What is yarrow good for?

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Yarrow

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What is Yarrow?

The name yarrow applies to any of roughly 80 species of daisy family (Asteraceae) native to the north temperate zone. A. millefolium is a hardy perennial weed with finely divided leaves and whitish, pink, or reddish flowers. Golden yarrow is Eriophyllum confertiflorum.

Scientific Name(s)

Achillea millefolium

Common Name(s)

Yarrow also is known as thousand-leaf, mil foil, green arrow, wound wort, and nosebleed plant.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Yarrow is native to Europe and Asia, and has been naturalized in North America. Its use in food and medicine is ancient, dating back to the Trojan War, around 1200 BC. In legend, Achilles used it on the Centaur’s advice, hence the name. In classical times, yarrow was referred to as “herba militaris” because it stopped bleeding wounds received in war. Yarrow leaves have been used for tea, and young leaves and flowers have been used in salads. Infusions of yarrow have served as cosmetic cleansers and medicines. Sneezewort leaves (A. ptarmica) have been used in sneezing powder, while those of A. millefolium have been used for snuff. Yarrow has been used therapeutically as a “strengthening bitter tonic” and astringent. Chewing fresh leaves has been suggested to relieve toothaches. Yarrow oil has been used in shampoos for a topical “healing” effect.

Miscellaneous uses

Yarrow has been used to induce sweating and to stop wound bleeding. It also has been reported to reduce heavy menstrual bleeding and pain. It has been used to relieve GI ailments, for cerebral and coronary thromboses, to lower high blood pressure, to improve circulation, and to tone varicose veins. It has antimicrobial actions, is a natural source for food flavoring, and is used in alcoholic beverages and bitters. Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of yarrow to treat any medical condition.

What is the recommended dosage?

A typical dose of yarrow herb is 4.5 g/day for inflammatory conditions. However, there are no modern clinical studies to validate this dose.

Contraindications

Yarrow is contraindicated in individuals with an existing hypersensitivity to any member of the Asteraceae family. Use in epileptic patients is contraindicated.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects. Emmenagogue (to stimulate menstrual flow) and abortive. Avoid use of yarrow’s volatile oil during pregnancy.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Contact dermatitis is the most commonly reported side effect.

Toxicology

Yarrow generally is not considered toxic.

1. Yarrow. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 . 2006. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 23, 2007.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Medical Disclaimer

More about yarrow

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Professional resources

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Everyday Yarrow Uses for Natural Healing

Asteraceae (Compositae) Daisy family

Description: A short perennial with feathery dark green leaves and flat heads of white or sometimes pink flowers.

Habitat: Roadsides, meadows, and lawns.

Distribution: Found virtually worldwide.

Related species: Several species of Achillea are used medicinally and others are grown as garden plants.

Parts used: Above-ground parts collected when flowering, or leaves gathered as needed.

Cautions: Yarrow can occasionally cause an allergic skin irritation. It is best not given to children under 5 years old, or taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Medicinal Properties

Yarrow is our favorite remedy for nosebleeds, and it’s well worth keeping a patch by the back door if anyone in your family suffers from them. Simply pick a few fresh leaves — available year-round, though at their best in spring and the fall — and rub them between your hands to bruise them, releasing the aromatic oil. Roll the leaves into a nasal plug, insert into the affected nostril and leave until the bleeding completely stops before gently removing the plug.

Julie’s father suffered a really bad nosebleed once in the middle of the night, but luckily we had a patch of yarrow close by and the bleeding was soon stopped.

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Yarrow has a traditional reputation of being able to start a nosebleed as well as stop one, from a time when bleeding was considered desirable as a cure for migraine. Indeed, one of the plant’s old names was “nosebleed.”

It is certainly as effective at breaking up congealed blood as it is at stopping hemorrhages, making it a valuable first-aid remedy for thrombosis, for blood blisters and bruises with bleeding beneath the skin, as well as hemorrhoids. If treating for hemorrhoids, take yarrow tea or tincture internally, and place a yarrow poultice or compress over the affected area.

This special ability to both stop bleeding and break up stagnant blood makes yarrow a valuable menstrual remedy. It will correct both heavy and suppressed periods, and will normalize blood flow if there is clotting.

It is also a remedy for vaginal discharge and helps prevent painful periods. Austrian herbalist Maria Treben considered yarrow “first and foremost, an herb for women.”

This has truth, but the plant’s old names of soldier’s woundwort and knight’s milfoil bring us back once more to yarrow’s affinity for battlefields and for being a wound-packing material, probably long before the Achilles myth was recorded. Its use paralleled the development of weapons, and it was the herba militaris, the herb dressing carried by battle surgeons around the world until at least the American Civil War.

Yarrow has long had a particular repute for closing bleeding wounds caused by weapons or tools made of iron. In France it is called the herbe au charpentier (English version: carpenter’s grass) for the same reason. It is useful to know in case of domestic or outdoor accidents that yarrow’s emergency help can be at hand. Find a plant, strip the leaves, crush them and pack into the wound: it is antibacterial and antimicrobial so you will not introduce infection.

