Tansy. Tanacetum vulgare.

Botanical name: 

Tansy. Tanacetum. U. S. 1890.—Under this name the U. S. Pharmacopoeia formerly recognized the tops and leaves of the Tanacetum vulgare L., a perennial herbaceous plant rising two or three feet in height, which is cultivated in our gardens, although growing wild in the roada and in old fields. It was originally introduced from Europe. It is in flower from July to September.

Tansy was officially described as follows:

"Leaves about 15 Cm. long; bipinnatifid, the segments oblong, obtuse, serrate or incised, smooth, dark green, and glandular; flower-heads corymbose, with imbricated involucre, a convex, naked receptacle, and numerous yellow, tubular florets." U. S., 1890. The odor is strong, peculiar, and fragrant, but much diminished by drying; the taste is warm, bitter, somewhat acrid, and aromatic. These properties are imparted to water and alcohol. According to Leppig (Inaug Dis., Dorpat, 1882), both the flowers and the leaves contain the following constituents: tanacetin, tannic acid (tanacetum-tannic acid), traces of gallic acid, volatile oil, a wax-like substance, albuminoids, tartaric, citric, and malic acids, traces of oxalic acid, a laevogyrate sugar, resin, metarabic acid, parabin, and woody fiber. Of these the most important are the bitter principle tanacetin, to which Leppig gives the formula C11H16O4, and which forms a very hygroscopic, brownish, amorphous mass, easily soluble in alcohol and in water, insoluble in ether. It possesses a taste at first characteristically bitter like willow bark, and then cooling and caustic. The essential oil was investigated by Bruylants (Ber. d. Chem. Ges., xi, 449), according to whom it consisted of a terpene, C10H16, boiling at from 155° to 160° C. (311°-320° F.), of which 1 per cent. only is present, an aldehyde, C10H16O, boiling at from 195° to 196° C. (383°-384.8° F.), of which 70 per cent. was obtained, and an alcohol (borneol), C10H18O, boiling at from 203° to 205° C. (397.4°-401° F.), of which 26 per cent. was present. Semmler (Ber. d. Chem. Ges., xxv, 3343, 3352, 3513) has specially investigated the constituent boiling at 195° C. (383° F.), and having the composition C10H16O. He finds it to be not an aldehyde, but a ketone, and calls it tanacetone. It is identical with the ketone found in sage oil, wormwood oil, and thuja oil. As it was first identified in this last-named oil by Wallach, and named by him thujone, this name is now applied to it to the exclusion of the other. (See also Schim. Rep., April, 1893, and April, 1897; and Gildemeister and Hoffmann, Aetherische Oele.)

Tansy adds to the medicinal properties of the aromatic bitters those of an irritant narcotic. It has been recommended in intermittents, hysteria, and amenorrhea, but in this country is little employed in regular practice. The seeds are said to be most effectual as a vermifuge. Tansy has been used to a considerable extent 'as a domestic abortifacient, but is not only very uncertain, but also very dangerous in its action, and has in various cases produced death. The symptoms caused by it have been abdominal pain, vomiting, violent epileptic convulsions often followed by profound coma, dilated pupils, great disturbances of respiration, frequent and feeble pulse, and death, which has been said to be from heart failure, but is probably the outcome of a paralytic asphyxia. The minimum fatal dose can scarcely be considered to have been positively ascertained, but a fluidrachm (3.75 mils) of the oil is said to have caused death, although recovery in one case occurred after taking half a fluidounce. Tansy tea has also caused death. (For cases, see Am. J. M. S., xvi, xxiii, xxiv; J. P. C; April, 1870; J. A. M. A. xlvii, p. 509.) Post-mortems have been reported in which no inflammation of the gastro-intestinal mucous membranes could be discovered.

The dose of the powder is from thirty grains to a drachm (2.0-3.9 Gm.) two or three times a day; but the infusion is more frequently administered.

The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.