Yarrow {Achillea millefolium}

Family: Asteraceae

It’s said that, as a baby, the great Greek warrior Achilles was dipped in yarrow by his mother, to give him his superhuman strength – but that she held him by his heel. That being the only area not covered, he was of course later slain by an arrow to his Achilles’ heel,” his only weak spot. And don’t forget the medieval teaching that yarrow grew in churchyards as a reproach to the dead who need not have died had they eaten their yarrow. In China, it is believed that even the stalks are powerful; they have been historically used to cast the I Ching.

Description:

Yarrow grows as a low, spreading a mat of finely dissected, aromatic leaves that reach about 1 foot high. Umbrella-shaped clusters of tiny white flowers appear above the foliage in summer on stalks up to 2 feet high. Achillea is native to the entire northern hemisphere {North America and northern Eurasia}. If you want to grow the most potent medicine, stick to the white-flowered species and don’t choose any of the other lovely flower colors that are available in nurseries.

Preparations and Dosage:

Make an infusion by steeping 1/4 cup of the dried flowers in 2 cups of water for 20 to 30 minutes. Drink 1 cup of the tea two or three times daily. This is a mild herb, and it can be taken regularly for 2 to 3 weeks.

A traditional combination of easing fevers and other symptoms of flu is one part yarrow leaf or flower, one part elder flower, and one part peppermint leaf. Infuse the herb combination for 30 minutes and drink it throughout the day as desired.

The leaf is well known for its ability to stop bleeding when applied directly to a wound, and you can carry it dried and powdered in your first aid kit.

Healing Properties:

Yarrow tea is slightly bitter and aromatic and is a famous European remedy used to ease the symptoms of colds, flu, painful digestion, “liver stagnation” {weak bile flow} accompanied by poor fat digestion, and a feeling of fullness after meals, especially fatty ones. Laboratory studies have definitively established that yarrow has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic {relaxing the smooth muscles found in the uterus and digestive tract}, anti-fever, and antiviral effects. As an extra bonus, yarrow seems to have a calming effect, which can help with PMS and other nervous conditions, and it stops bleeding when applied to a wound.

It turns out that there is a fair amount of variation in the chemistry and biological actions in wild yarrow populations, so we recommend growing your own from seed or from plants obtained from one of our recommended sources rather than purchasing plants from nurseries or gathering them from wild populations.

Safety:

Avoid yarrow during pregnancy and while nursing unless you are under the guidance of an experienced herbal practitioner. Allergic reactions to members of the Asteraceae family, though rare, are known in sensitive individuals. They can manifest as a skin rash {even from just handling the herb, which is more likely with the fresh plant}, digestive upset, or headaches.

In the Garden:

Yarrow is found from sea level to above the timberline in the wild, so you know it is highly adaptable. It thrives in full sun but can tolerate partial shade, loves water but can endure mild drought, is winter hardy, and spreads quickly in cultivated {or disturbed} soil. It does like poor, acidic conditions, so do not fertilize it. Let it dry out between waterings.

You can grow yarrow from seed if you sow in the fall or stratify the seed before planting. {It’s often sown directly.} But root division is another good method and can help control the plant since it has a tendency to spread.

Harvesting Yarrow:

Snip off the flower clusters when it’s in full white bloom {no color varieties, please and thank you}, and then cut the stalk all the way to the ground to encourage further blooming. You can harvest the leaf at any time of year. For drying, you can also cut long flowering stalks and use the hanging method, snipping the flowers off later. Keep the whole flower clusters intact when you store them.

Additional Information on Yarrow:

Also, Known As:

  • Gandana
  • I-chi-kao
  • Milfoil
  • Millefoil
  • Noble Yarrow
  • Nosebleed
  • Old Man’s Pepper
  • Soldier’s Woundwort
  • Stanchgrass
  • Thousand-leaf
  • Thousand-seal
  • Yarrow

Yarrow is a perennial herb. It is found worldwide and grows almost in all places. The plant can be found flourishing in waste lands, countryside, meadows, pastures, edges of the railway tracks, along with the highways and in many other places where it is most unlikely to be plucked primarily owing to the chemical spraying done in those areas to keep the weeds out. The uncomplicated stems of yarrow bear scented bi-pinnately separated (having doubly pinnate leaflets) and cut up leaves making them resemble like laces. A yarrow herb can grow up to one yard in height and produces attractive flower craniums that possess white rays and have yellow flat circular plates or discs inside them. The yellow discs in the flower heads gradually turn brown. The yarrow plant has a pale brown crawling rootstock (a swollen root together with the whole or a portion of a very short stem) that yields a circular, even, the condensed stem which branches out at the top.