The reason why yarrow is so versatile — it was known as a “cure-all” herb — is that it works to tone the blood vessels, especially the smaller veins, and lower blood pressure by dilating the capillaries. This means it has a beneficial whole-body effect through the blood system, especially on conditions related to hypertension and including coronary thrombosis.

But there is another range of bodily ills for which yarrow is well recommended, and this is in reducing fevers. By relaxing the skin, yarrow will open the pores to allow copious sweating and the release of toxins. Yarrow taken as tea or as a bath at the beginning of a fever or flu is an excellent way to reduce the body temperature. It is an herb for measles and chicken pox, and it is safe for children. It was once called “Englishman’s quinine” for a claimed benefit for treating ague (a form of malaria).

The sweating/purifying/relaxing effects are enhanced, herbalists have found, by combining equal quantities of yarrow, peppermint, and elderflower in a tea, drunk as hot and as often as the patient can stand. The same mix works well as a skin lotion or in a bath. The equivalent mixture for high blood pressure is yarrow plus nettle and lime blossom, again taken as a tea.

Yarrow has various other health benefits, as befits its all-rounder status. Its effect on bodily fluids helps in cases of diarrhea and dysentery. It is effective for colic and blockages of the urogenital area, as also for stomach cramps, cystitis, arthritis, and rheumatism.

A yarrow lotion makes a good eyebath and stimulates the scalp, with traditional benefit to the hair; plugs of crushed leaves help to relieve toothache or earache.

Yarrow has a further dimension to its long human history: it is an herb of divination, used by the Druids for predicting the weather, by the Chinese for auguries (in the Book of Changes or I Ching), and by love-lorn English maidens for indicating who their true love would be. One chant from East Anglia links the yarrow of blood and the yarrow of foretelling:

Yarroway, yarroway, bear a white blow
If my love love me, my nose will bleed now.

These were benign uses, but the past is not one-sided and yarrow also had a shadow side, being called the “devil’s nettle” and “bad man’s plaything.” For the most part it was involved in sympathetic magic, as in its part in St John’s day celebrations.

All this virtue, and a little vice, comes with a tally of yarrow’s profit and loss account. No question, it is one of the great presences in western herbalism. At the same time, some cautions should be noted.

Yarrow has a stimulating effect on uterine contractions, so is best avoided in pregnancy; prolonged use externally can, in some people, cause allergic rashes and make the skin ultra-sensitive to sunlight; large doses can cause headaches.

You should also be aware that the active constituents of yarrow vary from plant to plant and by locality. If you try yarrow for any of the uses we have outlined and it seems to be ineffective, go to another plant and use that.

Harvesting Yarrow

Yarrow leaves are evergreen so can be harvested fresh almost whenever they are needed. To make a tincture or when drying for tea, it is best gathered while flowering. Yarrow accumulates particulates from vehicle exhausts because of the large surface area of its flowerhead and leaves, so it is best to pick it away from busy roads.

To dry your yarrow, hang whole stems in bunches or place them on brown paper in a warm dry place. Allow a month, and once they are dry, strip the leaves and flowers off the stems and crumble for use as a tea. Smaller stems can be chopped up with scissors, but the larger stems are usually discarded. Keep the leaves dry and you can use them for months, or find fresh leaves for a green tea.

Yarrow Tea

Use 1 heaped teaspoonful of dried yarrow per cup or mug of boiling water, and let it infuse for 10 minutes. Strain and drink hot.

Dose: For colds and feverish conditions, drink a cupful hot every two hours until there is an improvement, and continue drinking three cups a day until you are well. For chronic conditions, drink three cups a day. For fevers, yarrow combines well with mint and elderflower. Use externally as a wash for cuts, and as a hair rinse for a healthy scalp and shiny hair.

Use yarrow tea for:
• Colds and fevers
• Scanty menstruation
• Heavy periods
• Menstrual clotting
• High blood pressure
• To tone varicose veins
• To prevent blood clots
• Tension
• Weak digestion

Yarrow Tincture

Chop up fresh yarrow leaves and flowers, and put in a jar. Pour in enough vodka to cover, put the lid on, and place the jar in a dark cupboard for two weeks. Shake it every few days. Strain and bottle.

Dose: 20 drops in water, three times a day.

Use yarrow tincture for:
• Scanty menstruation
• Heavy periods
• Menstrual clotting
• High blood pressure
• To tone varicose veins
• To prevent blood clots
• Tension
• Weak digestion

Use fresh yarrow leaves for:
• Nosebleeds
• Cuts and wounds

Ointment for Hemorrhoids

Gently heat 1 oz dried yarrow and 1 oz dried raspberry leaf or 1 oz horse chestnut leaf with 1 cup extra virgin olive oil in a small saucepan for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Strain out the herbs and return the oil to the pan. Add about 1 oz beeswax and stir until melted. Use enough beeswax to set the ointment — test a few drops on a cold saucer as you do when making jelly. If you live in a hot climate or it is summer, you will want to use more beeswax than if the weather is cold. If your ointment is too runny, you can melt it again and add more beeswax.

