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Common Tansy - Tanacetum vulgare

[IFBC-E-flora] [E-flora]


  • Allergen: Contact dermatitis and allergic rhinitis are common in people with hypersensitivity to Asteraceae plants. Airborn pollen exposure can also result in allergic responses. Though there are no case reports, the presence of thujone, camphor, and other monterpene compounds could suggest a possibility of seizures in the event that large doses of essential oil are used.[TNS]
  • Toxic in Excess: "The plant is poisonous if large quantities are ingested[20, 21, 76]. There have been cases of death in N. America from drinking strong brews of the tea, presumably as an abortifacient[207].[PFAF]The essential oil in the leaves is toxic and as little as 1/2oz can kill an adult[21, 222]."[PFAF] "Internal administration of the drug in allopathic dosages is to be avoided." [PDR] The lethal dosage is approximately 15–30g oil & 1150 mg/kg orl. 10 drops of oil is potentially deadly.[HMH Duke]
  • Abortifacient: Not to be consumed during pregnancy. [PDR][PFAF] and lactation [HMH Duke]


  • Garnish: "The flowers have a unique flavour and are eaten or used as a garnish[183]." [PFAF]
  • Spice: "The plant is also used as a flavouring, it is a substitute for nutmeg and cinnamon[12, 27, 37, 55, 115]. This plant is not recommended for internal use[200]." [PFAF] The leaves are pefectly edible, though very bitter and little is needed to flavor a salad. Added to traditional puddings.[DPL Watts]
  • Tea: "Made into a bitter, somewhat lemon-flavoured tea[183]." [PFAF]
    • PFAF User Comment: "I have for years harvested the dry, ripe seeds of T. vulgare, removing them from the florets with a pointed object starting in September (after they turn black). The seeds, briefly infused with boiling water (for about 3 minutes) and served a little sweetened make a delicious and refreshing tea-like beverage. Subject to warnings concerning toxicity in large amounts, I can recommend tansy to all tea lovers." [PFAF]
  • Young Leaflets: "Raw or cooked[5, 7, 13, 52, 53]. They can be added in small quantities to salads[183]."[PFAF]

Other Uses

  • Compost: "The plant is a good addition to the compost heap, being valued for its mineral content[200]."[PFAF]
  • Cosmetic: "When laid to soak in buttermilk, tansy had the reputation of "making the complexion very fair"", meaning it was used to remove sunburn.[DPL Watts]
  • Dye: "A green dye is obtained from the young shoots[4, 115]. The leaves and flowers can also be used and a yellow can also be obtained[169]."[PFAF] Gives a brilliant yellow dye that s very difficult to fix.[DPL Watts]
  • Repellent: "The plant is used as a strewing herb in cellars, churches etc in order to repel insects[4, 14, 20, 61, 201, 238]. Both the growing and the dried plant are said to repel flies, ants and fleas, especially if they are mixed with elder leaves (Sambucus spp.)[4, 12, 14, 18, 200, 201]."[PFAF] "The leaves and the flowering shoots contain 0.15% of an essential oil that contains camphor, borneol and thujone[7, 213]. Both the leaves and the oil and they have been used to kill fleas and lice[213]. Thujone is an effective insecticide, but it is highly toxic to mammals when taken in excess[238]."[PFAF]

Medicinal Uses

  • Leaves & Flowering Tops: "The leaves and flowering tops are anthelmintic, antispasmodic, bitter, carminative, emmenagogue, stimulant and tonic[4, 7, 9, 21, 46, 165]."[PFAF]
  • Seeds: "The seeds are used as an anthelmintic[207]." [PFAF]



General Growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 1.5 m (5ft) at a fast rate.[PFAF] glabrous to sparsely hairy.[IFBC][E-flora]
Lifecycle Perennial.[E-flora][PFAF]
Flowers Hairy at the base; ray flowers lacking; marginal flowers glandular, 3-lobed; disk flowers yellow, 5-toothed into rounded lobes, sparsely glandular.[IFBC] [E-flora] heads golden or tawny, many in a corymbose inflorescence.[HNW] Flower heads 20-200. Small disk flower buttons.[WildPNW]

