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Tanacetum, also popularly known as Common Tansy, Golden Buttons, Bitter Buttons, Mugwort, Cow Bitter, Costmary and Feverfew, is an herb that belongs to the aster family. This herb has small button like bright yellow flowers that have the flavor of camphor with hints of rosemary and the leaves are compound leaves with serrated edges that look like fern. The flowers are used for various culinary preparations and the leaves along with the flowers are known to have many medicinal properties.


Native to the northern hemisphere, tanacetum is a perennial herb grows in the temperate climatic regions of Asia and Europe, but not in the Siberian and certain Mediterranean regions. All the 160 species of this plant are commonly referred as ‘tansy’.

As per records, this herb is believed to have been first cultivated by the ancient Greek for its medicinal properties. In Britain, it was grown in most gardens, as it was considered a necessary part. Around the 8th century AD, the Benedictine monks of Saint Gall of the Swiss monastery grew this herb for its ability to treat rheumatism, intestinal worms, digestive problems, sores and fever. It was also used for induce measles. Then by the 15th century AD, tansy was served along with ‘Lenten meals’ by the Christians, as a way of commemorating the herb being consumed by the Israelites. Another reason for serving the herb during these meals was to control flatulence caused by the fish and pulses eaten during lent.

Culinary Uses

  • Tanacetum has been in use since the early times as a flavoring agent because of its pleasant odor and taste. Though, in the early times it was used for flavoring omelets and puddings, it is no longer in practice.
  • In Yorkshire, tansy is used along with caraway seeds while baking funeral biscuits.
  • It is also used in various sweetmeats, which is believed to help treat gout.

Medicinal Uses

Tanacetum is known for medicinal properties; however, large doses in any form should be avoided –

  • It is known to help cure joint aches.
  • It is believed to help lighten the skin and also purify the skin cells.
  • This herb, when used as medicine, is believed to help treat migraine.
  • It is known to help treat hormonal imbalance and also control excessive bleeding.

Side Effects

Tanacetum leaves and flowers need to be used in moderation; else they are known to cause some severe health problems –

  • The toxic thujone compound present in the tanacetum oil is known to cause liver and brain damage and also cause convulsions.
  • High dosage of the herb or its flowers is known to induce abortions and ironically, if used in moderation and under expert guidance, they are known to help women conceive and also avoid miscarriages.
  • It is also known to cause dermatitis, nausea (when taken internally) and heartburn.


  • Diabetic people should avoid taking this herb.
  • Pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid tanacetum.

Storage Tips

Tanacetum should be kept away from children’s reach. It should be stored in airtight containers away from direct sunlight, in a cool, dry and dark place


  • Because of the insect repellent qualities of tansy, it was used during the American colonial times for rubbing and packing meat with its leaves. It was believed to help in delaying the spoilage of the meat and also keep the insects away.
  • Jack Daniel, the Tennessee whiskey magnate, is supposed to have mixed crushed tanacetum leaf and sugar with his whiskey and thoroughly enjoyed it.