Other names for Tansy, stinking Willie and scented fern, describe its strong aroma, which I think is rather pleasant in an antiseptic sort of way. I have the herb growing in my garden for its value as a delightful garden plant, its medicinal properties and its action as an insect repellent.
Tansy has fern-like leaves and pretty yellow flower heads that are long-lasting and look pretty in the garden or in vases either freshly cut or dried.
It may come as a surprise to some of you that in the past, Tansy leaves were used to flavour small cakes eaten during Lent because Christ's suffering was symbolized by their bitter taste.
Because of Tansy's insect repellent properties it's an ingredient in commercially produced insecticide and has been used to repel moths and deter fleas from the home. However, Tansy's insect repelling properties have been known for centuries; in the Middle Ages it was hung from rafters, rubbed on meat to deter flies and other vermin, and packed between bedsheets and mattresses.
Herbalists believe that the name, Tansy, comes from athanasia, the Greek word for immortality. Historically, a tea made from the leaves of the herb was commonly taken for intestinal worms, stomach ache, and colds. The leaves were also used to make poultices to treat cuts and bruises. Today the herb is still used as an emmenagogue (brings on menstruation), a vermifuge (expels worms), and as an antispasmodic.
Tansy is quite a tough herb resisting cold and frost - patches of it can survive for decades in the same spot. Although it's a native of Europe and northern Asia it's now widely cultivated and naturalized in other temperate regions of the world.
Proprietor, author, and tutor of The Home Herbalist Online Course.