Fruits Achenes squared off at top, 5-angled.[IFBC] [E-flora]
Leaves "Basal leaves lacking; stem leaves alternate".[IFBC][E-flora] Coarsely dissected pinnate leaves.[PSW] Deeply divided into numerous narrow, toothed segments. [WeedsW] Leaves 1-2 in. wide, dotted with glands but hairless.[WildPNW]
Stem Stout and erect. [HNW] "Stems are 1 1/2 to 6 feet tall."[WeedsW]
Root Stout rhizome.[IFBC][E-flora] Rhizomatous.[HNW] forming dense colonies. [WildPNW]
Properties Strong disagreeable odor.[PCBC2004] Pungent odor.[WildPNW]
Habitat A common plant of waste ground, hedgerows etc[17].[PFAF] "Mesic to dry roadsides, fields, and disturbed areas...".[IFBC][E-flora] "Roadsides, railway embankments and other disturbed areas."[PCBC2004]
Range Most of Europe, including Britain, to the Caucasus, Armenia and Siberia. [PFAF] "common in BC south of 55degreeN; introduced from Europe."[IFBC][E-flora] It "is common at low elevations in the southern half of the region and sporadic further north." [PCBC2004]
Status Exotic. [E-flora]
Similar Species
1. Heads disciform, numerous, usually 20-200.......................T. vulgare
1. Heads with ray and disk flowers, few to many, usually less than 20
2. Rays flowers white; leaves once or twice pinnately divided, the relatively broad segments often overlapping.......................T. parthenium
2. Rays flowers yellow; leaves twice to three times pinnately divided, the segments not at all overlapping........................T. bipinnatum [IFBC][E-flora]
Notes listed as one of the top fourteen species of concern by the Coastal Invasive Plant Committee.[E-flora]

Dune Tansy, Tanacetum bipnnatum is a native species found infrequently in sand dunes along coastal B.C., south to California.[IFBC][E-flora-2]


Tansy is a commonly grown domestic remedy, useful in treating a wide range of complaints, though it is little used in modern herbalism[4, 254]. Its main value is as a vermifuge to expel intestinal worms and, to a lesser degree, to help stimulate menstrual bleeding[254]. Tansy should be used with caution, however, it is possibly unsafe for internal use, especially if you are pregnant[238]. [PFAF]

An infusion of the leaves or whole plant is used to treat menstrual irregularities and as an anthelmintic, especially for children[4, 213]. It is also valuable in treating hysteria, kidney weaknesses, stomach problems, fevers and also as an emmenagogue[4]. In larger doses the plant can procure an abortion, though these doses can be poisonous[213]. Externally, tansy is used as a poultice on swellings and some eruptive skin diseases[4]. It is also used externally to kill lice, fleas and scabies, though even external use of the plant carries the risk of toxicity[254]. The plant is harvested as it is coming into flower and is dried for later use[4].[PFAF]

Liver & Gallbladder: Teas and ethanolic extracts clinically stimulate bile in patients with gallbladder and liver problems, increasing appetite and digestion while alleviating pain. I frequently include tansy in my after dinner herbal liqueur, but don’t recommend it to anyone else. [HMH Duke]

Once used to preserve dead bodies from corruption, to prevent flies from landing on meat, and to discourage vermin. Used as a strewing herb.[DPL Watts]

Gout: Gypsies used a hot fomentation or an infusion to treat grout. In Scotland, the dried flowers were the part used.[DPL Watts]
Colds: Flower tea. [DPL Watts]
Fevers: Leaf tea. Also used for nervous afflictions. [DPL Watts]
Tonic: For all heart weaknesses, coughs and chest complaints. [DPL Watts]
Ague: A sprig was placed in boots to prevent ague. The oil from the flower heads is still applied topically to treat rheumatism and the flowers are made into a poultice for sprains. [DPL Watts]
Poultice: A bruised and moistened tansy poultice was used to relieve the pain from dog bites. In Ireland it's boiled in unsalted butter, strained and stored for later use on wounds.[DPL Watts]
Veterinary: The dried, powdered leaves were added to horse feed, now and then, to make the horses coats shine. For treating red water, the entire plant was boiled and poured down a cows throat.[DPL Watts]


