Latin Name: Achillea millefolium
Description: Yarrow is a wild plant, growing in many different conditions, full sun and partial shade, cold or hot weather, and wet and dry conditions. For medicinal purposes, look for the wild white yarrow. Hybrids found in nurseries are more ornamental than medicinal. It is easy to grow in a garden, but it spreads easily. In the spring, and throughout most of the summer, it can be identified as a low growing deep green plant. The white flowers are most prolific in the spring, around mid-May in Kansas.
Parts Used: Aerial parts, including leaves and flowers. Yarrow has the richest concentration of medicinal oils when it is in flower.
Plant Properties: Antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, diaphoretic, hypotensive, diuretic. Yarrow is a styptic, meaning it stops bleeding. It is amphoteric, which means it moves in the direction needed in the body, both stimulating and sedative. It tends to move fluid in the body, so it can be used to relieve bloating, inflammation, and swelling. Its properties can also help relieve headaches, strokes, vertigo and earache due to inflammation.
In the respiratory system, yarrow can relieve symptoms of stuffy sinuses (applied both internally and externally), bronchities, pleurisy, pneumonia and allergies.
Yarrow can help relieve digestive cramping. For women, it can be used to address missing periods, to relieve menstrual cramping and menopausal night sweats.
As a first aid remedy, yarrow can be used to relieve toothaches, bee stings, nosebleeds, bruises and cuts.
Uses: Yarrow is not a common culinary herb, although it has a taste similar to tarragon. Due to its very bitter taste, it is usually used internally in the form of a tincture, rather than a tea. It is also commonly used externally as a first-aid remedy.
First Aid Tincture – Tincture the fresh yarrow leaf and flower. Chop the fresh herbs and place in a clean, glass jar. Cover the herbal material by 2-3 inches with alcohol (like Everclear), seal the jar with a tight-fitting lid. Place the jar on the kitchen counter for 4-6 weeks and shake the jar daily. Then strain the herbs from the liquid by pouring the liquid into a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store in a cool, dark place. This tincture has a shelf life of many years.
The tincture can be taken internally (¼-½ tsp, 3-4 times a day to relieve stomach/menstrual cramps), or used externally (soak a cotton cloth and apply to affected area as poultice to stanch bleeding or heal bruising).
Styptic Powder– Gather fresh yarrow leaves and flowers. Dry the herbs at a steady temperature of 90 – 110 degrees, in an area with good airflow away from direct sunlight. When dried, finely powder the herb and store the powder in a jar or tin.
Sprinkle the powder directly on an open wound to slow the bleeding, and dull the pain. It can be used on the inside of the nostril to stop nosebleeds. This powder can also be stirred into a small amount of water to take internally.
Fever-reducing Tea– Combine 1 part elder flower, 1 part peppermint leaf, 1 part yarrow flower and leaf. Prepare a strong infusion of the herbs, letting it steep for 30-45 minutes. Drink ½ cup every 30 minutes to bring on a good sweat. Once you begin to seat, reduce the amount of tea to ½ every hour and continue until the fever subsides.
Fever-reducing Bath – By promoting sweating, yarrow can help reduce a fever by “driving out” the heat and naturally cooling the body. Add yarrow to the bath water for an herbal bath that can drive dow a high fever within 20 minutes, while preventing the dehydration that oftentimes accompanies a high fever.
Liniment for Varicose Veins – Place 1 part yarrow flower and leaf, ½ part raspberry leaf, 1/8 part cayenne flakes in a widemouthed glass jar. Add enough apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by 2 inches. Cover the jar and let sit in a warm spot for 2-3 weeks. Strain and bottle.
Gently massage the legs up toward the heart, using the liniment and rubbing it in well. Use long, steady, upward strokes only. If the veins are quite extended, soak a cloth in the liniment and apply as a compress directly over the veins. This liniment is helpful for healing bruises as well.
Contraindication – Yarrow should not be taken internally by pregnant or nursing women.