Asteraceae - Sunflower Family
Yarrow is one of our most ancient herbs for practical medicine and ceremonial healing. A white-bloomed beauty, this wildflower was named for Achilles, a Greek warrior whose longevity in battle was credited to being dipped in a warm bath of yarrow soon after birth. Later, it’s said that he used yarrow leaves to heal the wounds of his soldiers. In keeping with this heroic legacy, yarrow is one of our strongest allies for heavy or hemorrhagic bleeding and first-aid herbalism.
Yarrow also finds its way into the family medicine cabinet as a diaphoretic for colds and flu and as a bitter for improving digestion. With soft, feathery leaves and aromatic blooms that attract beneficial insects, yarrow is a treasure in the garden.
Topically it can slow bleeding and help encourage healing of wounds, bring relief to painful inflammation, rashes or hemorrhoids. If taken internally it is fantastic at breaking fevers and ridding the body of infection. It improves blood circulation, aids in digestion, and urinary function. Yarrow is also a particularly helpful plant for women to have in their arsenal. It can both encourage menstruation or slow down heavy bleeding, bringing hormonal balance where needed.
Styptic, antihemorrhagic, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, astringent, alterative, antimicrobial, vulnerary, diaphoretic, circulatory stimulant, hypotensive, emmenagogue, antispasmodic, and bitter. Yarrow is discouraged internally during pregnancy because of its emmenagogue effects but can be safely used externally.
Yarrow has always been a traditional herb for protection, love, and divination. Its stalks (in bundles of fifty) were the original casting tools for the I Ching, or Book of Changes—an ancient Chinese divinatory text. In Europe, yarrow was hung in doorways as a charm against dark forces and could be held against the eyes to bring on the second sight. A sachet of yarrow, tucked under one’s pillow at night, was said to bring dreams bearing the face of one’s future love. When the wedding eventually took place, yarrow wreaths and garlands bedecked the ceremony and the bridal bed—guaranteeing seven years (no more and no less) of fidelity and passion. Yarrow can also be bundled and burned as a purifying smudge.
An herb of open spaces, yarrow can be found in wildflower meadows and pastures, atop grassy balds, along roadsides, and throughout disturbed areas. It’s wonderfully common and thrives in varied habitats—including coastal areas, high elevations, and high latitudes. Yarrow can often be found growing in the company of red clover (Trifolium pratense), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca), and self-heal (Prunella vulgaris).
The light brown creeping rootstock produces a round, smooth, pithy stem that branches near the top and may be glabrous or hairy. The alternate leaves are linear-lanceolate in outline and are pinnately divided into many small segments, the leaflets are sharply cleft. The flower heads have white rays and yellow (turning to brown) disks and are arranged in convex or flat compound corymbs. Flowering time is from June to November.
Yarrow’s flowers are one of our best diaphoretics for breaking fevers and sweating out colds and
flu. Yarrow is so successful in this light that it has traditionally been used in sweat lodges to encourage profuse sweating.Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory actions make it valuable for treating infections, clearing sinus congestion, and bringing comfort to painful symptoms. Yarrow can be used in tea or tincture form as a decongestant for seasonal or environmental allergies. The flowers are a classic cold and flu remedy due to its diaphoretic, decongestant, and antimicrobial qualities. The flowers (which possess tannins, in addition to copious amounts of volatile aromatic oils) is a good preventive remedy for secondary bacterial infections. It is a beneficial remedy for urinary tract infections. For this purpose, the herbs should be prepared as an infusion and drunk at room temperature. The flower essence or carrying a sprig in your pocket are wonderful boundary creators for those suffering from emotional overstimulation or stress.
Used for centuries as a first-aid remedy. While the whole plant is medicinal, its leaves (which contain a high concentration of astringent tannins) encourage clotting. Can be used as a poultice to stop bleeding and prevent wound infection.
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