Apply the ointment externally a couple of times a day as needed. It can also be used on bruises, varicose veins, and thread veins.

Want more alternative medicine tips? Read Birch Trees: Natural Medicine in Your Backyard.

Reprinted with permission from Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies by Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal and published by Skyhorse Publishing, 2009. Buy this book from our store: Backyard Medicine.

Old Man’s Pepper. Soldier’s Herb. Knight’s Milfoil. Thousand Weed. Nose Bleed. <<– Yarrow has a colorful list of names, and an even richer and more colorful history of use in European, Native American, and Chinese medicine. The ancients called it Herbe Militaris – the Military Herb – because it was often used to staunch bleeding and support wound healing.

If you’re thinking that your battle wounds look more like homemade ketchup stains and you don’t usually need to staunch bleeding, keep reading. Yarrow is useful for so much more than just wound care – according to the revered Bavarian priest and herbalist Father Sebastian Kneipp, “Women could be spared many troubles if they just took yarrow tea from time to time!”(Treben)

In fact, when you ask an herbalist to choose their favorite herb out of all the hundreds and thousands of medicinal gifts available to them, it’s usually an impossible task. However, herbalist Rosalee de la Foret once said that yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is the one plant she would take with her if she was stranded on a deserted island! (HWR)

What are the benefits of yarrow?

Yarrow is one of several herbs that herbalists call “amphoteric”. This term is borrowed from chemistry, where it is used to describe a substance that can both increase and decrease the pH of a solution.

In herbalism, it is used to describe a plant with seemingly opposite actions. For example, yarrow is known both as a hemostatic (stops the flow of blood) and a diffusive (blood moving) herb. This bidirectional action on blood flow explains how it achieves the multitude of actions listed below.

How can the same herb have opposite actions?

If you are used to the “one extreme action” of pharmaceuticals, this “amphoterism” seems quite mysterious, and perhaps even implausible. However, if you consider that there are thousands of constituents in herbs, most unknown to us, it becomes a little easier to imagine that when we consume or use whole herbs, the body takes what it needs to accomplish what is required for healing. This in part explains the amphoteric nature of yarrow.

However, herbalist Sam Coffman offers another explanation. He posits that yarrow appears to support clotting in wound healing by the exact same mechanism with which it works on moving the blood in, say, varicose veins: by breaking up stagnation and supporting the movement of new blood cells to the area, thus speeding up the healing process. (Coffman)

So, while from our perspective yarrow may appear amphoteric (both clotting and moving blood simultaneously), at the cellular level it may be accomplishing both things with just one approach – to help break up stagnation and support the creation of new healthy cells (aka: angiogenesis), thus expediting the healing process.

8 Yarrow Uses And Benefits

There are so may ways yarrow can be used, it’s no wonder Rosalee wants this herb deserted with her on that island.

#1 – Yarrow Tea (Hot) Or Tincture For Fevers

“Fevers are our friend” is longstanding wisdom in the herbal tradition. Now, modern medicine is taking the same view.

“Fever is the body’s normal response to infection — it’s a natural defense mechanism,” Dr. Janice Sullivan, a professor of pediatric clinical care and clinical pharmacology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, told The Washington Post.

She explains that a high temperature triggers the body’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells, which inhibits the growth of viruses and bacteria, and that “If you lower the fever, you may be affecting the body’s ability to respond to that infection.”

I’ve written before about how to treat a fever naturally by supporting the body, and also discussed guidelines from a pediatrician on when to go to the doctor. Yarrow is one of the remedies mentioned in that post, and for good reason:

This plant is a do-it-all for flu and fever! Yarrow is both an anti-inflammatory as well as being antimicrobial. It reduces pain, is an anti-catarrhal, relaxes circulation, and is a mild sedative, too.” – The Herbal Academy

You’ll find a recipe for yarrow tea below.

#2 – Yarrow For Digestive Support

The Cherokee, Gosiute, Iroquois, and Mohegan nations have traditionally used yarrow for digestive support, which makes since because bitter, aromatic herbs help digestion by stimulating the production of bile and pancreatic juices. (Kruidwis)

When used internally, yarrow’s bitterness increases digestion as well as the absorption of nutrients by the body. The astringent gifts of yarrow makes her very useful in stopping diarrhea. . . The bitter properties of yarrow invigorate the liver and help it release bile while the antispasmodic gifts (an agent that relieves spasms or cramps) help in relieving cramps arising out of tensions, wind, colic, or nervous digestion.” (Sobo)

Yarrow is most often taken as a tea or a tincture to support digestion and soothe stomach aches. I like to mix it with other bitter herbs – dandelion root and catnip for example – to make “tummy tea” when my kids need it.

#3 – Yarrow For Headaches

The anti-inflammatory properties of yarrow are thought to be helpful for dull, pounding headaches or migraines that seem to drag on.

