OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312



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Wyrtig - In early sources

Tansy, from the Tractatus de Herbis, c. 1300, in the British Library

In Early Sources...


Tanacetum vulgare








Growing tansy in your garden

Medieval Names


Anicetum, cost, helde, taniceta

Capitulare de Villis

Costum, tanazitam 

St. Gall


Herbarium Apuleii



Æncglisc cost, cost, disman, heldan, helde


Cost, costes, coses, cheldan, heldan, helde

Walafrid Strabo


One of the many plants dedicated to the Virgin Mary, tansy was used as a strewing herb on the floors of halls and homes, where it was valued because it repelled a variety of insects, among them flies and ants.

In the later Middle Ages, tansy cakes were eaten at Easter to purify the body after the meatless (and legume-rich) diet of Lent. These cakes were made by mixing small, tender leaves of tansy with eggs. But tansy cakes were being made centuries earlier, as evidenced in this prescription from the 12th century Peri Didaxeon:

Wiƿ heortan gesydu unhæle


...Ƿan scealt þu hine þus lacnigean.
Nim grene helda.
Ƿat cnuca hy.
ðe smale. þat nim ane æg.
Ƿat þa wort þat swing togadre.
Nim þanne swynes smere.
at ana clæne panne. Wille þanne
a wurt mid þan æge. On þan
swines smere. Innan ware panne.
Fort hyg enoh beo.
Ƿat sile him
fastenda eta.
Ƿat æfter
he sceal fæsten seofan tide.
Ær he ænigne o
þerne mete eta….

Peri Didaxeon f. 94a

Against unhealthiness of heart and sides

…Then shall you thus cure him.
ake green tansy. That grind here.
Very small.  Then take an egg.

the plant that mix together.
then swine fat.
Then a clean pan. Boil then
the plant with the egg. In that
swine fat. In the pan.
Do until it is enough. That give to him

fasting to eat. Then after that

he shall fast seven hours.
Before he
any other food eats.

                            Peri Didaxeon, f.94a


Ƿis is se halga drenc wiþ ælfsidene
7 wi
þ eallum feondes costungum


...Nim criftallan 7 disman
7 zidewaran 7 cassuc 7 finol
7 nim sester fulne gehalgodes wines

7 hat unmælne mon geseccean swigende ongean streame

healfne sester wæternes

nim ƿonne 7 lege ƿa wyrta

ealle in ƿat wæter 7 sweah that gewyrt of ƿan husl disce ƿær in swiðe clæne geot ƿonne that gehalgade win

upon on ƿæt ower
ber ƿ
to ciricean læt singan mæssan ofer

Leechbook III, x, 29

This is the holy drink against elf sickness
& against every fiend's tribulations

...Take fleabane & tansy

& zedoary & cassuck & fennel,
& take about 2 cups full of blessed wine,
& have an unblemished person take
in silence against the stream

a full cup of water

take then & lay the plants

all in that water & wash the writing

off the blessed dish therein very clean

get then pour the blessed wine

upon that from above

bear then to church, let them sing

masses over it...

                            Leechbook III, x, 29


Ƿiþ þaere geolwan adle.


hune . bisceop wyrt . helde . hofe

menge tha togaedere

do aelcre gode hand fulle

                        Leechbook I. xli

For the yellow jaundice.

horehound . bishop wort . tansy . earth ivy . 

mingle them together

use of each a good handfull...


                             Leechbook I. xli



Đrenc ƿ onfeallum

cymed . pipor . cost . merces sæd . ceaster wyrte sæd

cnua ƿell

do on eala.

                    Leechbook I.xxxix

A drink for painful swellings

cummin, pepper, costmary, smallage seed,

black hellebore seed

pound well

put into ale.

                      Leechbook I.xxxix



Oxa lærde þisne læcedom …

Ƿiþ þeos wærce wirc to drence alexandre . sinfulle  wermod .

twa cneowholen . saluian . safine . wealmore . lufestice . fefer fuge . merce . cost . garleac .

æscthrotu . betonica . bisceop wyrt .

on twibrownum ealath

gewyrce thætan mid hunige

drinc nigon morgenas

nanne otherne wætan

drinc æfter swithne drenc

y læt blod

Leechbook I, xlvii, 3


Oxa taught me this leechdom …

For this pain make into a drink

alexanders, sedum, wormwood,

the two kneehollies, sage, savine,

carrot, lovage, feverfue,

smallage, cost, garlic,

ashthroat, betony, bishopwort

into double brewed ale

work them with honey,

drink for nine mornings

no other liquid

drink afterwards strong drink

and let blood.

                    Leechbook I, xlvii, 3



Wið hiorot ece eft

genim pipor . 7 cymen . 7 cost

gegmid on beor oþþe on waetre

sele drincan.

Leechbook I, xvii

For heart ache again

take pepper . & cummin . & costmary

rub them into beer or into water

give to drink.

                     Leechbook I, xvii

Tansy's many uses included that of an emmenogogue (to promote menstrual flow), a carminative (to ease intestinal gas), a vermifuge (to expel intestinal worms) and tonic. But tansy is toxic even in very small doses, so must be used with great care. Also, like most emmenogogues, it is an abortifacient, and should not be used by women who are pregnant or who wish to become pregnant.

Please note: Many plants have been used in past and present times for medicinal purposes, and as one of the focuses of Wyrtig is the history of gardening, these uses are discussed here. However, common sense requires that you consult your family physician or other health care provider before using any plant materials for medicinal purposes. The old saying that "A doctor who treats him- (or her-) self has a fool for a patient" is no less true in herbal medicine than in any other branch of the healing sciences. Herbal remedies should not be used by the uninformed; medical advice should be sought before using any herbal remedy.


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