Tansy Golden Buttons Homemade Insect Repellent

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
Image via Wikipedia — Tanacetum vulgare

Tansy is a perennial herb, Tanacetum vulgare, and a member of the aster family, Asteraceae. Tansy is also called common tansy or garden tansy in order to differentiate it from similar looking plants.

Introduced from its native Europe and Asia, this herb has established itself in all parts of the United States except some of the warmest states, including Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Texas. It requires temperate climates for successful growth. Where it does grow successfully tansy has become an aggressive weed in some cases. The states of Colorado, Montana, Washington and Wyoming have listed tansy as a noxious weed.

The alternate leaves are pinnately compound with finely toothed leaflets. The leaflets are long and narrow in shape giving the leaves a fern-like appearance. Each leaf has a dozen or more leaflets that are divided almost down to the leaf stem. The leaves are quite aromatic and bruising them releases a strong camphor-citrus odor. Tansy was popular as a strewing herb back in the day.

Tansy blooms are bright yellow composite flowers that appear quite round, which explains the reason for another nickname, ‘golden buttons’. The round appearance is due to the lack of ray flowers in this daisy-like blossom. The flowers appear in loose, flat-topped clusters at the tips of hairless stems during the latter part of the summer. The entire plant gets one to three feet tall and can be found growing along fence rows, in fields and waste areas, like roadsides and railways.

Essential oil obtained from steam distillation contains camphor, borneol and thujone. Thujone is toxic if ingested in large amounts. It is a chemical that is also present in wormwood, southernwood and sage. The young leaves were once used as a seasoning substitute for sage, but only in small quantities. People have died from consuming strong teas made with tansy, so take caution and do not ingest this herb.

The strong aroma of the leaves and flowers acts as an insect repellent. Herb and vegetable gardeners use tansy as a companion plant to drive away insects that would otherwise consume the harvest. A homemade insecticide can be made by steeping a handful of dried tansy flowers in a pail of hot water. After an hour or so pour the liquid into a labeled spray bottle and place the flowers under a bush to protect it from aphids. Spray the solution on garden plants and flowers that need protection from insect pests. Be sure to wash any edible plant materials that have been sprayed before consuming them.

22 thoughts on “Tansy Golden Buttons Homemade Insect Repellent”

  1. Interesting – a “companion plant” that towers over everything else! I just went and gathered several handfuls (both green and dry) for a flea solution. Will let you know how it works.

  2. Hi Liz!

    Since nobody wants fleas in their house this seems like a worthwhile project. I hope it’s safe for pets, if that’s what you’re using the ‘flea solution’ on! Please do let us know how it works.

  3. Hey Ruth,
    How interesting! I’ve done that with catnip, but then it can be a little manic if you’re in the vicinity of more than one cat! They won’t leave you alone when catnip is rubbed all over your socks and legs, so I think the tansy is worth a try.
    Thanks for your tip!

  4. September in our cottage sees the start of the mice invasion. We have taken 23 so far,they are somehow get through at the chimney. Last week I picked 2 bunches of Tansy tied them with string and hung them upside down either side of my chimney. Haven’t caught a mouse there since.Next on agenda is the loft!

  5. Freakin’ awesome, Valerie! I’m going to have to plant Tansy next year for sure. We lost our outside kitties that stayed in the garage during the wintertime and so the mice have had a wonderful time in there. It would be so satisfying to chase them away with some pretty posies!

  6. It also works to stop a bad itch. I was down by the river and brushed against something that looked like nettles, and it made me itch so bad I quit fishing and headed back to the house. But it was VERY irritating and I remembered the smell of tansy was ‘medicine like’ so I grabbed some and rubbed it hard on my arm, to get the oil out, and the itch was immediately gone. This was in UP of MI near WI border, aka, Yooperland.

  7. Cool thing, Torger!

    It surely sounds like you got into the nettles, that stuff will make you crazy with the itch. Love your tenacity about wanting to stop the itch!

    It’s great to know another malady that we can use Tansy for. Thanks for leaving your comments!

  8. It also helps with pregnancy and heavy usage causes abortions in the middle ages. Eu has banned this product. I wonder why that is.

  9. Hey Jay,

    I’m not sure what product you’re referring to here…we’re talking about a plant called tansy. Some chemicals found in tansy are toxic at high levels, so don’t eat any!

    Thanks for reading!

  10. My grandma would plant it around the sides of the cottage , to repel vermin, and cut bunches of it once it bloomed and put it in a vase by the screen door and in the outhouse for the flies and mosquitoes. The local watershed council declared it an invasive weed and want everyone to pull it – not a chance, I love my Tansy, its too useful. Also about the “tansy tea” to spray outdoors, my aunt made some this year and sprayed it to repel spiders from dangling down from the overhang above the deck , we will see how that works

  11. Wow, Karl, that is just the kind of information we all would love to know.
    I hope you can chime in later about the effectiveness of using these beautiful flowers as a pest repellent.

    Do the cut flowers last a while too? At any rate how lovely to have some posies in the outhouse!

  12. I infused leaves and flower in olive oil for one month. I rub it on my arms feet and legs. Mosquitos stopped biting.

  13. thanks… pl share the seeds available in india (MAHARASATRA) for plantation to protect garden.!sanjayrasal24@gmail.com.

  14. I just found a crop of Tansies. Loved the button flowers on them and fern like leaves. I decided to look the plant up before touching it. I don’t need a rash if it were a poison type plant. Especially with COVID-19 and all. I researched it for a few days and went back and dug up a whole slew of it. Its Nov and thank God we havent had a hard frost yet,(WI) so a lot of it pulled up out of the ground easy. I planted a big patch outside and about 4 huge containers indoors. I have a ton of new shoots growing in my indoor pots. They grew really fast too. I made 4 quarts of insecticide already for all my indoor plants and gave 3 quarts away for my families plants. All of us ended up with spider mites. So far, its worked great for repelling them. No sign of anymore. Now working on making more since I have a bucket full of dried leaves. I’m deadly afraid of 2 things on this earth…mice and spiders. So now I’m gonna spider and mice proof my house. I am using a drop or 2 of lavender and peppermint oil in a couple of them to help the house smell fresh too. I’m using cotton balls and saturating them for holes, cracks and return air vents (caught mice coming up the vents). And spraying baseboards, around windows, and behind furniture. I already knew peppermint and lavender was great to keep mice and spiders away, but the Tansy leaves added a big plus to the mix, so now I have double duty repellent. And smells way better than Raid!

  15. Hey Rhonda!
    What a fabulous story – thank you so much for sharing!
    Mice coming up the vents is like a horror scene for me. Thank GOD for me kitties and I’ll rest at night knowing they’ll easily take care of any varmints that make it inside.
    It’s wonderful to see the successful application of tansy as a repellent for spider mites. Yes, a pleasing scent is so much better than the harsh chemicals.
    Please let us know how the tansy lives indoors. We’d love to hear your experiences.
    Thanks again!

  16. I just found out about this wonderful plant yesterday. Plan to incorporate it into my garden next year. How has this worked with the rodent deterring? The rats found my bird feeders this year and I’m hoping to keep them OUT by changing the food and such, but the repellant idea intrigues me. Thanks for all the usage tips!

  17. Eww. Thank the Heavens we haven’t had rat problems! Good luck with yours.

    Can anyone else chime in on their experience using tansy in the garden or near your house to repel rodents? Please share!

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