Yarrow is a member of the Asteraceae family whose origins stem from Europe and Asia and was brought to the northern regions of America and other countries. It is known by many names including Milfoil, Old Man’s Pepper, Soldier’s Woundwort, Bloodwort, and Nosebleed. It is ascribed to the Greek hero, Achilles who carried it into battle to treat his troops. The word stems from the Anglo-Saxon “gearwe.”
One can glean some of the medicinal properties of this herb by the quaintness of these names. For instance, in order to stop a nosebleed, one would stuff a leaf of yarrow into the afflicted nostril. Woundwort comes from the battlefield, where yarrow grows plentifully, and soldiers would pack a wound with the leaves. We will examine some of the other remedies particular to this common versatile herb.
It is hard to find a place where yarrow cannot grow, spreading through a network of rhizomes. It likes a sunny spot in well-drained soil and therefore it is readily found growing alongside railroad tracks, roadways, and in open fields. Drought resistant, it can grow to a height of up to 36” on a single fibrous stem with alternate feathery leaves, hence its Spanish name of “Plumajillo” (little feather). Perched atop the rough stems are flattop panicles in bunches which consist of numerous tiny white, or pink, flowers heads. It blooms between May and August, depending on the elevation.
Yarrow is a boon to other plants that grow nearby as it promotes their secretions of oils, making them more resistant to bugs and nourishes the soil. Cavity nesting birds, like starlings, reduce the growth of parasites in their nests by lining them with this beneficent plant. It attracts ladybugs and butterflies love it.
The flowers and leaves are gathered when in bloom and then dried to use in teas and washes, reducing the discomforts of eczema and bug bites. The fresh herb is often used in salves since it contains volatile oils and resins, which repair tissues and can be antiseptic and anti-inflammatory for sore joints. Its properties include tannins, silica, and coumerains, which act as an astringent for healing tissues. The salicylic acid is relieving for headaches. The leaves can be chewed to alleviate a toothache.
Yarrow is widely known as an aid for digestive disorders, stimulating the flow of bile. It is used for diarrhea and dysentery. Also, it encourages the healing of stomach ulcers and purifies the blood. It increases perspiration, is a vasodilator, good for hypertension, and an emmenagogue. It is anti-hemorrhagic and is used to reduce heavy menses and alleviates cramping.
The list goes on, making yarrow something of a miracle plant, good for the liver, the lungs, and the kidneys. Made into a tea, it is also used for fevers, colds and flu. It reduces swollen organs, varicosities, aids circulation, and prevents thrombosis. It is high in flavenoids, an antioxidant. It can give relief from cystitis, kidney stones, and bladder infections. It is, also, a tonic for the nervous system. As a matter of fact, there is hardly a condition for which this wonderful herb is not beneficial.