Modern research has confirmed the historical use of yarrow to relieve pain caused by a broad range of conditions. Yarrow teas and tinctures contain salicylate-like derivatives such as stigmasterol and beta-sitosterol that reduce the inflammatory process, which may accelerate healing. These compounds stop the formation of enzymes necessary for a series of chemical reactions that cause inflammation and pain.

Yarrow also contains compound designated sesquiterpene lactones, which reduce the action of pain-provoking hormones, the prostaglandins.” (Balch)

#4 – Yarrow Poultice, Compress, Or Salve For Wounds

Scottish Highlanders still make an ointment from yarrow to apply to wounds, which makes sense given it’s pain-relieving and healing properties.

Containing anti-inflammatory and antiseptic oils, as well as astringent tannins and resins, yarrow possesses excellent wound healing gifts. and also contains silica, which will help in repairing damaged tissue.” (Sakellaridis)

The anti-oxidant and cytoprotective properties of yarrow leaves and flowers may also play a role in wound healing.

How To Use Yarrow For Wound Care

Wound Powder – Dried, powdered yarrow can be applied after wounds are cleaned. Dried yarrow can also be used to make wound healing salves.

Yarrow Tea – Can be used as a wash for cuts and scrapes. (Recipe later in this post)

Poultice or Compress – If you’re wondering about the difference, a poultice is made from the whole herb and a compress is made from an extract like a tea or tincture. You’ll find instructions for making both later in this post.

Infused Oil – Herbal constituents (aka beneficial components) can be extracted using many kinds of mediums: water, alcohol, oil and others. Water based extracts – like this Happy Adrenal Tea – are usually consumed internally, although occasionally they are used externally for issues like skin or eye irritation.

Oil extractions are most often used externally. Also known as infused oils, herbs extracted using oil can be made in a number of ways. I’ll link to a tutorial below on how to make them.

Important note: Infused oils are very different from essential oils. Infused oils use a carrier oil to extract components of the whole plant, while essential oils only extract the light aromatic compounds found in the plant.

Yarrow Salve – Also known as a healing balm, this preparation is a favorite with herbalists.

#5 – Cardiovascular Support

Because it’s an astringent, yarrow is often used to tone veins, which can be helpful for varicose veins and/or hemorrhoids. The blood moving (vasodilation), cytoprotectant and anti-oxidant properties of yarrow leaves and flowers also make it supportive of overall heart health.

#6 – Yarrow Tea (Cold) For Urinary Support

Yarrow is diuretic, and is therefore a wonderful “carrier” to include with urinary antimicrobial herbs for UTIs and other urinary issues to make sure those herbs get to the urinary system. More on natural remedies for UTI’s here.

#7 -Yarrow Tea For Postpartum And Menstrual Support

“Women could be spared many troubles if they just took yarrow tea from time to time!” – Bavarian priest and herbalist Father Sebastian Kneipp (Treben)

Yarrow tea is both blood moving (if you need to get things flowing) and astringent (which is why it’s a used in this healing postpartum bath sitz recipe). Yarrow has also been shown to reduce menstrual-related discomfort. (ULP)

#8 Yarrow For Skin And Hair

Yarrow leaf facial steams can be helpful for clogged pores and yarrow tea as a hair rinse for dry or itchy scalps. You can also drink some of the tea before your shower to achieve any of the therapeutic health benefits above, and even soak a cloth in the tea and lay it over your closed eyes for a headache; look at you multi-tasking!

How much yarrow should I use?

At this point, I know you are reaching for that yarrow! Herbalist Rosalee de la Foret recommends the following adult doses:

  • Yarrow tea: 1tsp/8ounces of water steeped 30 minutes, up to 3-9g/day
  • Fresh yarrow plant tincture of 1:2 ratio in 95% alcohol, 2-5mL/day
  • Dry yarrow plant tincture of 1:5 ratio in 40% alcohol, 2-5mL/day

How To Make Yarrow Tea

Add 1 teaspoon of dried yarrow flower to one cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 30 minutes, then strain and serve.

Note: I use this basket tea infuser because it comes with a cover for steeping and it makes straining super simple.

How Make Yarrow Tincture

You can buy yarrow tincture here, or you can make your own 1:5 tincture (as recommended above) using the method below.

Mix 1 ounce dried yarrow (by weight) with 5 ounces (by volume) of 80 proof or higher alcohol and allow it to infuse for six to eight weeks. Strain and store in a dark glass dropper bottle.

How To Make Yarrow Salve

Yarrow flowers can be infused in a carrier oil using the exact same process as this calendula infused oil tutorial. It can be directly applied to wounds or used as a base for a healing salve. To make a salve, use the same method as described in this calendula salve recipe.

How To Make A Yarrow Poultice Or Compress

The easiest way to make a poultice is to mix just enough hot water with ground yarrow to make a paste, then apply it to the area. If you have dried herb that is not ground, you’ll need to mash it up a little to make the paste . . . some people opt to do this by chewing it, and others use a mortar and pestle.

To make a compress, simply dip a cloth in strongly brewed tea or a tincture and apply to the area.

