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Yarrow

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Achillea millefolium

Yarrow is one of my favorite herbs. It fulfills all of my ideals: it’s easy to grow, it grows wild locally, a simple water extraction is effective, and it has many applications!

It looks very elegant in flower, and the leaves are so finely feathered they have a soft appearance. It makes a good companion plant as it keeps the Japanese beetle, ants, and flies away, and is said to increase the volatile oil content of nearby plants. It should be moved from year to year as it secretes a toxin into the soil that is harmful to all plants if allowed to accumulate. The above ground portion of the plant is harvested in flower and dried quickly to prevent browning.

A popular plant of our ancestors; it has more than seventeen common names. And for good reason, it is an outstanding wound dressing. It will not only stop the bleeding, it will disinfect, and diminish the pain. Taken by the same patient as a tea, it will reduce the shock, relax, promote healing to the site, and help recover the blood electrolyte levels lost in bleeding.

If that’s not a good enough reason to have it around, it is considered an herbalists’ standard in fever and cold treatment. A hot cup of tea will promote sweating to manage body temperature, calm an upset stomach, and make you feel all relaxed and looked after. It combines wonderfully with elder flowers (Sambucus nigra) and peppermint (Mentha piperita).

Yarrow is well studied and very dependable for a variety of other complaints as well. It has an effect on many systems and may be used for such conditions as: colds, amenorrhea, hypertension, diarrhea, dyspepsia, ulcers, varicose veins, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, thrombosis, bruises, hemorrhoids, rashes, dermatitis, nose bleeds (this is actually one of its common names), earache, and slow healing wounds.

Cautions and Considerations

Although it is considered a non-toxic plant, care must be taken in those with known rag-weed allergies (plants belonging to the Asteraceae family). Topical use may cause contact dermatitis. Large doses may cause headaches. Expectant mothers should avoid this plant in high doses to avoid possible uterine stimulation.

How to Use Yarrow

  • An infusion is made by adding one cup of boiling water to 1 tsp of dried or 1 tbls of fresh herb, cover and steep for 15 min, sip as needed up to three cups per day.

  • Powder may be taken in 300-400 mg capsules, two or three at a time, up to six per day, on an empty stomach.

  • Tincture is usually made in a 1:5 strength in 25% alcohol and administered at 3ml, three times per day with a weekly maximum of 50 ml

  • Fresh crushed plant can be applied as a compress directly to the skin for wounds.

  • A cloth soaked in the infusion can be applied to bruises, aches, hemorrhoids, etc.

  • As a component in a cream or ointment it may be used on rashes and skin conditions.

  • Infused oil is useful when rubbed externally on inflammations or for joint pain.

  • In infusion in a sitz bath will alleviate muscular aches and pains including menstrual cramps.

Constituents:

Yarrow contains a wide variety of active component which give its multifaceted uses. Volatile oil – pinenes, bornyl acetate, borneol, camphor, caryophyllene, eugenol,

farnesene, myrcene, sabinene, salicylic acid, terpineol, thujone; Sesquiterpene lactones – achillin, achillicin, hydroxyachillin, balchanolide, leucodin,

millifin, millifolide; Flavinoids – apigenin, luteolin, quercitin and their glycosides, artemetin, casticin, rutin; Alkaloids and bases – betonicine, stachydrine, achiceine, moschatine, trigonelline; Miscellaneous – acetylenes, aldehydes, cyclitols, plant acids; Minerals – calcium, iron, potassium, sodium, sulfur

Some Interesting Tidbits

At one time yarrow was used as a snuff. In Sweden and Africa, it has been used in the making of beer in place of hops.

Placed under a pillow before bed it is said to reveal the name of the future mate to the dreamer.

As one of the herbs dedicated to the Devil, it was used in divination spells.

It was held in some areas that if a leaf was tickled in the nostril and the following rhyme was recited, love would be confirmed or denied.

“Yarroway, Yarroway, bear a white blow, if my love love me, my nose will bleed now.”

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