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Common Name: Alecost
Tanacetum balsamita is a perennial plant that can grow up to 0.90 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
Europe to W. Asia.
An introduced weed of roadsides in eastern N. America[
An easily grown plant, it prefers a sunny warm position[
] in a dry soil[
] but thrives under most conditions[
]. Tolerates a pH in the range 5.0 to 7.6.
The leaves emit a soft balsamic odour[
]. The sub-species T. balsamita tomentosum is called the camphor plant because of its camphor-scented foliage[
Plants produces lot of leaves but no flowers when grown in the shade[
], though this is an advantage when the plant is being grown for its useful leaves[
Alecost used to be commonly grown in the herb garden but it has fallen out of favour in recent times[
Leaves - raw or used as a flavouring in soups, beer etc[
]. They can be chopped and added sparingly to salads[
]. They have a very pleasant aroma, but can be overpowering in the food if you are not careful[
]. The leaves were at one time widely used in brewing beer, before being superseded by hops (Humulus lupulus)[
]. The whole leaves can be laid in cake trays to flavour the cake whilst it is baking[
The flower petals are used for conserves[
A delicious tea is made from the dried leaves[
Alecost is seldom used in herbal medicine, though it does have a beneficial effect upon the digestive system[
The leaves are antiseptic, astringent, digestive and laxative[
]. They have been used internally as an aperient in the treatment of dysentery, and as a remedy for liver and gall bladder complaints[
]. Externally, they have been used as a salve to treat burns and insect stings[
]. They are considered to be virtually obsolete in modern herbalism[
The plant was traditionally used for its insecticidal properties[
The dried leaves retain their fragrance well and so are used in pot-pourri[
], they are also used as a strewing herb[
The seed is seldom produced in Britain[
]. 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[
]. 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[
]. 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.