Growing Yarrow

Yarrow grows everywhere the sun shines. It isn’t picky about soil or water, and is a great addition to your yard or balcony. If you can’t fit it in, yarrow is easily harvested from the wild – just make 100% sure you have the right plant and that the area is clean of toxins. You can use every part of the yarrow plant, but it is best to leave the root if possible.

Yarrow Safety And Contraindications

Yarrow is in the aster (ragweed) family, so use cautiously if you have a known allergy. Some people also have a skin allergy to the sesquiterpene lactones, so start with a little to make sure you don’t have any issues.

Is yarrow safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding?

Yarrow is a uterine stimulant and emmenagogue and should not be used internally during pregnancy. Yarrow has also not been proven safe for breastfeeding.

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This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board certified family physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Got a question about yarrow?

Please leave it in the comments below!

About the authors: This article was coauthored by Heather Dessinger and Dr. Lori Valentine Rose (PhD). Dr. Rose, PhD is a college biology, nutrition, herbal, and wellness instructor, Certified Nutrition Professional (CNP), Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild, and is Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition. She created, developed, and instructs the Hill College Holistic Wellness Pathway, the most thorough, affordable, degreed wellness program in the country. She loves spreading love and light, and helping others feel awesome on the inside and out so they can live their dreams and make this world more awesome!

YARROW: Uses and Benefits

Family: Asteraceae

Genus: Achillea

Species: Achillea Millefolium

Common Name: Yarrow, Milfoil, Thousand-Leaf, Achillea, Woundwort, Nosebleed

Achillea Millefolium is an erect, herbaceous, perennial plant that produces one to several stems, leaves are evenly distributed along the stem, almost feathery, and arranged spirally on the stems. The inflorescence is produced in a flat-topped cluster white to pink in color, visited by many insects because of their strong, sweet scent. Yarrow is a common weed, an herbaceous perennial plant native to the Northern hemisphere that grows freely in grassland, chalk land, roadsides and other sites with well draining ground. It is instantly recognizable due to its feathery leaves, strong stems and broad white to pink flower heads made up of many small individual flowers. The leaves of the yarrow can be used cooked or raw. They have a bitter flavor but are good in mixed salads and best used when they are young. The leaves may also be used as a preservative or flavoring for beer. The flowers and leaves can be made into an aromatic tea and the essential oils is extract from the flowering heads.

MEDICINAL USE: Yarrow has seen historical use as in traditional medicine, often because of its astringent effects. The herb is reported to be a diaphoretic, astringent, tonic, stimulant and mild aromatic. It is helpful in relieving fevers, shortening the duration of cold and flu, helping improve relaxation during illness, and relieving cramps associated with hormones or illness. Applied topically, it is helpful with skin itching, rash or other issues. Yarrow is a good urinary anti-septic and, when drunk as infusion, the diuretic properties make it a useful remedy for cystitis and urinary tract infections.Some people will notice relief from allergy symptoms by drinking a tea of yarrow and mint.

The Essential Oil of Yarrow is among the best anti-inflammatory in nature. It can efficiently handle inflammation of any types; it is good for rheumatic or arthritic patients too. It improves circulation and thereby prevents accumulation of uric acid in the joints and muscles, thus helping cure rheumatism and arthritis. As anti-septic, protects wounds and forms a protective covering on the wound activating blood platelets and leucocytes in the effected place, the oil itself has bactericidal and fungicidal properties. In case of spasm of intestines, resulting in acute abdominal pain, the essential oil of Yarrow can help with its relaxing, anti-spasmodic effect on muscles, nerves, intestines and respiratory tracts.

The entire plant is used, both dried and fresh and is best when gathered while in flower. Although it is a gentle plant, It is recommended to use caution when this herb is used in large doses taken for a long period of time. This can possibly be harmful and make the skin sensitive to sun.

Hildegard’s Yarrow Plant Uses

Hildegard of Bingen appreciated several yarrow plant uses, based on the flowering plant native to temperate regions of Europe, North America, and Asia. In New Mexico and southern Colorado, it is called plumajillo (Spanish for ‘little feather’) due to its feathery leaf formations.

We’ve compiled a list of Hildegard’s 7 Yarrow Applications here.

Ancient and Extensive Yarrow Plant Uses

The great German naturopath, Sebastian Kneipp praised yarrow plant uses for women, saying “women who resort to yarrow are spared of much mischief”. During Kneipp’s time, Germans had many names for yarrow, including variations of: “Tummy Ache Herb”, the “Wound Herb”, “Heaven’s Back Herb”, “Thankful Wife’s Herb”, “Mother’s Herb”, “Hemostatic Herb”, and the “Healing Herb of the World”. Perhaps the most beautiful reference to yarrow comes from an old German name, describing it as “Salvation of all damage”.

Yarrow Plant Uses for German Shepherds

In modern German, the word for yarrow is “scharfgarbe”, which derives from a variation on the phrase “sheep healthy-maker”, due to shepherds recognizing the healing properties of the yarrow plant on sheep. After eating yarrow cabbage, wounds on their sheep were healing faster. So when shepherds starting eating yarrow themselves, and noticed it helped with digestive disorders, bleeding, and prevented occurrence of the common cold, the name took hold.

