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07 March 2011
The plant Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) has been used as a herbal for at least 900 hundred years. It was mentioned in the writings of St Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century AD and it has been used ever since, largely as a worming agent. It is powerful and can be toxic so check out the warnings at the end of this item, but now a new study has suggested that Tansy may be a useful weapon in treating herpes infections.
If there is a family that you don’t want to move in next door to you, it is the Herpes family of viruses. There are more than 70 viruses in this dubious family and in humans they cause chicken pox and oral herpes (cold sores) and genital herpes among other unwelcome outcomes for your body.
Blood based studies have shown that there are two types of Herpes simplex virus (HSV), the one that causes cold sores and genital herpes. These two types have been called HSV-1 and HSV-2. Generally, HSV-1 viruses come from non-genital sites while HSV-2 viruses prefer the genitalia.
Estimates vary widely but at least 30 per cent of the adult population have been infected with either HSV-1 or HSV-2. Some studies say that 100 per cent of people have been infected even if they have not all shown symptoms. Enter the venerable old herb Tansy, also known as Golden Buttons and Mugwort in Europe, which might provide a remedy.
The new study from the University of Greenwich found that Tansy contains two antiviral substances, 3,5-dicafffeoylquinic acid and axillarin, which are effective against HSV. Crude extracts of the stem, flowers, and roots of Tansy were found to be effective as were refined extracts of the “active” ingredients.
Since there are currently no vaccines for Herpes infections and considering how common they are, this may be an important finding. There are however some caveats to using Tansy.
Beware: Tansy is potentially toxic as it contains an essential oil which has some powerful properties, particularly for the female reproductive system. Tansy should never be used by pregnant women and for everybody else it should only be used under the supervision of a fully qualified herbalist or naturopath. “Natural” does not necessarily mean “safe”, but according to this study careful and supervised use of Tansy may be an option in treatment of these widespread viruses.