The Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare--buttons,--bed of Tansy), a

Composite plant very familiar in our hedgerows and waste places,

being conspicuous by its heads of brilliant yellow flowers, is often

naturalized in our gardens for ornamental cultivation. Its leaves

smell like camphor, and possess a bitter aromatic taste; whilst young

they were commonly used in times past, and are still employed,

when shredded, for flavouring ca
es, puddings, and omelets. The

roots when preserved with honey, or sugar, are reputed to be of

special service against the gout, if a reasonable quantity thereof be

eaten fasting every day for a certain space. The fruit is destructive

to round worms.

The seed also of the Tansy is a singular and appropriate medicine

against worms: for in whatsoever sort taken it killeth and driveth

them forth. In Sussex a peasant will put Tansy leaves in his shoes

to cure ague; and the plant has a rural celebrity for correcting female

irregularities of the functional health. The name Tansy is

probably derived from the Greek word athanasia which signifies

immortality, either, as, says Dodoeus, quia non cito flos

inflorescit, because it lasts so long in flower, or, quia ejus

succus, vel oleum extractum cadavera a putredine conservat (as

Ambrosius writes), because it is so capital [558] for preserving

dead bodies from corruption. It was said to have been given to

Ganymede to make him immortal. The whole herb contains resin,

mucilage, sugar, a fixed oil, tannin, a colouring matter, malic or

tanacetic acid, and water. When the camphoraceous bitter oil is

taken in any excess it induces venous congestion of the abdominal

organs, and increases the flow of urine.

If given in moderate doses the plant and its essential oil are

stomachic and cordial, whether the leaves, flowers, or seeds be

administered, serving to allay spasm, and helping to promote the

monthly flow of women; the seeds being also of particular use

against worms, and relieving the flatulent colic of hysteria. This

herb will drive away bugs from a bed in which it is placed. Meat

rubbed with the bitter Tansy will be protected from the visits of

carrion flies.

Ten drops of the essential oil will produce much flushing of the

head and face, with giddiness, and with beat of stomach; whilst half

a drachm of the oil has been followed by a serious result. But from

one to four drops may be safely given for a dose according to the

symptoms it is desired to relieve. Cases of epilepsy (not inherited)

have been successfully treated with the liquid extract of Tansy in

doses of a drop with water four times in the day. The essential oil

will toxically produce epileptic seizures.

The plant has been used externally with benefit for some eruptive

diseases of the skin; and a hot infusion of it to sprained, or

rheumatic parts will give relief from pain by way of a fomentation.

In Scotland the dried flowers are given for gout, from half to one

teaspoonful for a dose two or three times in the day; or an infusion

is drank prepared from the flowers and seeds. This has kept

inveterate gout at bay for years.

[554] A medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the fresh plant with

spirit of wine. From eight to ten drops of the same may be given

with a tablespoonful of cold water to an adult twice or three times in

the day.

Formerly this was one of the native plants dedicated to the Virgin

Mary; and the good wives used to take a syrup of Tansy for

preventing miscarriage. The Laplanders, says Linnoeus, use

Tansy in their baths to facilitate parturition.

At Easter also it was the custom, even, by the Archbishops, the

Bishops, and the clergy of some churches, to play at handball (so

say the old chroniclers), with men of their congregations, whilst a

Tansy cake was the reward of the victors, this being a confection

with which the bitter herb Tansy was mixed. Some such a corrective

was supposed to be of benefit after having eaten much fish during


The Tansy cake was made from the young leaves of the plant mixed

with eggs, and was thought to purify the humours of the body. This

Balsamic plant said Boerhaave, will supply the place of nutmegs

and cinnamon. In Lyte's time the Tansy was sold in the shops

under the name of Athanasia.