Yarrow is once again gracing my garden with her beautiful blooms. And so it’s time once again to harvest and tincture yarrow for her many healing qualities to have on hand when needed. And I love that it’s such an easy plant to grow and once started will continue to return each year with little fuss or care.
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium – Often touted as “the only herb you need” and “no herbal first aid kit is complete without it.”
The herb of many faces, yarrow is both a healer and a protector. While its clinical use is tried and true, the yarrow medicinal benefits extend far beyond the phytochemical realm. We look to its essence for strength, for guidance, and for creating a safe boundary to grow within.
Yarrow is named after the Greek hero Achilles, but the etymology is otherwise left to folklore. Some say when Achilles was dipped in the River Styx – everywhere but his heel which was laden with yarrow and the herb helped make him invincible. Others say that he used the plant to heal his soldiers in battle.
In any case, yarrow’s medicinal benefits are so profound they have been associated with the gods. That is something special, indeed!
What is Yarrow?
Yarrow is a perennial herb scientifically known as Achillea millefolium, and nearly every part of the plant is useful from a medicinal standpoint. Native to many areas in the Northern hemisphere, the use of this herb dates back thousands of years – even to ancient Greek legends. There are many common names for this herb, including old man’s pepper, the nosebleed plant, milfoil, soldier’s woundwort, and Thousand-seal, among others. Both the leaves and flowers of the yarrow plant are edible, as are the stalks, which can be crushed into a topical salve.
Yarrow leaves have a peculiar smell that is slightly spicy or peppery, particularly when they are crushed to release their aromatic compounds. Native Americans and ancient Britons used this herb extensively, and it is also present in Chinese traditional medicine, largely as an astringent substance. However, it remains one of the most versatile and recommended herbs in natural healing around the world.
Medicinal Uses for Yarrow
Yarrow tincture is an incredibly easy way to get yarrow into your system quickly. Make it in advance for whenever you may need it in a pinch—especially if you don’t keep dried yarrow on hand often.
You can also make a tea, tincture, glycerite, infused oil, and more with your yarrow.
Yarrow has the following medicinal uses:
- wound treatment
- stops bleeding
- digestive herb
- anti-catarrhal (removes excess mucous from the body)
- diaphoretic (reduces fever)
- lowers blood pressure
- stimulates blood flow in the pelvic area (especially the uterus)
- used for hemorrhage
- used for treatment in pneumonia.
- used for treatment in rheumatic pain
Wound Healing – Wound healing has been primarily associated with yarrow due to its scientific name Achillea millefolium being derived from the name of the mythical war hero of ancient Greece, Achilles. It is believed that Achilles and his soldiers used yarrow to treat their wounds and restrain bleeding. The chemical compound achilliene found in yarrow is responsible for its healing power. This facilitates the coagulation of blood, which leads to the rapid closing of the wound. It also protects the wound from infections and numbs the pain. It was also used during wars to heal burn wounds that were caused by napalm. This is what gave it the title of “Herb of the Military”.
Anti-inflammatory Properties – Yarrow extracts contain flavonoids and sesquiterpene lactones that calm inflammation that may be the cause of many illnesses such as a sore throat, arthritis, respiratory issues and stomach-aches. Inflammation can occur in any organ, the addition of it to the daily diet can be helpful in preventing inflammation. There are some antidotes for venom and drugs that use yarrow as an ingredient.
Gastrointestinal Remedy – Yarrow has antiseptic and antispasmodic properties, the involuntary spasms that are a result of digestion issues in the lower intestine can be treated through yarrow consumption. Conditions such as leaky gut, diarrhea, flatulence, and stomach cramps can be treated using it. The plant-based flavonoids that it contains are responsible for relaxing the muscles and reducing spasms.
Antiseptic – Yarrow essential oils and the plant itself is the most powerful antiseptic known to man, it is a natural disinfectant and its medicinal properties for fighting infections are unmatched by any other conventional remedy in the market. Not only does it heal external wounds it also prevents internal infections as it contains antimicrobial properties. Yarrow activates the blood platelets in the affected area, which form a protective layer to keep the body protected from infection-causing bacteria. Yarrow essential oil has such potent antiseptic effects that it kills the bacteria completely when applied to the wound.
