A member of the compositae family has diagnostic yellow flowers similar in form to dandelions, but much more compact and lacking rays flowers. The flowers appear in heads in late summer and early autumn. They smell somewhat like camphor. The foliage is fern-like and the leaves are alternate, deeply lobed, and about 6 inches long. The whole plant grows to about 2-3 feet tall.
Tansy is a European native that was brought by colonists for its important properties. It has naturalized and now grows wild across much of the US.
History and Folklore
The name of this plant may have derived from the Greek word Athanaton meaning immortal. According to legend, it was given to Ganymede to make him immortal.
Tansy was once used as an embalming herb and to preserve meat. It was also used as a strewing herb because it helps to deter pests.
This is a very invasive plant that will grow in just about any soil in zones 4 through 8. It has its own pest control constituents and isn’t bothered by most insects, but the tansy beetle lives exclusively on this plant.
The plant is usually cut off near the root at the first sign of flowers in August and then hung upside down to dry. Don’t’ feel bad. It’s a perennial and will come back. If you let it go to seed it will take over your garden, and the neighbors’.
Young leaves can be gathered in spring for flavoring egg dishes.
Tansy is sacred to Mary. It is also associated with immortality and eternal youth and is sacred to both Hebe and Ganymede. Its further association with death makes it suitable for honoring all Gods and Goddesses associated with death and rebirth.
Tansy is used in spells, charms and potions for longevity.
Tansy oil has been used to dress the dead, and wreaths of tansy are suitable funeral decorations.
Egg dishes made with tansy are good for Ostara and dairy dishes thus flavored are good for Imbolc.
Tansy was once rubbed on meat to prevent flies from landing on it. It can be employed in the same way with garbage cans. They will also repel ants when planted around the area you wish to protect. Planting tansy next to potatoes will protect them from potato beetles. Tansy oil will also repel mosquitoes.
Tansy may be used for expelling worms, one ounce of herb steeped in one pint of hot water drunk as a tea twice a day. This same remedy is employed for kidney and nervous troubles and low-grade fevers. It is also said to calm the stomach and relieve gas. In large doses, however, it is very irritating to the stomach and digestive systems. Excessive doses have produced seizures and uterine bleeding. Use on a regular basis causes organ degeneration.
An infusion of tansy is a useful wash for scabies, eczema and fungal infections.
Tansy cake and puddings made from the young leaves were once traditional fare at the end of Lent and was considered very wholesome food to eat after fasting for religious purposes, or the forced fasting of a long winter.
Young leaves of tansy are excellent for flavoring egg dishes for Ostara and diary dishes for Imbolc.
Tansy is related to ragweed. If you have hay fever, use caution with tansy.
Tansy is not safe to use during pregnancy.
Tansy should not be used for extended periods of time.
Do not confuse tansy with tansy ragwort which has ray flowers and does not have sharp-toothed leaves. Tansy ragwort is toxic, not mildly toxic like tansy, but really toxic.