Containing anti-inflammatory and antiseptic unstable oils as well as astringent tannins, yarrow is very resourceful as a medicinal herb. Resins present in yarrow possess astringent properties, while the silica helps in repairing damaged or worn out tissues in the body. These properties in the yarrow make it a versatile remedy which when applied externally is useful in curing cuts and wounds, burns and ulcers as well as swollen and irritating (inflammatory) skin. When taken internally, yarrow invigorates appetite, increases digestion as well as absorption of nutrients by the body. The astringent feature of yarrow makes it a useful medication in stopping diarrhea and dysentery as well as impedes hemorrhage from the intestinal coatings. In addition, yarrow’s sterile and anti-inflammatory qualities help in healing infections and swollen organs like in the case of gastritis and enteritis. The bitter properties of yarrow make the herb in invigorating the liver. On the other hand, the herb’s antispasmodics (an agent that relieves spasms or cramps) help in relieving cramps arising out of tensions, wind, colic or nervous dyspepsia (imperfect or painful digestion).

When consumed hot, yarrow is a superb medication that helps in getting relief from fevers and contagions like colds, flu, coughs as well as sore throats. Yarrow is also beneficial in removing heat and toxins from the system through increased perspiration. Yarrow can also be used as a stimulant for the circulatory system and helps in healing varicose veins, hemorrhoids, phlebitis (inflammation of superficial veins that results in pain) and thrombosis. The herb is also useful in lowering blood pressure. The herb is also an efficient diuretic (an agent that promotes urine production and flow) and helps in letting out excessive fluids and toxins through enhanced urination. Yarrow also helps to get relief from cystitis (a bladder infection marked by pain as well as frequent, painful urination), irritable bladder, stones, and irritation. In addition, the herb is useful in soothing painful joints and also clears the skin. The herb contains sterols, which have actions similar to hormones and aids in controlling the menstrual cycle. That yarrow is an extremely beneficial remedy for womenfolk; it is established from the fact that the herb moderates serious bleeding during menstruation as well as heals uterus blockages. It also helps in providing relief during heavy periods. Yarrow’s versatility as an herbal medication is again proved when it is said to be useful as a stimulant or tonic for the nervous system.

Plant Parts Used:

Aerial parts.

Medicinal Uses:

For centuries, yarrow has been used to heal wounds, especially in Scotland people made a conventional wound liniment from yarrow to treat cuts, bruises, and other injuries. Going by Greek mythology, Achilles was reported to have intensively used yarrow to cure his wounds. Chamazulene, found in yarrow and also in some volatile oils, strikingly possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. On the other hand, sesquiterpene lactones contained in yarrow are bitter and act as a stimulant, while Achille Eine aids in curbing internal as well as external hemorrhage. Flavonoids present in yarrow are perhaps responsible for the herb’s antispasmodic results. In addition, yarrow is useful in controlling the menstrual cycle, curbing heavy bleeding as well as relieving women from menstrual pains.

Researchers have established yarrow to be an excellent herb to heal abscesses (a localized collection of pus in the tissues of the body). When yarrow is blended with other herbs, it helps in healing colds and flu. The herb’s sour stimulant possessions render it helpful in promoting poor digestion and colic (a disease characterized by severe pain in the intestines owing to various affections of the gastrointestinal tract). In addition, yarrow is also effective in healing hay fever, lowering high blood pressure, enhancing blood circulation in the veins, and taunting up swollen or knotted veins. When applied externally, yarrow is also useful as an herbal cleanser for skin wrinkles.

Other medical uses:

  • Abscess

The Habitat of Yarrow:

Basically indigenous to Europe and western Asia, now yarrow can be found flourishing in all the temperate regions of the world. As mentioned earlier, the herb grows in all places, including in waste lands, countryside, meadows, and pastures, edges of the railway tracks and along the highways. Yarrow is propagated through its roots. The aerial parts of the plant are plucked during summer when it is in blossom.

