Botanical Name – Achillea millifolium Family – Asteraceae
Common Names – Milfoil, Soldier’s Wart, Nosebleed plant, Knight’s Milfoil, Carpenter’s weed
Description – Yarrow is a common, perennial, wild flower native to the Northern hemisphere. The feathery, fern-like basal leaves form low growing mats in the spring that grow upward to flower from June through September. The flowers form loose, flat umbels made up of several individual miniature, flat daisies. Each flower originates from a different part of a stout stem. The whole plant is between 12 and 24 inches. Yarrow is covered with fine downy hair that makes the plant soft to the touch.
Part used – Whole Plant is used. The aerial parts of the plant including the leaf and flowers are used to make tea, tinctures, medicinal oils and salves. The root is tinctured in brandy and used for toothache and mouth sores.
Primary Constituents – Yarrow has a complicated and lengthy pharmacology. Some of its principle constituents include flavonoids, vitamin C, bitters, tannins, 8-cineol, limonene, thiophenes, alkaloids, sterols, phenolic acids, coumarins, sesquiterpine lactones (including achillin), and volatile oils (including thujone, borneal, camphor, and pinenes.
Medicinal Properties – Diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, carminative, hemostatic, antispasmodic, astringent, and stomatic.
Preparation – Tea, Infusion, tincture, compress, poultice, essential oil, infused oil
Medicinal use – Yarrow is used for a wide variety of common complaints and is one of the most valuable plant remedies used in your herb cupboard. Yarrow works to balance heat or fire in the human system with an affinity for the blood. The tea when taken hot will stimulate sweating and is often used combined with lemon balm, mint and elder at the first stages of a cold or flu. When taken at room temperature the tea has a mild laxative effect that stimulates digestion and works as a diuretic and disinfectant useful for treating urinary infections, cystitis and urinary incontinence. Yarrow seems to cool and sooth almost any kind of inflammation making it useful for in all sorts of situations where pain, inflammation and heat are at the heart of the problem.
Its cooling, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent properties make this herb a powerful wound healer. Use yarrow fresh in the field, as a tea, tincture, oil or salve to stop bleeding, decrease inflammation, pain, and prevent infection and speed healing. When used on minor cuts, scrapes and insect bites, it almost has a numbing effect.
Yarrow’s bitter taste is useful as both a stimulant and anti-inflammatory for the digestive system. Use the tea cold or the tincture when the tongue is red with cracks down the middle. This will get bile and pancreatic juices flowing and is helpful for lack of appetite, colic, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids and mild polyps. Used as a reproductive tonic, Yarrow balances the blood flow in the pelvic area, working to both staunch heavy bleeding and stimulate bleeding when it’s slow and scanty. Use it as a tea, tincture or compress when there is congestion resulting in dark clotted blood and period pains or spotting between periods. Use it as a tea, tincture or as a douche for vaginal infections.
The essential oil is a dark blue color resembling that of Roman Chamomile. Like its relative, Yarrow essential oil is contains over 50% azulene, making it very useful in skin care products to reduce inflammation, minimize varicose veins and minimize scar tissue. Use the root soaked in Brandy for one of the best toothache relief agents one can find.
Interactions and Counter-indications – Yarrow is contra-indicated – Pregnant women should not take yarrow, because its ability to relax the smooth muscle of the uterus could cause miscarriage. Because yarrow may increase the production of stomach acid, it can interfere with both over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
History and Folklore – Yarrow has a glorious history. The botanical name Achillea comes from its mythological history as the plant given to the Roman Hero Achilles to treat wounded comrades on the battlefield. Its common name millefollium or 1000 leaves refers to its many fine feather-like leaves. Yarrow was one of the medicinal herbs found in the Neanderthal burial site in Iraq, which dates from around 60,000 BC and has become famous in herbal medicine as one of the earliest indications of human’s use of medicinal plants.
During the middle ages in Europe, Yarrow was strewn on entryway floors, tied to baby cribs, and placed next to birthing mothers to off witchcraft and other agents and workings of the Devil!
Yarrow | University of Maryland Medical Center Rose, Jeanne, 375 Essential oils and hydrosols, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley Ca, 1999 Moore, Michael. Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West, revised and expanded edition, Santa Fe, NM; Museum of New Mexico Press, 2003 Tierra, Michael, The Way of Herbs, Pocket Books, NY, NY : 1980 Greive, Mrs. M, A Modern Herbal Voume II, Dover Publications inc, 1981