allay spasms.
In large doses, it becomes a violent irritant, and induces venous congestion of the abdominal organs.
In Scotland, an infusion of the dried flowers and seeds (1/2 to 1 teaspoonful, two or three 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.
From 1 to 4 drops of the essential oil may be safely given in cases of epilepsy, but excessive doses have produced seizures.
Tansy has been used externally with benefit for some eruptive diseases of the skin, and the green leaves, pounded and applied, will relieve sprains and allay the swelling.
A hot infusion, as a fomentation to sprained and rheumatic parts, will in like manner give relief.
—Preparations and Dosages—Fluid extract, 1/2 to 2 drachms. Solid extract, 5 to 10 grains.
In the fourteenth century we hear of Tansy being used as a remedy for wounds, and as a bitter tonic, and Tansy Tea has an old reputation in country districts for fever and other illnesses.
Gerard also tells us that cakes were made of the young leaves in the spring, mixed with eggs, ‘which be pleasant in taste and good for the stomache; for if bad humours cleave thereunder, it doth perfectly concoct them and carry them off. The roote, preserved in honie, or sugar, is an especiall thing against the gout, if everie day for a certaine space, a reasonable quantitie thereof be eaten fasting.’ See COSTMARY.
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Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) Seeds
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Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) Plants
Silver Tansy (Tanacetum niveum ‘Jackpot’) Plants
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Tansy Seeds – Golden Buttons Herb Seed
USDA Zones: 3 – 9
Height: 24 – 36 inches
Bloom Season: Summer
Bloom Color: Yellow
Environment: Full sun to partial shade
Soil Type: Moist, well-drained soil of average fertility
Temperature: 68F – if no germination in 3 – 4 wks, move to 24 – 39F for 2 – 4 wks
Average Germ Time: 21 – 28 days
Light Required: Yes
Depth: Surface sow and thinly cover
Sowing Rate: 5 – 7 seeds per plant
Moisture: Keep seeds moist until germination
Plant Spacing: 24 – 36 inches
Tansy (Tanacetum Vulgare) – Start Tansy seeds and grow the commonly known plant Golden Buttons or Common Tansy. Common Tansy herb plants grow to two to three feet tall with small yellow button-like flowers. The Tansy leaves are used dry to make dyes and many forms of insect repellents. This is an herb plant grown from herb seeds that you DO NOT eat. You can harvest Tansy leaves anytime. For best quality, always harvest in the morning after the dew has dried. You can pick the flowers in the afternoon from midsummer to fall when they are almost fully open. Don’t use Tansy in cooking, even though you may find older recipes that may include it. Tansy herb may cause illness when taken internally.
Today, the medicinal properties formerly attributed to Tansy have been largely discredited, although it is still in use as an effective insect repellent and can be an asset in the garden as a companion plant for cucumbers, squash, roses and some berries to help keep the plants pest-free.
How To Grow Common Tansy: Start Tansy seeds directly outdoors once frost danger has passed. Lightly cover the herb seeds and keep them moist. Golden Buttons plants self-sow abundantly by dropping its seeds. It’s best to keep the spent flowers deadheaded in order to keep the Common Tansy herb plants from spreading too aggressively. The herb plants need about an inch of moisture every week.
Scientific Name: Tanacetum vulgare
Common Names: Tansy, Common Tansy, Bitter Buttons, Golden Buttons, Cow Bitter
Family: Asteraceae (Daisy)
Tansy is native to temperate regions of Europe and Asia.
The scented foliage of tansy helps to repel harmful insects from the garden while the yellow flowers may help to attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs to the garden. Tansy is sometimes used as a companion plant for cucumbers, squash and other cucurbits as it helps to repel many of their pests such as cucumber beetles and squash bugs. The dried flowers retain their yellow colour in floral arrangements and can even be used to make a yellow dye. Tansy leaves contains high levels of potassium which when added to compost piles can help speed up decomposition if this nutrient is at low levels. Dried tansy is used by some bee-keepers as fuel in bee smokers to subdue bees during hive maintenance.
Plant tansy in a location that receives full sun or light shade, in warmer climates a lightly shaded location is preferred as plants may become heat stressed in full sun. Tansy bushes that have become too scraggly can be cut back hard in early Spring when new growth has started to sprout. Tansy is a perennial and will keep growing back for many years. Tansy may self-sow and spread aggressively through the garden in optimal conditions, deadhead spent flowers regularly if this becomes a problem.
When To Sow:
In cold and mountainous regions of Australia sow tansy seeds from early Spring to early Summer. In temperate regions of Australia sow tansy seeds from late Winter to mid Summer. In subtropical and tropical areas of Australia sow tansy seeds from early Autumn to early Winter.
How To Sow:
Surface sow Tansy seeds and cover lightly by sprinkling growing medium over the seeds. Do not bury the seeds too deeply as they require some light to reach them in order to germinate. Press down gently to ensure good contact between the moist growing medium and the seeds, this helps to prevent them drying out between waterings. Space plants about 20cm apart to allow them room to grow.
Tansy seeds can be slow to germinate, taking between 20 and 30 days to emerge depending on soil temperatures.
Time To Flowering:
Expect your tansy plants to begin flowering from about a year after sowing.