Notes from Herb Heaven


Originally from Europe and Asia, although grown in many countries, this perennial herb was used as a strewing herb, because it repels ants. In the olden days, before refrigeration, it was used to rub on meat to ward off flies, and also to preserve corpses. Tansy grows to about a metre high and once planted in the garden it will just grow and grow! It is a sprawled, so watch where you plant it. It dies off in winter in cooler climates, although it grows on valiantly through the winter in the sub-tropics. Tansy is a good companion to peach trees as it keeps away fruit fly and fruit moths.

It loves rich moist soil and lots of light. It grows in bright, dappled shade but there will be little flowering in the absence of good sunlight. It does not need fertiliser. Cut the plant down to the ground in autumn and early winter in warm areas. Put cuttings on the compost for potassium. Propagation is by division of the creeping roots, by cuttings and from seed. Root cuttings in moist sandy soil and then plant out to a permanent site. Sow seeds in spring or autumn.

In the event of flowers, they can be cut and hung upside down until completely dried, and then used for decorating gifts and in flower arrangements. Tansy leaves can also be dried in the same way and stored in airtight containers. Dried tansy leaves have a very strong smell, which can be used as an insect repellent. The flowers produce a rich yellow dye, while the boiled leaves make a good yellow-green dye for wool.

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This herb is used mainly for its repellent properties and is not to be drunk as a tea unless under strict medical 
supervision, especially if pregnant. 

Although this tea has been used medicinally, it has been found to cause kidney and brain damage.

Because of its toxic properties, it should only be administered by a trained herbal practitioner. 

A tea/lotion made from 5 ml of chopped leaves to a cup of boiling water can be cooled and used as a skin freshener, and for varicose veins, bruises, earache and eye inflammation. 

Tansy can be grown quite successfully in containers.

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