Yarrow Plant Uses in Ancient Greece

The medicinal origin of yarrow plant uses can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who used it for treating wounds. Achilles, the mythological Greek hero from the Trojan War, is believed to have carried it to treat himself and his soldiers, which is why yarrow is called “Achillea.” “Millefolium,” meaning “coming of a thousand leaves” is reference to the abundance of its small, delicate leaves. Yarrow is known by several other names including: bloodwort, carpenter’s weed, knight’s milfoil, noble yarrow, old man’s pepper, nosebleed, and staunchgrass.

Like the ancient Greeks, Hildegard of Bingen’s yarrow plant uses focused on external wounds and accelerating the healing process. For other treatments, the flowers and leaves of yarrow were eaten or made into a tea to treat gastrointestinal problems, soothe fevers, improve circulation, and reduce menstrual bleeding. The fresh leaves were also chewed on to relieve tooth and gum pain.

Healing Properties of the Plant

Both the leaves and flowers of the yarrow plant have medicinal uses. As with all other herbs, traditionally it’s best to harvest the plant during a waxing moon phase, while in bloom (late spring through early autumn), and to use the herb while still fresh. If drying the plant, store in a cool, dry place.

See Hildegard’s 7 yarrow applications.

The Benefits of Terpenes

Yarrow has numerous medicinal properties due to its high concentrations of terpenes. These large organic compounds found in plants – particularly conifer (think “pine”) trees, are why the plants are typically aromatic, resinous, and full of volatile (essential) oils.

These compounds evolved as defense mechanisms to deter herbivores and attractant predatory insects that feed on herbivores but they are also what provide the natural chemical compounds that can heal, protect, and stimulate the human body, along with the bitter tastes and often pleasant aromas. These compounds are often extracted for essential oils used for aromatherapy and topical skin treatments.

Due to the presence of these strong organic chemicals, yarrow has also been used as a preservative and a flavoring additive. Before hops were cultivated, yarrow was used in beer for its similar bittering and preserving qualities.

Active Compounds Contributing to Healing Yarrow Plant Uses

  • Alpha Pinene. Also found in pine trees, this chemical has been shown to have bronchiodilating properties.
  • Borneol. A similar terpene to Pinene that is believed to improve circulation. It is an important substance in the Traditional Chinese Medicine of Moxibustion, which uses mugwort to induce a warming to improve circulation to treat cancer and other diseases. Research has also shown it to be an effective treatment to alter the breech presentation of babies.
  • Cineole. A principal compound of Eucalyptus oil, Cineol is a spicy, aromatic bitter substance that is used in flavorings and cough suppressants.
  • Camphene & Camphor. Concentrated in rosemary and evergreen trees, these compounds have antimicrobial properties and are readily absorbed by the skin, which is why they are major ingredients in Vicks™ VapoRub. They also act as a natural insect repellent, encourage vasodilatation (blushing), and stimulate respiration as a cough suppressant and decongestant.
  • Chamazulene. Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, this aromatic compound also found in chamomile and wormwood.
  • Limonene. This terpene is named for its strong citrus scent, as it is concentrated in citrus rinds. Common commercial uses include cosmetics, soaps, perfumes, and as a botanical insecticide. It is also showing promise as a dietary chemotherapuedic (anti-cancer) agent.
  • Sabinene. A bitter terpene common in oak and spruce trees and also found in nutmeg and tea tree oil, this essential oil is what gives black pepper its spice.

Long before modern research identified these active organic compounds, Hildegard recognized many of these same properties. The bitter, astringent, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, decongesting, and vasodilatation properties of yarrow are why Hildegard held it in such high regard.

Within her humoral-based classification, she believed yarrow possessed a warm and dry subtlety. Through her practice, Hildegard considered yarrow to be the best protection against infections from cuts and sores. She thought of it as a reliable topical treatment, serving as an antibiotic, well before modern germ theory took hold.

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Common Yarrow
(Achillea millefolium LINN.)
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Botanical: Achillea millefolium (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae

  • Description
  • Parts Used
  • Constituents
  • Medicinal Action and Uses
  • Preparations

—Synonyms—Milfoil. Old Man’s Pepper. Soldier’s Woundwort. Knight’s Milfoil. Herbe Militaris. Thousand Weed. Nose Bleed. Carpenter’s Weed. Bloodwort. Staunchweed. Sanguinary. Devil’s Nettle. Devil’s Plaything. Bad Man’s Plaything. Yarroway.
(Saxon) Gearwe.
(Dutch) Yerw.
(Swedish) Field Hop.
—Part Used—Whole Herb.
—Habitat—Yarrow grows everywhere, in the grass, in meadows, pastures, and by the roadside. As it creeps greatly by its roots and multiplies by seeds it becomes a troublesome weed in gardens, into which it is seldom admitted in this country, though it is cultivated in the gardens of Madeira. The name Yarrow is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon name for the plant – gearwe; the Dutch, yerw.

