Meet Achillea millefolium – Yarrow

Welcome to our latest featured botanical:  Achillea millefolium – Yarrow

Yarrow is a member of the Asteraceae family, of the Achillea genus.

A native to Eurasia, it grows throughout the northern hemisphere, including temperate regions of the Arctic. It takes root in meadows/lawns, open woodlands, wastelands/roadsides and is typically harvested throughout the summer as it blooms.

The size of the plant is influenced by its environment (soil quality, compactness, sun exposure and the like). Its overall height ranges from 8 to 39 inches.
The leaves are furry and grow spirally on the stem, and range from 2 to 8 inches long with the largest leaves at the bottom of the plant.

Yarrow is drought resistant and has been used for maintaining soil integrity, especially where erosion is a concern. It attracts “beneficial” garden insects, including my beloved predatory wasps, ladybugs and hoverflies.

Parts used: Aerial parts, flowers, leaves and stems.

Harvest: Flowering tops. Harvest the leaves at any time.

Taste: Bitter, pungent, acrid.

Energetics: Cooling, toning/soothing, astringent/Cool, dry.

Chakra association: Crown

Actions: Antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, AnAromatic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, nutritive, repellent (pest), styptic, tonic, and more.

Constituents: Alkaloids, amino acids, bitters, coumarins, fatty acids, flavonoids, isovaleric acid, nutrients (ascorbic acid, folic acid… calcium, iron, potassium, sodium, sulphur), saponins, salicylic acid, sterols, sugars, tannins, volatile oils and more.

Contraindications: Allergies (contact dermatitis); avoid/decrease consumption during pregnancy; Dizziness and nausea (adjust dose to a personal protocol);

Medicinal use: Digestion, respiratory, renal, hepatic, cardio/circulatory support – and more.

I’ve used yarrow to staunch bleeding of open cuts, especially punctured or deep cuts, bloody nose, using the raw plant, powdered leaf, as well as tincture (which stings, but I say you use what you have on hand). Yarrow is named for Achilles, the Greek warrior who relied on the herb to staunch the wounds of his soldiers on the battlefield, so there’s folklore to back up this particular action of this particular botanical.

Yarrow has a long tradition of being used, as a warm tea, during times of cold and flu when a fever is stuck and won’t break. A cup or two of the infusion, or hot water with a squirt (like a teaspoon or less) of tincture taken several times a day can ease the discomforts of colds and flu by encouraging sweating. I find it blends nicely with boneset (Eupatorium sp.) during times of flu. Henriette Kress suggests inhaling the steam when respiration is involved (and then drink it). I love this idea, for the fragrance of yarrow is comforting and healing, and steams are one of my GoTo Medicine practices.

Women have used yarrow during their moon cycles to help ease menstrual cramps and regulate menstrual flow, by ingesting infusion or tincture for a few days.

Yarrow has a long history of supporting the digestive system. As a bitter it can certainly kick-up saliva and digestive enzymes. I consider it one – of the many – fine digestive tonics.

Its astringency makes it a great option for treating hemorrhoids, externally and internally. When a “wet or weepy condition” presents itself, I often think: Yarrow!

Henriette Kress says that it “works a little like Echinacea, in that it makes white blood cells more ‘trigger-happy.’”

A tincture of yarrow makes a fine bug spray, deterring mayflies, mosquitoes, and even ticks. I’ve blended it with catnip and other tinctures, but find it, all on its own, to be delightfully effective. Sure, you have to reapply it, especially when starting its use, but I swear the impact is cumulative, for I seem to need less and less as the season wears on, as well as each year.

I love it, diluted, as a mouth rinse. It’s one of the many astringent herbals I reach for as a swish for dental care and health.

I’ve made infused oils and balms to support joint and muscle discomfort, and while effective, it’s not my GoTo. It does work nicely to dispel “stuck” blood externally, and in this way I do consider it my local arnica. I’ve also added it to my breast massage balms to enhance blood flow, and Susun Weed indicates just that in her book “Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way.”

Henriette Kress uses the roots for addressing toothaches, like a “chaw.”

The dried stems were apparently used to throw the I Ching. My spouse and I have used them for playing pick-up-sticks on those long summer evenings when kicking back time kicks in.

Spiritual relationship: For me, yarrow represents the “straight and narrow” behaviors that support and benefit a wild dream, a grand vision, goal or desired outcome. The spirit of yarrow has supported me through life challenges where I required behavior and action of unbending dedication and focus. In this way, I often say that yarrow helps to center and ground our grandest of dreams. Julia Graves alludes to this and offered me some external validation in her book, “The Language of Plants.”

Energetically, I find this herb to be a great match-up for those who spend a great deal of time “in their heads.”

Some Usual Applications
Tea/Infused water/ales and other fermented beverages
Addition to green powder (leaves or petals)
Infused vinegar (abrasions, small wounds)
Infused oil
Balms, ointments, lotions
Potpourri (simmered and dried)
Bath salts
Pillow mix
Bug repellent
Body spray
Deodorant powder
Spiritual healing

sources: for the botany bits            
The language of Plants by Julia Graves
Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way by Susun Weed
The Practical Herbalist, v. 1 & 2 by Henriette Kress
and various notes from experience, my own and others.

Walk in the Woods, LLC
Whiting Mills
Winsted, Connecticut