The flowers of the common tansy plant cluster at the top of the plant like a fistful of yellow buttons. Despite the cheery presentation, farmers think the tansy is a noxious weed because it is toxic to their livestock. If you ate too much of it, it would be toxic to you, too. But at the right dose, this unwanted weed becomes a welcome herbal remedy.
Like many herbal remedies, it has been prescribed for multiple complaints ranging from rheumatic pain to skin eruptions, from high blood pressure to parasitic infections. Now it is being investigated for its ability to fight herpes infections.
Infections caused by Herpes simplex viruses HSV-1 and HSV-2 aren’t curable. The recurring sores they cause can appear around the eyes, on the genitals, and in or around the mouth. Genital herpes infections are common, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are so common that one of every five women and one out of every nine men, between the ages of 14 and 49, is infected with HSV-2. Like all STDs, herpes is still a source of stigma.
There is no vaccine for herpes infections, but the tansy plant appears to hold some potential for relieving the pain of an outbreak. This would be welcome news because current antiviral medications may have side effects and the virus can adapt, making available treatments less effective.
The recent chemical analysis of the plant reveals that one component previously thought to have anti-herpes properties, parthenolide, isn’t as effective as first believed. The encouraging news is that other compounds found in tansy, including one called 3,5- DCQA, may have real anti-herpes properties.
If researchers succeed in following up on this finding, they may be able to develop more effective treatments, such as a skin cream, that can limit herpes outbreaks. Even if they succeed, safe sex practices are still the best way to avoid infection and to stop passing it to a partner.