Now that this long winter is finally over, I try to check my garden daily to see what herbs are popping up. While I know I won’t see some, like milkweed, goldenrod and St. Johns wort for a little while, early bloomers are popping up. Among them is yarrow, almost as common a “weed” as they get. Yarrow (Achillea millefoleum-named for the Greek hero Achilles) enthusiastically grows everywhere there is some sun–in yards, meadows, empty lots, pastures and along the side of roads and highways. propagates by seed, and by vigorously growing and spreading roots. It has been used medicinally for thousands of years, and is said to have been used during the Trojan War, in 1260 B.C., for healing wounds. Its myriad of uses has ranged from curing hangovers (by the Ancient Greeks) to stopping nosebleeds and other bleeding (hence the common names Nosebleed and Soldier’s Wound Wort) to warding of evil spirits and disease in homes, during medieval times. Looking even further back, it is reported that yarrow was found at a Neanderthal site in Iraq dating from 60,000BC, and as it is a bitter tasting plant, it is theorized to have been used medicinally.
Yarrow is an astringent, tonic, stimulant, mild aromatic and diaphoretic, meaning it induces sweating. It’s diaphoretic properties make it a useful herb for treating severe colds. According to Maude Grieve’s A Modern Herbal, it is “most useful in the commencement of fevers.” Grieve recommends making an infusion with 1 ounce of dried herb and 1 pint of boiling water. It can be drunk warm, with some honey and a bit of cayenne pepper. According to herbalist Susun Weed, 10 to 20 drops of yarrow tincture as a cold preventative is far more effective than echinacea, goldenseal or vitamin C.
Other uses of yarrow include treating toothache by chewing on fresh leaves, treating menstural cramps, digestive disturbances, soothing and reducing inflammation from hemarrhoids, eating young leaves in salads and treating acne.
I use fresh white yarrow flowers and leaves (white yarrow is generally used for medicinal purposes, though many colors have been cultivated as ornamental flowers) in my Blue Lotus Botanicals Chamomile and Red Raspberry Leaf Facial Toner, formulated specifically for those with oily and acneic skin. Visit www.bluelotusbotanicals.com to link to my online store for more information.
If you forage wild yarrow, make sure you are harvesting from an area that is not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides, and preferably a place not too close to the road, as you want your plants to be as free from pollutants as possible.