We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Tanacetum balsamita - L.

Common Name Alecost, Costmary
Family Asteraceae or Compositae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards None known
Habitats An introduced weed of roadsides in eastern N. America[43].
Range Europe to W. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (1 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Tanacetum balsamita Alecost, Costmary

Tanacetum balsamita Alecost, Costmary


Translate this page:


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Tanacetum balsamita is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.9 m (3ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 6. It is in flower from September to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Balsamita major. (L.)Desf. Chrysanthemum balsamita.

Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves
Edible Uses: Condiment  Tea

Leaves - raw or used as a flavouring in soups, beer etc[2, 4, 14, 27, 52, 177, 183]. They can be chopped and added sparingly to salads[183]. They have a very pleasant aroma, but can be overpowering in the food if you are not careful[K]. The leaves were at one time widely used in brewing beer, before being superseded by hops (Humulus lupulus)[238]. The whole leaves can be laid in cake trays to flavour the cake whilst it is baking[183]. The flower petals are used for conserves[183]. A delicious tea is made from the dried leaves[14, 21, 183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiseptic  Astringent  Digestive  Dysentery  Laxative

Alecost is seldom used in herbal medicine, though it does have a beneficial effect upon the digestive system[268]. The leaves are antiseptic, astringent, digestive and laxative[4, 14, 238]. They have been used internally as an aperient in the treatment of dysentery, and as a remedy for liver and gall bladder complaints[238]. Externally, they have been used as a salve to treat burns and insect stings[238, 268]. They are considered to be virtually obsolete in modern herbalism[4, 238].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses

Insecticide  Pot-pourri  Strewing

The plant was traditionally used for its insecticidal properties[200]. The dried leaves retain their fragrance well and so are used in pot-pourri[4, 238], they are also used as a strewing herb[200].

Special Uses

Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

An easily grown plant, it prefers a sunny warm position[52] in a dry soil[14, 37] but thrives under most conditions[4]. Tolerates a pH in the range 5.0 to 7.6. The leaves emit a soft balsamic odour[4]. The sub-species T. balsamita tomentosum is called the camphor plant because of its camphor-scented foliage[238]. Plants produces lot of leaves but no flowers when grown in the shade[4], though this is an advantage when the plant is being grown for its useful leaves[200]. Alecost used to be commonly grown in the herb garden but it has fallen out of favour in recent times[4].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

The seed is seldom produced in Britain[4]. If seed is obtained it would probably be best sown in a cold frame in early spring. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring or autumn[4]. Very easy, it can be done successfully at almost any time of the year. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the summer or the following spring. Basal cuttings in late spring[K]. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 - 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Tanacetum cinerariifoliumDalmation Pellitory, PyrethrumPerennial0.5 5-9  LMHNDM014
Tanacetum coccineumPyrethrum, Pyrethum daisy, Persian Insect Flower, Painted DaisyPerennial0.6 4-10 MLMHSNM003
Tanacetum partheniumFeverfew, MatricariaPerennial0.6 5-8 MLMHNDM252
Tanacetum vulgareTansy, Common tansy, Golden Buttons, Curly Leaf TansyPerennial1.0 3-9 FLMHNDM224

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

rossano carta   Wed Nov 16 2005

meine tochter hat probleme mit nieren verliert eiweiss über nieren kannbalsamita tanacetum helfen

Rich webweaver@pfaf   Wed Nov 16 2005

Google translated above as: My daughter has problems with kidneys loses protein over kidneys kannbalsamita tanacetum helped.

christine marechal   Mon Apr 7 2008

the words "kannbalsamita helped" should be "kann balsamita helped" = "can balsamita help" (and not as suggested "---balsamita helped").

frann leach   Fri Sep 18 2009

An analysis by gas chromatography published on the link given states that levels of "beta-thujone, a toxic ketone" were present at levels between 10 and 12.5% in the samples used. In light of this a note on possible toxicity should probably be added to your description.

ISHS Acta Horticulturae levels of beta-thujone, a toxic ketone are present at levels between 10 and 12.5%

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Tanacetum balsamita  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.