Perhaps one of the most notable herbs in the western herbal repertory, Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is famed for its seemingly endless uses. Yarrow is a both an Old World and New World herb, being native to Europe and Asia as well as North America. It has been used throughout time for its medicinal, mystical and intoxicating properties. Native Americans used yarrow to soothe tooth, head and ear aches. In Europe it has been used to discover one’s true love. In China, yarrow stalks were used as divination tools for the I Ching. Used in beer, yarrow is said to be more intoxicating than hops.
The many historic nicknames of yarrow hint at its many medicinal virtues; “nosebleed”, “soldier’s woundwort”, “bloodwort” and “staunchweed”. Its genus, Achillea, refers to the great Achilles who was said to staunch his soldier’s wounds with Yarrow. It is plant of the warrior, traditionally carried or worn for protection and courage and to combat fear. Energetically, yarrow dispels negativity and can be an important ally in emotional healing.
Highly aromatic, with featherlike leaves and a beautiful white umbel of flowers, yarrow is most esteemed for its first aid uses and its affinity for the blood. As “master of the blood”, yarrow is an indispensible hemostatic and vulnerary. Internally, it effectively stops nosebleeds, bleeding hemorrhoids and ulcers. Topically, the fresh leaf can stop minor bleeding from cuts and scrapes. Chewing on a yarrow leaf can relieve toothache. Placing leaves up the nose are said to either stop or stimulate nosebleed, depending on the situation. Yarrow’s anti-inflammatory properties are also notable in topical applications for bruises, swelling and tenderness.
Achillea has long been used for menstrual problems as well. Having an affinity for congested and stagnant blood, yarrow stimulates delayed, crampy menses while tonifying the uterus. Conversely, it regulates heavy, excessive menstrual bleeding, making it a “great normalizer” of the blood.
Yarrow can be used at the first signs of cold or flu for its diaphoretic, immune stimulating, and antimicrobial properties. Drink Yarrow tea or take the tincture in hot water to ward off colds and lower fever. Use yarrow for respiratory conditions such as sinus infection, allergies and bronchitis.
Yarrow also acts as a singular remedy for acute cystitis. It is an excellent remedy for urinary tract infections, having anti-microbial, diuretic and tonifying properties. Being a bitter, yarrow stimulates the digestive system and can improve appetite and alleviate bloating and cramping.
Truly a magnificent herb for its medicinal and spiritual virtues, yarrow makes itself readily available in most locations from roadsides to mountain trails. As a first aid remedy, women’s menstrual ally, immune stimulant and protective herb, yarrow is a plant you should never be without.