—Description—The stem is angular and rough, the leaves alternate, 3 to 4 inches long and 1 inch broad, clasping the stem at the base, bipinnatifid, the segments very finely cut, giving the leaves a feathery appearance.

It flowers from June to September, the flowers, white or pale lilac, being like minute daisies, in flattened, terminal, loose heads, or cymes. The whole plant is more or less hairy, with white, silky appressed hairs.

Yarrow was formerly much esteemed as a vulnerary, and its old names of Soldier’s Wound Wort and Knight’s Milfoil testify to this. The Highlanders still make an ointment from it, which they apply to wounds, and Milfoil tea is held in much repute in the Orkneys for dispelling melancholy. Gerard tells us it is the same plant with which Achilles stanched the bleeding wounds of his soldiers, hence the name of the genus, Achillea. Others say that it was discovered by a certain Achilles, Chiron’s disciple. It was called by the Ancients, the Herba Militaris, the military herb.

Its specific name, millefolium, is derived from the many segments of its foliage, hence also its popular name, Milfoil and Thousand Weed. Another popular name for it is Nosebleed, from its property of stanching bleeding of the nose, though another reason given for this name is that the leaf, being rolled up and applied to the nostrils, causes a bleeding from the nose, more or less copious, which will thus afford relief to headache. Parkinson tells us that ‘if it be put into the nose, assuredly it will stay the bleeding of it’ – so it seems to act either way.

It was one of the herbs dedicated to the Evil One, in earlier days, being sometimes known as Devil’s Nettle, Devil’s Plaything, Bad Man’s Plaything, and was used for divination in spells.

Yarrow, in the eastern counties, is termed Yarroway, and there is a curious mode of divination with its serrated leaf, with which the inside of the nose is tickled while the following lines are spoken. If the operation causes the nose to bleed, it is a certain omen of success: ‘Yarroway, Yarroway, bear a white blow, If my love love me, my nose will bleed now.’ An ounce of Yarrow sewed up in flannel and placed under the pillow before going to bed, having repeated the following words, brought a vision of the future husband or wife: ‘Thou pretty herb of Venus’ tree, Thy true name it is Yarrow; Now who my bosom friend must be, Pray tell thou me to-morrow.’ —(Halliwell’s Popular Rhymes, etc.) It has been employed as snuff, and is also called Old Man’s Pepper, on account of the pungency of its foliage. Both flowers and leaves have a bitterish, astringent, pungent taste.

In the seventeenth century it was an ingredient of salads.

—Parts Used—The whole plant, stems, leaves and flowers, collected in the wild state, in August, when in flower.

—Constituents—A dark green, volatile oil, a peculiar principle, achillein, and achilleic acid, which is said to be identical with aconitic acid, also resin, tannin, gum and earthy ash, consisting of nitrates, phosphates and chlorides of potash and lime.

—Medicinal Action and Uses—Diaphoretic, astringent, tonic, stimulant and mild aromatic.

Yarrow Tea is a good remedy for severe colds, being most useful in the commencement of fevers, and in cases of obstructed perspiration. The infusion is made with 1 OZ. of dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water, drunk warm, in wineglassful doses. It may be sweetened with sugar, honey or treacle, adding a little Cayenne Pepper, and to each dose a teaspoonful of Composition Essence. It opens the pores freely and purifies the blood, and is recommended in the early stages of children’s colds, and in measles and other eruptive diseases.

A decoction of the whole plant is employed for bleeding piles, and is good for kidney disorders. It has the reputation also of being a preventative of baldness, if the head be washed with it.

—Preparations—Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. An ointment made by the Highlanders of Scotland of the fresh herb is good for piles, and is also considered good against the scab in sheep.

An essential oil has been extracted from the flowers, but is not now used.

Linnaeus recommended the bruised herb, fresh, as an excellent vulnerary and styptic. It is employed in Norway for the cure of rheumatism, and the fresh leaves chewed are said to cure toothache.

In Sweden it is called ‘Field Hop’ and has been used in the manufacture of beer. Linnaeus considered beer thus brewed more intoxicating than when hops were used.

It is said to have a similar use in Africa.

Culpepper spoke of Yarrow as a profitable herb in cramps, and Parkinson recommends a decoction to be drunk warm for ague.

The medicinal values of the Yarrow and the Sneezewort (A. millefolium and A. ptarmica), once famous in physic, were discarded officially in 1781.

Woolly Yellow Yarrow (A. tomentosa) is very rare, and a doubtful native; its leaves are divided and woolly, the flowers bright yellow.

Purchase from Richters Seeds
White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Seeds
Proa Yarrow (Achillea millefolium ‘Proa’) Seeds
Red Yarrow (Achillea millefolium ‘Cerise Queen’) Seeds
Sneezewort Yarrow (Achillea ptarmica) Seeds
Woolly Yarrow (Achillea tomentosa ‘Aurea’) Seeds
Yellow Yarrow (Achillea filipendulina ‘Cloth of Gold’) Seeds
White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Plants
Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea taygetea ‘Moonshine’) Plants
Mongolian Yarrow (Achillea asiatica) Plants
Red Yarrow (Achillea millefolium ‘Cerise Queen’) Plants

Common Name Index
A MODERN HERBAL Home Page

Bear in mind “A Modern Herbal” was written with the conventional wisdom of the early 1900’s. This should be taken into account as some of the information may now be considered inaccurate, or not in accordance with modern medicine.

