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Yarrow

  • Achillea millefolium L.
  • Compositae
  • Composite family



Common Names

herbsBloodwort
herbsGandana (Sanskrit name)
herbsI-chi-kao (Chinese name)
herbsLadies' mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)
herbsMilfoil
herbsMillifolium
herbsNoble yarrow
herbsNosebleed
herbsOld man's pepper
herbsSanguinary
herbsSoldier's woundwort
herbsStanchgrass
herbsThousand leaf
herbsThousand leal
herbsThousand seal


Parts Usually Used

Whole plant in flower, dried in the shade. (usually leaves and flowers)


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Yarrow is a hardy, weedy perennial, grows 8-18 inches (20-45 cm), sometimes to 24 inches (60 cm), tall. If cultivated and fertilized, can grow to 5 feet. It is identifiable in part by the finely divided leaves (millefolium = of a thousand leaves) and the erect flowering stalk with the white or reddish composite flowers that are arranged in panicled false umbels, and in part by its aromatic scent, which is released when the leaves and flowers are crushed. Borne in large, flat, dense clusters 6 inches in diameter, the flowers are on top of the erect stems. Each flower head resembles a single flower but has five ray florets and a central disk. Flowers in summer to early fall. Seeds have small wings.

It has soft, greyish, feathery, ethereal-looking leaves. The flowers are usually white but hybrids of today come in lavenders, reds, lemon-yellow and pinks. Varieties: A tomentosa, A. filipendulina, A decolorans. The white blooming A. millefolium is the most cultivated for medicinal use.

Raising yarrow from seed is possible, but quite involved. Collect a few plants from the roadside, etc., and set them 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) apart in normal garden soil in a sunny location. Everything else will take care of itself, as long as the area has no standing water. Zones 3-10. Not heat tolerant.

Other varieties: Achillea lanulosa; Shoshone name "Pannonzia", the whole plant was boiled and applied as a poultice for felon. Tea from the root for gas pains (at Owyhee, Nevada).


Where Found

Native to Europe, now commonly found growing wild in North America (except far north). Yarrow is a familiar plant in meadows and fields, along the sides of country lanes, roadsides, on embankments, and in landfills and garbage dumps.


Medicinal Properties

Astringent, antispasmodic, tonic, promotes sweating, styptic, hemostatic, alterative, diuretic, vulnerary, diaphoretic, carminitive, and stomachic


Biochemical Information

Yarrow yields a volatile oil containing azulene, also gum, tannin, resin, chlorides of calcium and potassium, and various salts such as nitrates, malates, and phosphorus, cineol and proaculene, achilleine (which is the bitter component of the herb), and vitamin C. Over a 100 biologically active compounds have been identified from yarrow.


Legends, Myths and Stories

Yarrow has been used medicinally for centuries. Its ancient pedigree is clear from its generic name, Achillea: the Greek hero Achilles was taught by the centaur Chiron to use yarrow to heal wounded soldiers at Troy during the Trojan War. The noble and valiant Achilles, whose acts were described by Homer, is said to have used yarrow to cure the wounds and sores of Telephus, the son of Hercules. Today yarrow is grown for its lovely, flat-headed flower clusters and interesting foliage.

This herb has a long history of association with the occult and mystical. The stalks are used for divining the Chinese I Ching.

Yarrow was one of the witch herbs, and it was believed that carrying it at weddings guaranteed seven years of married bliss. (Then the seven-year itch probably set in?)


Uses

Used since antiquity for headaches, fevers (drink hot yarrow tea), colds, and influenza. Helps curb diarrhea, dysentery, anemia, gas, diabetes, Bright's disease, palpitations and excessive menstruation. Treatment for gastrointestinal and gallbladder complaints, gonorrhea, toothache (chew the leaves), lack of appetite, and catarrhs of the digestive system, hyperacidity, nervousness, nosebleed, bleeding from the lungs, anorexia, enteritis, stomach ulcers, hemoptysis, gastritis, high blood pressure, styptic, and sleep disturbances, produces a feeling of peace and relaxation for women in the menopause, and is a tonic. Yarrow, either as a tea or as a bath additive, has proved helpful in allaying rheumatic pain and control of high blood pressure. Used for smallpox, typhoid fever, measles, malaria (Yarrow is more effective than quinine), and chickenpox to relieve itching.

In antiquity, and during the Middle Ages, yarrow was used primarily to treat old wounds. As a wash, it can be used to stop bleeding from piles, nosebleeds, and cuts , and to soothe sores and bruises.

Used as an insect repellent for Japanese beetles, ants and flies. Plant as a border to the garden.


Formulas or Dosages

For medicinal purposes, all the flowering parts above ground are used, everything except the lower, lignified parts of the plant. Cut it up to dry in the open air, then cut it into small pieces and store it in containers that can be tightly closed, protected from light and dampness.

One or two cups of tea made from the leaves or blossoms is reputed to stop nausea within minutes.

Tea: steep 1 heaping tsp. in 1 cup boiling water for 30 minutes. Drink 3 or 4 cups per day an hour before meals and upon retiring. It must be warm to be effective.

Take one wineglassful night and morning of a standard infusion from the leaves and occasional flowers.


Warning

Yarrow interferes with the absorption of iron and other minerals.

Small numbers of cases of allergic reactions have been reported upon contact with the plant; their skin turned red and an itchy rash developed. Such people also cannot tolerate yarrow tea or yarrow baths. Discontinue the treatment at once if problems of this kind appear. Then the allergic reaction will disappear quickly. Avoid large doses in pregnancy because the herb is a uterine stimulant.

Large or frequent doses taken over a long period may be potentially harmful. Contains thujone, considered toxic. Consult with the doctor.

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