Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Also known as: bitter buttons, hindheal, bachelor buttons, scented fern, Johnson's remedy, cheese, wurmkraut, ginger plant, parlsey fern, stinking willie, alecost, costmary, bible leaf
Parts used: leaves, blossoms
Meridians/Organs effected: digestive, circulatory, reproductive, hepatic, respiratory
Properties: anthelmintic, tonic, emmenogogue, diaphoretic, stimulant, diuretic, nervine, vulnerary, aromatic, stomachic, antispasmodic, carminative
Tansy is a member of the Sunflower family. It is a stout perennial with deeply divided segmented leaves and bright yellow button like flowers that bloom from July to September. It can get up to 6 feet tall and is very aromatic. It grows along ditches, roadsides, pastures, public parks, vacant lots, meadows, dumps, etc. It does well in compact soil with a high pH level and full sun.
Tansy has been used for thousands of years-both as a culinary and a medicinal agent. There are recipes dating back to the 1400's for this herb. It was most commonly used during Easter for cakes, cookies, omelets and salad. The ancient Egyptians used it as part of their embalming process which was carried on to other cultures. It was also packed in coffins to repel insects and delay putrefaction before funerals. It was scattered on floors to repel insects and to freshen the air after feasting. It was also used under mattresses, between blankets and clothing and around food to kill or repel insects there. It has been used in dried floral arrangements and can still be found used that way today. They would also make a strong tea from tansy and use it in the garden to kill insects and as a headwash for lice or scabies. The tea was also used for rheumatism, indigestion, menstrual difficulties, nerve pain, lack of appetite, gout, migraines, jaundice and hysteria. The oil of the plant is high in thujone and in the past has caused miscarriages or been used for abortions. As such this plant has been banned by the FDA. It should not be used by pregnant women for this reason as it stimulates the uterus.
Tansy is a native of Europe. It was brought to the usa and cultivated here by John Winthrop's Plymouth colony in 1631. Its Greek name 'Athanasia' means 'immortal'. Probably one of the reasons they used it for embalming. It was also used to preserve meat (was rubbed on the meat) to keep the flies away. By the 17th century it became one of the bitter herbs partaken of at Passover. The tea from the leaves was commonly used in Europe for flatulence, sore throat, dyspepsia, jaundice and inflammation. Some studies have shown that it can help to relieve intestinal discomfort, reduce blood lipid levels, kill bacteria and fungi, fight intestinal worms, combat tumors, stimulate bile, influence blood sugar levels and enhance one's resistance to encephalitis. Most modern establishments consider it to be a poison and won't use it. I say 'More for Me!'
Tansy was once also used to make an ointment for bruises, burns due to gunpowder blasts and for parasite infestations. It is best gathered between July and August between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. when it is in full bloom.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your own benefit. Use them as you deem necessary. Happy healthy living!