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Yarrow, common yarrow, or Achillea millefolium is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae. It is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in Asia, Europe, and North America. Other common names for this species include gordaldo, nosebleed plant, old man’s pepper, devil’s nettle, sanguinary, milfoil, soldier’s woundwort, thousand-leaf, and Thousand-seal.

Here are the 7 health benefits of yarrow.

1. Yarrow may be a great diaphoretic.

A diaphoretic food increases perspiration. Yarrow oil has shown to increase perspiration and help remove toxins, excess salt, and water from the body. Extra sweat also cools the body down and gives relief from fevers.

2. Yarrow may assist in digestion.

Yarrow helps the secretion of enzymes and digestive juice and increases appetite; both qualities aid in digestion.

3. Yarrow can be antiseptic.

Yarrow has been used in the market for its antiseptic properties. The plant heals wounds and activates blood platelets to promote healing. The oil also has bactericidal and antifungal properties, which prevents infection.

4. Yarrow may help with muscle spasms.

A muscle spasm is an involuntary skeletal muscle contraction. Muscle spasms in the respiratory system can cause severe coughs. Yarrow oil can help individuals by having a relaxing, antispasmodic effect on muscles, nerves, intestines and respiratory tracts.

5. Yarrow may be anti-inflammatory.

The essential oil of yarrow has anti-inflammatory properties that help the nasal or respiratory tracts resulting from the common cold, the digestive system caused by overeating of spicy food, or the circulatory system caused by any toxin getting into the bloodstream.

6. Yarrow may help you stay looking young.

Yarrow keeps the skin free from dryness, cracks, and unsightly marks. This keeps the skin stay looking smooth and young.

7. Yarrow may help tone the body.

Yarrow helps optimize metabolic functions like decomposition of food and the absorption of nutrients by toning up the liver, stomach, and intestines and helps individuals grow stronger and healthier. The plant assists in proper excretion regulate the endocrine secretions of hormones and enzymes and boost the immune system.

This herb plant was first used by ancient Greeks over 3,000 years ago for treating external wounds on the skin. The flowers and leaves of yarrow were eaten and also made into a tea-like drink. The fresh leaves were used to stop bleeding wounds, treat gastrointestinal problems, fight fevers, lessen menstrual bleeding and better circulation. The fresh leaves were also chewed on to relieve tooth aches. Scientists have credited yarrow for its benefits relating to almost every organ in the body.

Native Americans used yarrow for wounds, infections and bleeding. Chinese medicine gives it praise for the ability to affect the kidney, spleen, liver and energy channels throughout the body. Animal studies have also shown support for the use of yarrow in cleansing wounds and controlling the bleeding of wounds, cuts and abrasions. Many times yarrow is categorized as a uterine tonic, which supports the circulation in the uterine. Many studies show that it helps the uterine by improving the tone, increasing menstrual flow and reducing spasms in the uterine.

Other benefits of yarrow

Fights bacteria. Yarrow has an antiseptic action. The bitter parts and fatty acids encourage bile flow out of the gallbladder, known as the cholagogue effect. The free-flowing action improves digestion and prevents and gallstones from forming. Decongestant. Yarrow contains a drying effect and seems to improve coughs and sinus infections with sputum formation. Astringent. Very helpful with allergies where nasal secretions and watery eyes are caused by molds, dust, pollen and dander. Yarrow is also known to cause sweating in cases of flu, fevers and colds, helping to cure simple infections. Infusion. Yarrow is used to aid in healing skin conditions, such as eczema. The essential oils are used and rubbed onto the affected area. Anti-inflammatory. The oil found in the yarrow has been used to treat arthritis. Expectorant. Helps to cure colds. Promotes digestion. Helps in the secretion of enzymes and digestive juice and increases appetite; both help in digestion.

Yarrow is highly known and widely used in herbal medicines and supplied either externally or internally. The entire plant is used, both dried and fresh and is best when gathered while in flower. It is recommended to use caution when this herb if used in large or frequent doses taken for a long period of time. This can possibly be harmful and may cause rashes or make the skin sensitive to sun.

The leaves of the yarrow can be used cooked or raw. They have a bitter flavor but are good in mixed salads and best used when they are young. The leaves may also be used as a preservative or flavoring for beer. The flowers and leaves can be made into an aromatic tea and the essential oils found in the flowering heads can be used as flavor for soft drinks. Its basic components are Alpha Pinene, Acetate, Borneol, Beta Pinene, Borneol, Cineole, Camphene, Camphor, Gamma Terpinene, Isoartemisia Ketone, Chamazulene, Limonene, Sabinene and Tricyclene.

Recommended dosage and administration of yarrow for adults

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