An aleing herb (and a medicinal one, too), Costmary (Tanacetum balsamita, also Chrysanthemum balsamita), a cousin to Tansy, appears in the literature in the 16th century, mentioned in Green’s Universal Herbal (1532). Markham in The Countrie Farmer (1616) refers specifically to Costmary’s use in ale making. (Gerard [1597] and Culpepper [1653] wrote of an herb called maudlin (Magdalene), which might have been similar to Costmary.) (

The flavor of costmary resembles that of mint and lemon. The Wassail bowl often contained Costmary.

Costmary inflorescence
Costmary leaves

Species:Tanacetum balsamita.
Origin:
Western Asia.
Source:
Costmary has now become naturalised in many parts of Southern Europe. It became popular in more Northern latitudes in the Middle Ages, when it was grown in monasteries and Imperial gardens in accordance with Charlemagne's Capitulare de Villis. The plant was introduced into Britain in the 16th century and was soon found in almost every garden, but it has now gone so completely out of favour as to have become a rarity.
Used Part:
Leaves.
Family:
Asteracaea (daisy family).
Effect:
The whole of this plant emits a soft balsamic odour, reminiscent of tansy but pleasanter and more aromatic.
Etymology:
The common English name "costmary"(Middle English costmarie) derives from the Old English cost, from Latin costum and Greek kostos "costusroot" (a root used as a spice and preserve) and Marie "the Virgin Mary", in biblical reference. In the Middle Ages, the plant was widely associated with the name Mary and was known in France as herbe Sainte-Marie.

Genus name tanacetum refers to the family relationship with tansy and species balsamita derives from Latin balsamum "balsam tree", originating from Old Hebrew bōshem denoting the balsam tree, but also meaning "fragrance" or "spice" in general. The plant has sometimes been erroneously called "mace"in English, this term being reserved for a spice derived from the nutmeg tree.
Uses:
On account of its aroma and the taste of its leaves, costmarywas much used to give a spicy flavouring to ale (before being superseded by hops), a practice which gave rise to the English alternative name "alecost". The fresh leaves were also used in salads and in pottage and dried leaves were often included in pot-pourri, as they retain their aroma well. In an earlier age bundles of costmarywere tied up with lavender and used as a domestic air freshener.

Costmarywas at one time employed medicinally, having somewhat astringent and antiseptic properties and use in treating dysentery. An ointment made by boiling the herb in olive oil with the woodland flower erythronium albidum "trout lily" and thickening the strained liquid with wax, resin and turpentine was considered to be very valuable for application to sores and ulcers.

Costmary is closely related to tansy.
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