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Botanical Description & Habitat

Tanacetum vulgare


Common names

Bachelor's buttonBindheal
Bitter buttonsButtons
English costJohnson's remedy
Parsley fern

Native of Europe, also found along roadsides and waste places in many parts of the United States.

A perennial, herbaceous plant that has a fibrous, creeping root which produces an erect, angular, red stem, one to five feet in height. The leaves are dark green, alternate, pinnately divided with toothed segments.

Golden yellow flowers grow in terminal, flat-topped corymbs from July to September. The fruit is a small, oblong achene.

Medicinal parts
Aerial parts of the flowering plant, dried

Historical Properties & Uses

Tansy is a highly potent plant. When used as an emmenagogue to promote menstruation, or as an abortifacient, dosage levels may reach toxic levels, with death as a result. In smaller doses, tansy can be used as a vermifuge or anthelmintic; however, there are safer products to use for that purpose.

Tansy flower and herb have not achieved approval status by the German Commission E. Either there was insufficient evidence in favor, or a contraindication.

There is no contemporary role in herbal medicine.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

General Pharmacology Of Tansy
For a discussion of the specific effects of thujone, see wormwood. Tansy has been shown to have some anti-inflammatory property, and good anti-bacterial actions, both effects undoubtedly due to the presence of the oil. The anthelmintic action has not been investigated, but based on observations of herbs with similar composition, one can fairly assume the effect is real.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions
By sequestering tansy, mineral oil may reduce tansy's anthelmintic effect. The same may be true, to a lesser extent, of antacids.

The anti-inflammatory activity of tansy can be seriously inhibited by phenobarbital and certain other sedatives and hypnotics, such as chloral hydrate and meprobamate.

This is also true of the beta-adrenergic blocking agent, propranolol.

In the absence of other hard data, it may still be assumed observable interactions may occur between the many central nervous system drugs and the psychoactive principles in tansy.

There is evidence to show combining bactericidal and bacteriostatic agents will lower the effectiveness of the bacteriostatic agent. However, how this finding applies to herbal anti-infectives is still unknown.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Tansy oil, containing 70% thujone and lesser amounts of camphor, borneol and terpene, is especially toxic and should never be used except under a doctor's supervision.

Tansy tea, containing the oil, glycosides and some very bitter substances, can also be toxic in large doses. Symptoms of toxicity include nausea, vomiting, dilated pupils, weak and fast pulse. This process may culminate in coma, convulsions, and death.

Tansy is a member of the chrysantheum family, and as such has a strong potential for causing contact dermatitis and other allergic reactions in sensitive persons.

The German Commission E also notes the possibility for poisoning due to abuse of large doses of the herb, resulting from the thujone content of the oil.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Three times a day
Avoid during pregnancy

Dried herb
1-2 grams

made from 1/2 tsp of dried herb

Fluid extract
1:1 in 25% alcohol, 1-2 ml

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


Am Hospital Formulary Service. Am Soc of Hosp Pharm. Wash, D.C.

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Bressler, R., M.D. Bogdonoff & G.J. Subak-Sharpe. 1981. The Physicians Drug Manual. Doubleday & Co, Inc. Garden City, NY. 1213 pp.

Clark, T.H., A.H. Conney & B.P. Harpole, et.al. 1967. Drug interactions that can affect your patients. Patient Care. 1(11). pp. 33-71.

Committee on Pharmocopaeia of the Am Institute of Homeopathy, The Homeopathic Pharmacopaeia of the United States. 8th ed., Vol 1. Otis Clapp and Son, Agents, Boston, l981.

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Sep, 1992.

Goodman, L.S. & A. Gilman. 1975. Pharm Basis of Thera. MacMillan, NY.

Hansten, P.D. 1979. Drug Interactions, 4th ed. Lea & Febiger, Phila.

Hendricks, H et al., The essential oil of Tanacetum vulgae. Planta med. 1989, 55:212.

Hyde, F. British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Brit Herb Med Assoc. England. 1983 Kastrup, E.K., ed. 1981. Drug Facts and Comparisons, 1982 edition. Facts and Comparisions Division, J.P. Lippincott Co, Phila(St. Louis).

List, P. & L. Hoerhammer. 1969-1976. Hagers Hanbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, vols. 2-5. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Martin, E.W. 1978. Drug Interactions Index, 1978/79. J.B. Lippincott Company. Philadelphia.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Riesterer, L. & R. Jaques. 1968. Interference by beta-adrenergic blocking agents with the antiinflammatory action of various drugs. Helv Physiol Acta, 26. pp. 287-293.

Scientific Committee, British Herbal Pharmocopaeia, British Herbal Med Assoc, Lane House, Cowling, Na Keighley, West Yorks, Bd Bd220lx, l983.

Stuart, D.M. 1968. Drug metabolism Part 2. Drug interactions. PharmIndex. 10(10). pp. 4-16.