Reduces Scarring – Yarrow is an ingredient prized by the cosmetic industry as it has excellent scar removal properties. It not only speeds up the healing process, but also reduces the appearance of scars. There are many ways yarrow can be used to heal scars, either by oral consumption or by using it in your skincare routines. Its anti-inflammatory properties also calm the irritation and redness surrounding the wounds.
Hormonal Balance – Hormonal imbalance is usually a short-term condition that comes hand in hand with the PMS cycle; however, this is not always the case. Adding yarrow to your diet can help balance the hormones in your body. Hormonal imbalance can sometimes be the reason you not getting a regular menstrual cycle, a condition a known as amenorrhea. It is an emmenagogue, which increases the blood flow in the pelvic area, encouraging timely menstruation.
Mastitis – Mastitis is a breast infection that women who are nursing new-borns often experience. To increase blood circulation in this area, yarrow is used to relieve pain and calm the inflammation in the breasts. Its antiseptic properties will also help fight off the infection and treat the condition.
Blood Pressure Management -Yarrow has vasodilatory and anti-inflammatory properties that facilities adequate flow of blood throughout the body. It also calms and relaxes the nerves to lower blood pressure. Research shows that yarrow helps lower blood pressure in patients suffering from hypertension. Medical studies conducted on animals showed that administering its extract in hyperactive cardiovascular conditions can be extremely beneficial.
Asthma – Yarrow has calming properties that facilitate oxygen and blood circulation, and does the same for the respiratory system, easing the symptoms of asthma. It has bronchodilatory effects that are helpful in relaxing the bronchi and calming the inflammatory airways.
Curing Colds – Yarrow tea has been a go-to treatment for colds and mild fever since ancient times, it dilates the pores and blood vessels to remove the toxins from the body through perspiration. It calms inflammation, and its antiseptic capabilities fight infections and viruses. It also calms bouts of coughing and is an excellent natural remedy to treat flu and the common cold.
Skin Treatment – Skincare products and ointments that contain yarrow essential oils and its extracts help clear out eczema and calm skin inflammation. Acne scars can also be healed and treated with yarrow essential oil when added to carrier oils. Yarrow tea is also an excellent way to cleanse the body from within to enhance cell regeneration in the skin.
Traditional uses for yarrow
Yarrow has traditionally been used as a tonic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic, and emmenagogic agent (stimulating blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus). It has been used for the treatment of hemorrhage, pneumonia, rheumatic pain, and wound healing in traditional Persian literature.
Modern medicinal uses for yarrow
The modern medicinal uses for yarrow have even included treatments for malaria, hepatitis, jaundice, liver disorders, and it is known as a hepatoprotective herb (meaning, it protects the liver).
Yarrow has been used in the prevention and treatment of influenza, though there aren’t any studies about the herb for the specific treatment of influenza. When taken at the onset of influenza symptoms, it can greatly help ease the symptoms of influenza since it is a natural anti-catarrhal (removes excess mucous from the body) and natural fever reducer (through perspiration).
Because yarrow is a bitter herb, it has flavonoids which are plant-based chemicals that increase saliva and stomach acid to help improve digestion.
Yarrow can be used as a mild sedative to reduce anxiety and promote sleep.
Native Americans and early settlers had medicinal uses for yarrow, too.
They used yarrow for its astringent qualities that made it effective in wound healing and its ability to stop bleeding.
When England experienced a pharmaceutical shortage during WWII, the Ministry of Health recruited children and adults to wild forage for yarrow in order to augment their supply.
Dioscorides, a Greek physician, pharmacologist, botanist, and author of De materia medica used yarrow for dysentery, wounds, and infections.
Yarrow essential oil has been shown to have antimicrobial properties against certain bacteria, including E. coli and pneumonia. It may also help with urinary tract infections.
Believe it or not, a study done on yarrow even showed great antiviral activity against Polio! Another study showed that yarrow helps lower blood glucose levels.
