Achillea millefolium – Yarrow

YarrowAchillea millefolium

Achillea = a-kil-lee-a, after Achilles of Greek mythology;

millefolium = meel-lee-fo-lee-um, “thousand-leaved”, referring to its densely pinnated leaves.

Identification: Yarrow is an aromatic herb standing 30-70 cm high. Its composite flower heads are borne in a flat-topped inflorescence. The flowers are white or rarely pink. The alternate leaves are very finely pinnated or plume-like, with woolly hairs on them. It sun-dries, standing from fall till spring as a brown skeleton of its former self.

Distribution & Habitat: Yarrow likes open, sunny, well drained places. It is a pioneer species and tends to be found on disturbed soils. Because it prefers well drained areas, it is often found in slightly gravelly locales. It is also common in pastures.

Preparation & Uses: The legend behind the generic name “Achillea” goes back many years to when Achilles made an ointment from the yarrow to heal wounds of his soldiers after the Battle of Troy. The legend says he first learned of its uses from Chiron, the Centaur. Another version of the legend says that Achilles was dunked into yarrow tea at birth, making all but the heel he was held by invincible.

Yarrow is reported to be diaphoretic, diuretic, stimulant, astringent and tonic. It is a strong and soothing diaphoretic. When taken hot in an infusion, it will increase the body temperature, open skin pores, stimulate free perspiration, and equalize the circulation, making it one of the most valuable herbs for colds and fevers.

A famous remedy for colds/flus is made from equal parts yarrow, elder flower (or leaves) and mint, infused and drunk regularly. In opening the pores, yarrow purifies the blood by elimination of the morbid waste material produced in sickness. Yarrow regulates the function of the liver, and it is especially beneficial in its influence on secretion throughout the entire alimentary canal. As a stomach tonic it is quite effective when drunk as a fresh infusion. It is also said to be effective in treating anorexia (by stimulating digestive enzyme and bile flow) but I have yet to try this.

One of the most effective uses of yarrow that I know is its ability to stop bleeding. The leaves tied to a wound will stop bleeding fairly fast and aid in the healing process. The green leaves are best for this, although dried leaves work, as do the flower heads.

Indians also used dried leaves of yarrow in a tea with plantain to halt internal bleeding. The tea can slow excessive menstrual flow and aid in reducing mild hemorrhoids.

The juice of yarrow was used as an eye wash to reduce redness. Oil from this plant, obtained by distillation, reportedly stops hair falling out. As an enema for piles and hemorrhage of the bowel, inject 2 tablespoons, repeating several times after each stool. It is also good for leucorrhea. The root has an analgesic property and was sometimes used for toothaches.

The Ojibwa Indians used the florets as incense in ceremonies and also burned it to break up fevers. They also used the leaves as a poultice to cure spider bites.

It is used to stop nosebleeds in a odd way. If you have a nosebleed, stick a roll of yarrow up your nose and it will stop the bleeding. If you have a severe sinus-type headache, stick yarrow up your nose and it will make your nose bleed, thus releasing pressure on the head and alleviating your headache.

Yarrow tea was often used as a drink by Blackfoot Indians to speed up childbirth. It was also used to expel afterbirth. It also aids in bringing in a good supply of milk. It is effectively used in menopausal years, reducing the incidence of “hot flashs” and speeding up the transition. Yarrow was officially in the U.S.P. 1863-82.

Linnaeus says that in lieu of hops, the Swedish used yarrow to make a beer that was much stronger and quite tasty. Yarrow contains achillein, oil of achillea, and achillic acid.

Yarrow is the famous stalk chosen by the ancient Chinese sages for consulting the I Ching oracle.