Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Wortcunning: Common Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
Tansy is one of my favourite herbs, and was facsinated by it since I was a young girl. I think that was largely due to the fact that I associated it with Faeries after seeing the Tansy Fairy (pictured above) by Cicely Mary Barker.
This is a first of what I hope to be many posts profiling various herbs, focusing on lore, magical and medicinal properties, as well as other practical information.
Please keep in mind that this is for information only, and if you do decide to ingest any herbs for medical reasons, I highly suggest that you gather as much information as possible, and do so under the guidance of a qualified healer.
I have decided to lay this out in a way that it is hopefully easy to read. If there are any herbs that you would like me to profile in particular, please leave suggestions in the comments section, or email me.
Other Names: Bitter Buttons, Faery Buttons, Buttons.
Description: Tansy is a very attractive perennial with groupings of small yellow button-like flowers and feathery leaves, and it grows to about 2 to 3 feet tall. It is native to Europe, but has become naturalized very successfully to North America.
Warnings: Is potentially toxic if large amounts are ingested; it can cause skin irritations to those with sensitive skin; tansy should be avoided during a wanted pregnancy, as it can induce miscarriage.
Cultivating: In the wild, tansy can be found growing along roadsides, in fields, and so-called 'waste areas'. It prefers full sun to part shade, and does very well in my climate which is a Canadian hardiness zone 3b/4a.
In the spring, you can propagate tansy from seed as soon as the ground is warm enough to work, and keep soil moist to a little dry. You will not have to worry about too many pests or diseases, and it can flourish even in poor soil.
Tansy usually blooms in July and August, and should not be harvested in the first year of growth. Harvest flowers and leaves between June and August.
Medicinal/Remedial Properties and Lore: Anthelmintic, cardiac, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, hepatic, stimulant, tonic.
Many old-time herbalist sung the praises for tansy's healing properties. Culpeper said 'It is an agreeable bitter, a carminative, and a destroyer of worms, for which a powder of the flowers should be taken from six to twelve grains at night and morning'.
Wise woman and herbalist Susun Weed suggests in her book Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year that tansy is a very effective emmenagogue for women who are even a few weeks late for their period.
Used externally, tansy can work very well for bruises, sprains, and arthritis, and can be applied as a poultice or a decoction.
Magical Properties and Lore: This plant has been often associated with immortality, and was in the past used for embalming the dead. It is hinted by Paul Beyerl's Master Book of Herbalism that tansy is an appropriate herb to be used in a funeral to 'aspurge the temple, and the deceased'.
Tansy is sometimes used in rituals celebrating womanhood (motherhood in particular), and is said to be a herb of Mother Goddesses, and sometimes the Virgin Mary. It is also associated with Venus, and the element of water.
Tansy can be placed in a shoe for safe travels, sewn into a blue cloth for healing, and hung over opening of a home (windows, doors, the hearth), or worn in a pouch for protection from curses.
Other Uses: Tansy is an excellent insect repellent, and is said to keep away flies due to its pungent scent. According to Garden Toad's Companion Planting Guide tansy makes an excellent companion plant to cucumbers, squash, roses, grapes, raspberries, and blackberries; it is said that tansy will deter flying insects, striped cucumber beetles, ants, flies, squash bugs and Japanese beetles.
Tansy has been used in various culinary dishes, as a dye, and is reported to be excellent in a compost heap.