Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
Parts used: Leaves and flowers
Common names, soldier's wort, yarrow.
The next herb in our studies is Yarrow Achillea millefolium. This herb is special to my heart, it was the first herb I was introduced to and without it and it's amazing skills I'm not sure I would have fallen so deep into herbalism. Yarrow has a very pretty white flower when found in the wild but at garden stores you can find it in many colors. As a general rule the white flowered yarrow has the medical benefits you seek. Also as with most herbs the harder the life of the herb the more potent medicine it produces so finding it in the wild will provide powerful medicine. Growing it in your garden among other herbs and without routine watering can make powerful medicine as well. I've found my Yarrow in pastures, at our local lake and in my friends yard. All of these places are pesticide free and far from the road. Yarrow is a very special herb, it has features that make it useful in many situations.
What it looks like
Yarrow has dark green feathery leaves that alternate, they can grow 3-4 inches long and are around 1 inch wide. The plant itself grows from 12-30 inches tall. It's flowers, which appear midsummer are white to pale, they are like teeny tiny daisies, flattened tops.
Where and when to find it
You can find Yarrow in early spring if you know what you'll looking for. You'll only find the leaves in the early spring. Come midsummer you'll start to see it's wonderful flowers popping up. You can find it anywhere that wild flowers grow, pastures, lakes, roadsides and more. It thrives under stress and the best quality yarrow can be found in sandy, gravelly soil that is warmed in the sun. This doesn't mean finding yarrow in other places makes it any less wonderful! You will find it flowering in June through September.
To harvest Yarrow you'll need a pair of clippers. Wherever you find your yarrow you'll want to make sure it hasn't been sprayed and is not too close to a road way. You will harvest the whole plant or just the tops at their peak between June and September. The plant is at its peak strength when the blooms are fully open but prior to the petals falling off or forming a seed. Yarrow is very powerful when harvested after a drought.
Prior to harvesting your Yarrow you'll want to have a plan for it. Yarrow can be tinctured, dried, powdered, made into a tea, turned into an oil, and then a salve and used as a fresh poultice. To dry the herb hang in loose bundles. Leave it to hang up to two weeks, until the flowers are fully dried. Store in a dark, airtight container.
Side note: Powerful Yarrow is also bitter so if choosing to try a tea with yarrow think about adding a mint to it to make it a bit more tasty.
Why it belongs in a first aid kit
Yarrow stanches bleeding. Use it as a poultice to stop bleeding from a cut or from a nosebleed. Don't use a non powdered dry herb of yarrow, it would be painful to the wound. Fresh poultices or powders are best.
Yarrow can aid in healing hemorrhoids, varicose veins and bruises as a poultice, salve, liniment or oil. It aids these ailments by toning blood vessels and moving inflammation away from the affected area.
Yarrow poultice can help with sprains or strains.
Yarrow can both slow a heavy menstrual flow or bring on a lack of a menstrual flow. This is an example of how it is both stimulating and sedative. Use internally as a tea for this. (Heavy bleeding can be an emergency please seek help. Do not use Yarrow while pregnant because of its ability to bring on menstruation) As a tea it can also ease menstrual cramping and menopausal restlessness.
Yarrow fights fevers and chills internally as a tincture or a tea. Yarrow helps to encourage the sweating mechanism, helping to break a fever. Remember fevers are a sign the body is working to fight bacteria or a virus.
A note about cold and flu: You can read about the differences between the cold and flu in the section on ailments but when it comes to the first signs, aches, sore throat, whatever first signs you have, taking warm yarrow tea or a tea with tincture of yarrow in it, several times a day would be beneficial.
It does dilate blood vessels helping to reduce high blood pressure. I mention this not because it is first aid or because it's something you should try on your own, but because if you are prone to low blood pressure you should be aware that this may not be an herb you want to take internally too often and you'll want to be aware of how you feel when you take it and of course maintain conversation with your healthcare provider as you use this herb.
Yarrow can help with toothaches in the way of tea, tincture or poultice. Toothaches can stem from infection and yarrow can be soothing to the inflamed infected tooth irritation until you can get the help you need.
What it can do
Yarrow is "An anomalous plant that does not fit in usual analysis" (A) pg 155 It is both stimulating and sedative and it moves where it is needed in the body, moving fluid in exactly the way it needs to be moved in most cases.
In this and the other herb profiles, you can reference the vocabulary list for deeper definitions of these properties. If they are not on the list, try this link.
Stimulant, sedative yet stimulating, bitter, astringent, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, hypotensive antiseptic, anti inflammatory, hemostatic, styptic, vulnerary, amphoteric, alterative, anticatarrhal, febrifuge, nervine, expectorant
In this and the following herb profiles know that these are only suggested doses. Deeper information will be found in a future doses segment of the membership.
First things first, Avoid yarrow in pregnancy.
Infusion 1 cup of water to 1-2 teaspoons of dried herbs, infuse 10-15 minutes, drink 3 times a day, increase to hourly when feverish, or feeling the onset of cold and flu.
Tincture 2-4 ml of tincture three times a day. A separate source says 15-60 drops 3-4 times daily, hourly in hot water for fevers. 30 drops is equal to 1.5 ml, 5 ml equals 1 tsp.
Poultice, liniment, oil or salve apply as needed.
Yarrow should be avoided in pregnancy.
Use minimally during lactation.
Yarrow is generally safe and non toxic but it can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Quit using it if you develop itchy eyes and or a rash.
It is safe but not meant to be taken regularly.
It is a natural blood thinner so avoid if you are on other blood thinners or have a surgery in the near future.
Can you grow it
Yarrow is a hardy plant that thrives well under stress. You can easily grow it in your own yard if it's not there already. It can also be grown in a container. It germinates easily from a seed and will continue to self sow, does very well in well drained soil but is adaptable. Colored versions you find are not indicated for medicinal uses.
Action step for Yarrow
Take a walk. Are you planning to go camping or on a hike? Do you have a friend that lives in the country? Go take a stroll away from pampered lawns and see if you can find Yarrow. If it's early spring look at the photo and look low to the ground and see if you can see the beginnings of the plant. If it is midsummer, look for the flowers. If it is winter then you may not be able to find the yarrow but instead find yourself a seed dealer and purchase some yarrow seeds to grow in the spring.
If you've been hearing anything about bitters as digestive aids, Yarrow falls under this category.