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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    (0 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


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Tanacetum balsamita is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.9 m (3ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 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: acid, neutral and basic (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.


 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 The leaves were at one time widely used in brewing beer, before being superseded by hops (Humulus lupulus)[238].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].


Medicinal Uses

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Antiseptic  Astringent  Digestive  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].


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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


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].


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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

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

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  LMHNDM01 
Tanacetum coccineumPyrethrum, Pyrethum daisy, Persian Insect Flower, Painted DaisyPerennial0.6 4-10 MLMHSNM00 
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.


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Botanical References


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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%

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