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Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) Image
Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
Asteraceae (family), bachelor's buttons, beta-thujone, bitter button, boerenwormkruid, buttons, Chrysanthemum uliginosum, Chrysanthemum vulgare Bernh, common tansy, Compositae (family), cow bitter, daisy, garden tansy, ginger plant, gold-buttons, golden button, hindheal, mugwort, parsley fern, ponso, prince of Wales feathers, Pyrethrum tanacetum Bernh, scented fern, sesquiterpene lactones, solucanotu, stinking Willie, tanaceto, Tanacetum audiberti, Tanacetum vulgare, Tanacetum vulgare L., tanse-tansy, tansey, yomogi-giku.

Mechanism of Action


  • Constituents: The applicable parts of tansy are the above ground parts. Tansy contains beta-sitosterol as the major sterol and alpha-amyrin as the major triterpene. Tansy also contains sterols stigmasterol, campesterol and cholesterol, and the triterpenes beta-amyrin and taraxasterol. The successful therapeutic application of this herb may be due partly to the presence of one or more of these compounds; however, results are inconclusive.5
  • Tansy also contains caffeic acid, volatile compounds, surface flavonoids (methyl ethers of the flavones scutellarein and 6-hydroxyluteolin), vacuolar flavonoids (apigenin and luteolin 7-glucuronides) and glycosides.6,7 Chemical analysis of the T. vulgare extracts indicated that beta-thujone is by far the major compound of the oil (>87.6%).2
  • Acarical activity: Chemical analysis of the T. vulgare extracts indicated that beta-thujone is by far the major compound of the oil (>87.6%) and probably contributes significantly to the acaricidal activity of the oil.2
  • Allergy: The sesquiterpene lactones3,4 and the oleoresins found in Compositae plants, of which Tanacetum vulgare is a part of, have been hypothesized to be the main sensitizers1.
  • Anti-inflammatory activity: Compared with other members of the Compositae family, there were significant differences in potency; the tansy 6-hydroxyflavones were less active than the feverfew 6-hydroxyflavonols as inhibitors of cyclo-oxygenase and 5-lipoxygenase.7 It is proposed that the flavonoids of Tanacetum are only minorly responsible for the observed anti-inflammatory local effects observed in vivo.8
  • Phototoxicity/photosensitivity activity: Thiophenes and acetylenes present in Compositae family plants are said to elicit only phytophotodermatitis, but recent studies have demonstrated that some thiophenes and benzofuran derivates possess not only phototoxic activity, but also sensitizing properties. Photosensitivity is present in 22-75% Compositae sensitive individuals. Extracts from Compositae are known to be phototoxic in vitro. Photoreactivity of alpha-methylene-gamma-lactone group of sesquiterpene-lactone directed towards the DNA base thymine, thus producing intermolecular 2 + 2 photoadducts (antigen within the cell), was also thought to be related to photosensitivity. Clinical manifestations vary from generalized eczema (20-30%), eczema of hands and face (24%), hand (36-44%), or facial eczema (11-28%). 65% of patients have vesicular hand eczema.4


  • Insufficient available evidence.


  1. Guin, J. D. and Skidmore, G. Compositae dermatitis in childhood. Arch Dermatol  1987;123(4):500-502. 3827282
  2. Chiasson, H., Belanger, A., Bostanian, N., Vincent, C., and Poliquin, A. Acaricidal properties of Artemisia absinthium and Tanacetum vulgare (Asteraceae) essential oils obtained by three methods of extraction. J Econ Entomol  2001;94(1):167-171. 11233109
  3. Hausen, B. M. and Oestmann, G. [The incidence of occupationally-induced allergic skin diseases in a large flower market]. Derm Beruf Umwelt  1988;36(4):117-124. 2971519
  4. Jovanovic, M. and Poljacki, M. [Compositae dermatitis]. Med Pregl  2003;56(1-2):43-49. 12793186
  5. Chandler, R. F., Hooper, S. N., Hooper, D. L., Jamieson, W. D., and Lewis, E. Herbal remedies of the Maritime indians: sterols and triterpenes of Tanacetum vulgare L. (Tansy). Lipids 1982;17(2):102-106. 7087682
  6. Croteau, R. and Shaskus, J. Biosynthesis of monoterpenes: demonstration of a geranyl pyrophosphate:(-)-bornyl pyrophosphate cyclase in soluble enzyme preparations from tansy (Tanacetum vulgare). Arch Biochem Biophys  2-1-1985;236(2):535-543. 3970524
  7. Williams, C. A., Harborne, J. B., Geiger, H., and Hoult, J. R. The flavonoids of Tanacetum parthenium and T. vulgare and their anti-inflammatory properties. Phytochemistry 1999;51(3):417-423. 10382317
  8. Schinella, G. R., Giner, R. M., Recio, M. C., Mordujovich, de Buschiazzo, Rios, J. L., and Manez, S. Anti-inflammatory effects of South American Tanacetum vulgare. J Pharm Pharmacol  1998;50(9):1069-1074. 9811170

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