Tansy Oil: The thujone-type oil is antimicrobial, anthelmintic, and repellent to various insects.[PDR]

Abortifacient (1; CRC; PHR; PH2);[HMH Duke]
Analgesic (1; APA; CAN);[HMH Duke]
Anthelmintic. - Young tops & Seed[DPL Watts]
Antibacterial (1; APA; TAD);[HMH Duke]
Antiedemic (f; PH2);[HMH Duke]
Antiencephalitic (1; APA);[HMH Duke]
Antifeedant (1; HH3);[HMH Duke]
Antiseptic (1; DEM; FNF; HH3; PH2);[HMH Duke]

Antispasmodic (1; APA; CAN; MAD);[HMH Duke]
Antitumor (1; APA; CAN; CRC);[HMH Duke]
Antiulcer (1; PH2);[HMH Duke]
Antiviral (1; APA);[HMH Duke]
Aperitif (1; APA; CAN; MAD);[HMH Duke]

Ascaricide (1; CRC; WOI);[HMH Duke]
Bitter (1; PNC);[HMH Duke]
Carminative (f; CAN);[HMH Duke]
Choleretic (1; APA; CAN);[HMH Duke]
Contraceptive (f; DEM);[HMH Duke]
Dermatitigenic (1; APA);[HMH Duke]
Diaphoretic (f; CRC; DEM);[HMH Duke]
Digestive (1; CAN);[HMH Duke]
Emmenagogue (1; APA; PNC); [HMH Duke]

Enterotonic (1; CAN);[HMH Duke]
Fungicide (1; APA; TAD);[HMH Duke]
Hypocholesterolemic (1; CAN); [HMH Duke]
Immunostimulant (1; APA);[HMH Duke]
Insecticide (1; CRC);[HMH Duke][DPL Watts]
Insectifuge (1; APA; PH2; TAD); [HMH Duke]

Lipolytic (f; APA); [HMH Duke]
Narcotic (f; CRC); [HMH Duke]
Nephrotonic (f; GMH); [HMH Duke]
Nervine (f; CRC);[HMH Duke]
Pain (1; APA; CAN);[HMH Duke]
Phototoxic (1; PH2);[HMH Duke]
Pulicide (f; CRC);[HMH Duke]
Sedative (f; CRC); [HMH Duke]
Stimulant (f; CRC);[HMH Duke]
Stomachic (f; CRC; MAD);[HMH Duke]
Swelling (f; PH2);[HMH Duke]
Tonic (1; DEM; PNC); [HMH Duke]
Uterotonic (1; AHP); [HMH Duke]
Vermifuge (1; APA; CRC; PHR; PH2);[HMH Duke]

Vulnerary (f; CRC).[HMH Duke]


Tansy Flower & Herb
Volatile oil "(0.5 to 0.9% in the foliage, 0.8 to 1.8% in the blossoms): constituents of the volatile oil vary greatly according to variety. The following could appear as main constituents:" [PDR]

  • "Artemisia ketone, (-)-thujone.-(+)-isothujone, 1,8-cineole, alpha-pinene, alpha-terpinyl acetate, borneol, bornyl acetate, davanone, germacrene D, L-camphor (+)umbellulone, camphor, lyratol (+) lyratol acetate, piperitone, sabinene, thuj-4-en-2-ylacetate (+) trans-Carveyl acetate, trans-chrysanthenol (+) trans-chrysanthenyl acetate, umbellulone, as well as (+)-vulgarol A (8%), vulgaron B (up to 12%). Hybrid varieties exist." [PDR]
  • "Sesquiterpenes: sesquiterpene lactones, including crispolid, deacetyl crispolid, tatridins A and B, tavulin, artemorin, parthenolide (in some varieties), reynosine, armefoline, dentatin A, santamarin, chrysanthemine." [PDR]
  • "Flavonoids: including cosmosiin, apigenin-7-O-glycoside, cynaroside, luteolin-7-O-glucoside, quercimetrin, eupatilin, acacetin-7-glucobioside."[PDR]
  • "Hydroxycoumarins: including scopoletin." [PDR]
  • "Polyynes: including diterthiophene, triterthiophene (phototoxic)."[PDR]