Research:

Despite its many uses, yarrow has been poorly researched.

Constituents:

  • Alkaloids (Achille Eine)
  • Coumarins
  • Flavonoids
  • Salicylic acid
  • Sesquiterpene lactones
  • Polyacetylenes
  • Volatile oil with variable content (linalool, camphor, sabinene, chamazulene)
  • Triterpenes
  • Tannins

Recommended Dosage:

Yarrow can be consumed both as a tea as well as a tincture. If taken as a tea, yarrow can be mixed with other herbs. For effective results, one needs to take 200 ml of the tea three times a day. Alternatively, one ml or 20 drops of yarrow tincture can be taken in three times daily.

How Yarrow Works in the Body:

Scientific researchers have established that apigenin found in yarrow plants possess anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic actions. Azulenes, as well as salicylic acids content in the herb, are also antispasmodic (an agent that relieves spasms or cramps). On the other hand, alkaloids present in the yarrow plant act as a hemostatic (an agent used to stop internal bleeding) and hence are beneficial in curbing hemorrhage. Again, like in chamomile, chamazulene found in the herb is anti-allergic in nature. Significantly, yarrow is a versatile herbal medication and has different actions in different parts of the body. Nevertheless, yarrow is perhaps best known for its usefulness in healing respiratory problems. The plant has diaphoretic properties (increases perspiration) and hence has been found to be very effective in curing colds and fevers.

Many herbal medicine practitioners also use yarrow to heal allergy as in the case of hay fever. Since the herb has multiple properties, it is useful in various different conditions. The herb is very useful when consumed after a bout of flu or other illness as it acts as a digestive tonic and helps in enhancing appetite. While treating cardiovascular problems, the herb’s antispasmodic properties are of immense use, while yarrow’s diuretic functions have made it an important medication in lowering high blood pressure as well as enhancing the blood circulation in the veins. Especially in women, yarrow is also useful in healing the problems of the reproductive system and in regulating the menstrual cycle. Yarrow has multifarious and often diverse functions in the same organ. While the herb helps in curbing heavy bleeding during periods, it can also set in periods.

Applications:

That the yarrow plant has flexible medicinal use and it is very resourceful as an herbal medication is established from the fact that various parts of the plant can be used for healing different disorders. The herb’s flowers, essential oil, leaves as well as aerial parts are useful in some way or the other. Listed below are some of the applications of the yarrow plant.

Flowers:
INFUSION: An infusion of yarrow flowers can be prepared by steeping the flowers in boiling water for some time. If taken internally, the infusion is useful for upper respiratory phlegm. It may also be useful to heal eczema when applied externally as a wash.
INHALATION: Fresh yarrow flowers may be added to boiling water and the aroma inhaled to cure hay fever and mild asthma.
Essential oil:
MASSAGE OIL: With a view to getting relief from swollen joints, dilute 5 to 10 drops of yarrow oil in 25 ml of permeated St. John’s wort oil and massage the amalgamation on the affected areas.
CHEST RUB: To alleviate chest colds and drive out influenza, dilute 20 drops of essential yarrow oil in 25 ml of almond or sunflower oil and blend it with eucalyptus, peppermint, hyssop or thyme oil and rub the mixture on the chest.
Leaves:
FRESH: Inserting a yarrow leaf into the nostril helps in curbing nosebleed.
POULTICE: Cuts and scratches on the body can be healed by wrapping cleansed fresh yarrow leaves on the affected regions.
Aerial parts:
INFUSION: An infusion prepared with the aerial parts of the yarrow plant is useful in reducing fevers. The infusion is also useful as a digestive stimulant.
TINCTURE: Yarrow tincture is useful for healing urinary disorders and menstrual problems. It is also recommended for cardiovascular complaints.
COMPRESS: One may soak a pad in the yarrow infusion or dilute the yarrow tincture to get relief from varicose veins.

Stomach-Friendly Wine:

  • 2 cups (120 g) yarrow flowers
  • 6 cups (1 1/2 liters) dry white wine

Crush the flowers in a mortar or an electric blender. Let stand for 1 month in a glass jar away from light, then strain.
Bitter yet healthy for digestion, fighting stomach cramps and flatulence. As an aperitif or a digestive, take 1 Tablespoon (15 ml).

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