Have I told you just how amazing the medicinal uses for yarrow are? Pretty amazing.
Yarrow’s flowers have historically been used as a diaphoretic, or a sweat inducing agent, to help break a fever and promote perspiration when heat needs to be released from the body.
Side Effects of Yarrow
Placing yarrow on the skin can cause issues if you are in direct sunlight afterwards.
While there are many positive benefits of yarrow, there are a number of side effects to consider, including the following:
- Bleeding disorders
- Blood pressure problems
- Topical inflammation
- Increased urination
Contraindication Notes about the Medicinal Uses for Yarrow
- Do not take yarrow for more than 2 weeks at a time.
- Do not take yarrow if you are pregnant, as it can cause uterine contractions and may result in a miscarriage.
- If you are on high blood pressure medications, please note that yarrow can lower blood pressure, and therefore your regular blood pressure medications can be affected.
- Since yarrow can slow blood clotting in some cases, for those with bleeding disorders it can be dangerous, as well as those undergoing surgery.
- Negative interactions with drugs that induce drowsiness, treat high blood pressure, reduce stomach acid or thin the blood may also occur, so speak with your doctor before adding this herbal remedy to your health regimen.
Nutrition Facts & Health Benefits
Culinary Uses of Yarrow
There are many impressive uses of yarrow, including in cooking, as an herbal substitute, in vinegar, oils and for cosmetic use, among others.
Soups – The peppery smell of this herb makes it a very popular flavor addition to soups, stews, and curries.
Sautéing Food – When you sauté food, it can take on many of the flavors from the herbs around it, so people often use this as a sautéing complement.
Infused Vinegar – If you want to make slightly peppery vinegar, you can infuse the oils with this herb by letting it steep for a few weeks in the vinegar.
Salads – While not a common “salad green”, yarrow herb can be added to salads for a spicy bite.
Tea – Yarrow can be steeped in hot water to release its wealth of antioxidants and active ingredients for a peppery brew.
Cosmetics – When the stalks of yarrow are crushed, the oils that are released can be added to various cosmetics to enhance their astringent effects on the skin.
The Magic of Yarrow
Here’s the thing, it’s not just the yarrow medicinal benefits we’re here for. This beautiful plant’s use can be dated all the way back to the Druids, who used them as a strewing herb. They sprinkled yarrow in doorways to help protect against the evils, and used the stems to tell the coming weather – which is a truly lost art.
Throughout all of history, from its naming to its medicinal use, to the essence and magic, yarrow has been thought of as a very protective herb. Growing and strewing yarrow brings protection to the home, and hanging the stem and flower over a new marriage bed helps to create a bond – a single unit – for a long and solid relationship.
The flower essence of yarrow is used to help people create better boundaries. (Which is interesting that it’s used to help unify a marriage, yes?)
This plant and its essence are often included in a formula to help a person protect their own energy, find their space, and set healthy boundaries. Unlike some of the other boundary herbs, yarrow’s protection is gentle yet firm. It is a great plant to work with when one wants to set a gentle boundary with the outside world, while still allowing welcomed energies to pass through its veil.
A protector both energetically and physiologically, yarrow is one plant that any herbalist will want to include in their herbal apothecary and/or magical and essence kits!
How to Harvest Yarrow
As a garden herb, yarrow is super easy to grow and harvest. It’s pretty much a no-fuss, fool-proof herb for your garden. Allow the plant to grow to maturity. When the flowers open fully, harvest each stem with the head attached, all the way down to the ground. Hang the stems, with the flower head attached, upside down to dry for several days.
The leaves, stem and flowers contribute to the medicinal uses for yarrow. Every part can be used. Store the herb in an airtight container for up to one year.
If you wish to use the root of the yarrow plant, you should allow it to mature for at least 2 to 3 years before harvesting the entire root. Or you can take bits and pieces of the root each year. Dry the root out for a week before transferring it to an airtight container for up to a year.
HAPPY SUMMER HARVESTING!!
Love & Peace,
Check out Hummingbird’s NEW fresh and potent extracts: yarrow and feverfew.