Tansy Oil
"Constituents of the volatile oil vary greatly according to variety. The following could appear as chief constituents: artemisia ketone, (-Hhujone, (+)-isothujone, 1,8-cineole, alpha-pinene, alpha-terpinyl acetate, borneol, bornyl acetate, davanone, germacrene D, L-camphor (+) umbellulone, L-.camphor, lyratol (+) lyratol acetate, piperitone, sabinene, thuj-4-en-2-ylacetate (+) trans-carvyl acetate, trans-chrysanthenol (+) trans-chrysanthenyl acetate, umbellulone, among others. Hybrid varieties exist."[PDR]


Cultivation: "Succeeds in an ordinary garden soil[1]. Plants thrive in almost any soil[4]. Tansy is occasionally grown in the herb garden, though a site for growing this plant should be selected with care since it usually spreads very aggressively at the roots[4, 14]. There are some named varieties[238]. 'Fernleaf' is a more decorative compact form to about 75cm, it does not spread so quickly. A good plant to grow in the orchard, when grown under fruit trees, raspberries, roses etc it repels insects from them[201]."[PFAF]


"Seed - sow spring in a greenhouse. Only just cover the seed and do not allow the pot to dry out. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and plant out in the summer. Division is very simple at almost any time in the growing season, though spring is probably best. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the summer or the following spring."[PFAF]

Tanacetum parthenium - Feverfew
Range: Frequent in SW BC, rare in E BC; introduced from Europe.[IFBC] [E-flora-2]
Habitat: Mountain scrub, rocky slopes, walls, waste places and a weed of gardens, avoiding acid soils[9]. S.E. Europe to Asia. Naturalized in Britain[17].[PFAF] dry roadsides, disturbed areas and gardens [IFBC] [E-flora-2]
Status: Exotic.[IFBC] [E-flora-2]

Feverfew has gained a good reputation as a medicinal herb and extensive research since 1970 has proved it to be of special benefit in the treatment of certain types of migraine headaches and rheumatism[238, K]. It is also thought of as a herb for treating arthritis and rheumatism[254]. [PFAF] "It has been used in cold infusion as a general tonic, and a cold infusion of the flowers as a sedative. Perhaps it is best known in country medicine as a painkiller. Evidently, all that had to be done was to boil the plant in water, and drink the resulting liquid." [DPL Watts] "The herb is also used as a wash for inflammation and wounds, as a tranquilizer, an antiseptic, and following tooth extraction as a mouthwash. The infusion is used for dysmenorrhea."[PDR]

Pytochemistry: "Sesquiterpene lactones, especially parthenolide, are the active compounds in Feverfew." Contains 0.75% of a volatile oil.[PDR]
Preparation: "To make an infusion, use 2 teaspoonfuls of the drug per cup, allow to draw for 15 minutes. To make a strong infusion, double the amount and allow to draw for 25 minutes."[PDR]


The information presented on this site is provided for educational purposes. Self diagnosis and treatment, without due diligence, could be harmful and is not encouraged. Some information & images may be copyright. Every effort has been made to present the information in the spirit with which it was originally presented. Some data has been omitted for legal and/or practical consideration. There is some data not covered in the scope of this project, including, but not limited to, cell culture and large-dose animal studies. I have made comparisons and links between related species which may later prove erroneous. I have not verified the information for accuracy and I accept no responsibility for its authenticity. Many of the plants presented are poisonous, have poisonous properties, or could cause illness through misuse, allergic reaction, drug interactions and environmental contaminants. Please use caution and mindfulness when harvesting plants for any use.

Page last modified on 14-08-2016