Tansy! Is it useful ?

A friend gave me a tansy plant recently and said she used it for companion planting. The little bit of research I've done has conflicting uses. Dangerous for internal consumption for humans, yet suggests it's good for internal parasites, digestive issues. In times gone by used for abortion in high doses, or increased fertility in low doses etc. Whilst reading here and other herbal sites, it hardly rates a mention. Your thoughts please.


  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,356 admin
    edited April 2020

    My opinion on the tansy is to dig it out immediately and let it cook away in a closed black garbage bag in the sun. Make sure you get the whole root and every little piece of the plant. I have been battling this as a nasty invasive weed that pops up anywhere for 15 years. It won't only stay where you planted it, but will suddenly appear in a different spot 30'-40' away.

    I bought it to keep pests out of places. It didn't work. It also stinks a lot. It can cause reactions for some people. I have read that the toxins in it can build up in your body if you touch it with bare hands...so now I use gloves when dealing with it.

    The seeds can lay dormant for 15 years. It is difficult to eradicate, and is poisonous to livestock (and people).

    I thought it would be a good idea to get some. It sounded good. Now I wish that I never did. I think that I might finally be getting the upper hand in my war on it.

    As far as internal parasites & digestive orders, there are many much better and safer options to use.

  • Melissa Swartz
    Melissa Swartz Posts: 270 ✭✭✭

    I had a different experience from @LaurieLovesLearning. I had a tansy plant that didn't spread or become invasive. It got to be pretty big (5 feet tall and 6 feet wide) and would flop over. It did stink when I was close to it. It was in an area where we had a lot of flies in previous years and the flies did decrease significantly. I never used it medicinally because I saw the same conflicting info and didn't want to take any chances. It lived probably 4 years then died.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,502 admin

    Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) should not be used internally by a home herbalist. There are just too many contraindication and cautions on this plant. I am a fairly experienced herbalist and I don't use it. As @LaurieLovesLearning says, there are a many, much safer plants to use for any internal uses. Any literature out there that says it is for internal use is likely quite old. Externally, I have heard of rubbing the plant itself on pets to prevent fleas and ticks but I have no experience with how well this works. It does have an unpleasant odour and, in the big picture, isn't really all that attractive, so not sure why anyone would want it in their garden.

    Tansy is classified as an invasive weed in my province but there doesn't seem to be eradication programs directed at It, as there are with some other invasives.

  • shllnzl
    shllnzl Posts: 1,816 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @jodienancarrow Tansy will not be invasive in a fenced city lot in a desert environment. If I remember correctly from many years ago, I too planted it as a companion plant to repel pests, I chose it because it was an herb and could withstand tough growing conditions. I tested its endurance, giving it a southern exposure. I think it maybe got a foot tall, dying after one season, producing one offspring that didn't last either.

    I didn't have a problem with the smell. The button flowers are attractive and could be used in a flower arrangement. Maybe you should put it in a pot out of the wind while you decide whether the plant works for you.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,356 admin

    Or...I was reading through the Richters catalogue and found this type. It sounds pretty & they claim that is not an invasive type.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,482 admin

    Thanks for the advice folks, seems like I will compost the root section I was given.

    @LaurieLovesLearning it definitely is not the woolly grey version you mention. Thanks for the advice.

  • Karin
    Karin Posts: 272 ✭✭✭

    I have a tansy in a pot, given to me by a neighbour. I don't find it stinky at all but it is gowing like crazy and getting pretty tall! Like many herbs that are strong-acting, you have to take care. I liken it to any form of killing chemical - use with extreme caution, wear gloves etc etc. They can be useful in very small doses but for a home herbalist, there would be other milder herbs to use.

  • We like to plant tansy in its own bed by the front door of the old farmhouse we occupy to keep ants out in the summer. It works well, they really steer clear of its innate chemicals! This said, we keep it from going to seed and proliferating this way by deadheading the flowers.

  • Gail H
    Gail H Posts: 359 ✭✭✭✭

    I agree with @LaurieLovesLearning A friend gave me some as a natural insect control. It was a nightmare to remove once we discovered that it had a very disagreeable odor and that it was so toxic. I think many organic growers no longer recommend it because, while natural, it is very hard on pollinator populations.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,356 admin

    @Angie Barger, The Tea Project I found it difficult to stay on top of the buttons.

    I wonder with some people never having issues with invasiveness & some having issues, what cultivars are out there. I compared my seed store tansy to the wild tansy, and the leaves are different but both were invasive. I was also given another plant, closely resembling what I knew as tansy, but still having slightly different leaves. This was given before I bought tansy seed. I suspect that the person who gave it to me did not know what it really was, as it doesn't match the given name description. It does, however, closely resemble tansy. It has never wandered from its spot in any way and I haven't ever taken off the buttons...but I have always wondered about it's real name.

    I am considering getting rid of that plant this year since I am no longer interested in having it.

  • flowerpower *
    flowerpower * Posts: 257 ✭✭✭
    edited November 2020

    @LaurieLovesLearning Tansy appeared in my area about 17 years ago and was being sprayed with chemicals to kill it by regional invasive weed control programs. They did not manage to control it and it is now wide-spread in the area. This is Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tansy

    What I have tried so far is: cutting off the leaves to suppress growth and slow spread; covering the plant loosely with a black plastic bag. Neither worked, although the plant was slowed down. Digging in regular soil is going to be arduous. The Tansy has propagated against the normal wind direction. It especially likes tilled soil to get started in. It particularly follows roadways, so that seems part of how it propagates. There is now a large invasion of it to deal with. I can think of a few more natural things to try: cutting it to the ground and placing ground cover in that spot; using something like vinegar and injecting it into the plant; salting the soil with epsom salts; wrapping the plant in plastic wrap, say as a stump. I can see that the natural progression, which I object to, is to get a Tansy infestation and then start using toxic weed control chemicals.

    I like your suggestion of the black plastic bags to kill the seeds.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,356 admin

    I explained a bit more about what I have done, in a later post, here. Maybe it is just repeating what I posted on this thread. I am not a fan of tansy & it is no friend of mine.

    You have to be ultra vigilant and ruthless to rid a property of it. It is hard work to get rid of this invasive. If it is elsewhere neighboring your property. I feel for you, as it will just make it's way back. Mine was planted by me. At least I started getting rid of it before it got away into the ditches, etc.

    Spray really does nothing for many invasives. It just poisons the ground & water. They like to use spray on leafy spurge and foxtail as well. It doesn't even put a dent in it.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November 2020

    Tansy scares me. I love the look of the plant but it has too many negatives for me to want on the property :(

  • Grounded
    Grounded Posts: 153 ✭✭✭

    I found some Tansy in my garden. At the time I didn't know what it was, so, I let it grow. I was recently tearing out dead plants and re-potting some herbs, and was considering re-potting the Tansy as well. I finally caught one of the more experienced herb gardeners there and she about whipped me when I told her I was considering keeping inside over the winter to replant in the spring. Seems like she and others in our community plots have been trying to eradicate it for years now, only to find it spread in another area of the gardens, and/or spreading in a general area.

    One of the problems with out community gardens is that the park district tills the soil every fall and spring. The plots are only marked by number markers and when they till, they spread whatever is in one plot to two or three others as they don't till one plot at a time, but the entire length and width of the gardens. Because of this, we find many strange and sometimes wonderful volunteers that weren't there the year before.