Scientific Name(S): Tanacetum vulgare L. also referred to as Chrysanthemum vulgare (L.) Bernh. Family: Compositae
Common Name(S): Tansy, scented fern, stinking willie, bitter buttons, parsley fern. Not to be confused with other plants referred to as "tansy" such as the tansy ragworts (Senecio sp).
The Tansy or Common Tansy ( Tanacetum vulgare ) is a perennial herbaceous flowering plant native to temperate Europe and Asia .
It is a strong-scented herb with finely divided compound leaves and yellow, buttonlike flowers.
Botany: The tansy is a popular plant which grows throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. This hardy, aromatic, perennial plant grows erect to about 3 feet. It has feathery, dark-green, narrow lance-shaped leaves that grow alternately around the stem. The top blooms as a dense cluster of small yellow flowers from July to October. Patches of the plant may continue growing for years and the name tansy is said to be derived from the Greek word for immortality, "athanasia." Thought to impart immortality, the herb was used for embalming.
History: The tansy has been used extensively in traditional medicine and as a popular herb for centuries, this despite its recognized potential toxicity. The dried leaves are said to be an effective insect repellent. Extracts of the plant and the seeds have been used as a vermifuge, an emmenagogue (to bring on menses), and an antispasmodic. The leaves have been used to prepare teas and as a food flavoring. Extracts have been used in perfumery and are a source of green dye.
Uses of Tansy
Although tansy has no role in herbal medicine, it has been used as an antispasmodic and vermifuge.
Tansy is used to expel worms from the body. Externally it is used to treat cuts and bruises.
Side Effects of Tansy
Because of the toxicity of the plant, tansy may cause allergic dermatitis and internal poisoning with symptoms of rapid and feeble pulse, severe gastritis, violent spasms, and convulsions.
Toxicology: Ingestion of tansy and its extracts has been reported to cause serious systemic toxicity in animals and humans. As little as ten drops of the oil may be lethal, but recovery has been reported after ingestion of one-half fluid ounce. The tea has also been fatal. Thujone is likely responsible for much of the toxicity associated with the plant. Symptoms of internal tansy poisoning include rapid and feeble pulse, severe gastritis, violent spasms, and convulsions; gastric lavage or emesis has been suggested followed by symptomatic treatment.
Tansy has also been associated with the development of often severe dermatitis following contact with the plant or extracts. An allergic contact dermatitis may be due to the presence of allergenic sesquiterpene lactones, arbusculin-A and tanacetin. This dermatitis has been recognized as an occupational hazard among individuals working with cultivated chrysanthemums and tansy. A crossallergenicity with other members of the Family Compositae (eg, arnica, sunflower, yarrow) may occur in some individuals.
Summary: Tansy is a common plant having no role in herbal medicine. Although used as an antispasmodic and vermifuge, the potential toxicity of the plant outweighs its benefits. Some strains of the plant contain the toxic component thujone. Allergic dermatitis is common with this plant. While the plant has been used to prepare teas and to flavor foods, its use should be discouraged.
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