Yarrow - Achillea millefolium
Names: Yarrow, Milfoil, Nosebleed, Thousand leaf, Soldiers Woundwort, Staunchweed
Parts used: Flowers, leaves, roots.
Habitat and growth: Yarrow grows everywhere, in meadows, along roadsides, back garden lawns and wastelands. When growing in lawns that are regularly cut, it will stay small and leafy and may well never flower. When left to grow, Yarrow can grow up to 1m high.
Description: Yarrow is a perennial, aromatic plant growing up to 1 meter in height. It flowers from June-September. A member of the Compositae family, it is related to daisies - the flowers are a cluster of smaller flowers, white to light pink in colour. Leaves are 3-20cm in length and feather-like in appearance. Stems are angular, fibrous and rigid.
Harvesting: Harvest Yarrow on a sunny day when the aromatic oils are in abundance. The stems are surprisingly tough so bring a pair of scissors. Pick the flower tops and leaves. Lay out to dry in a cool, dark place. Once dry store in an airtight container and use within a year or so.
Folklore: The botanical name for Yarrow is Achillea millefolium meaning ‘Achilles’ herb; a thousand leaves’. In greek mythology the legendary warrior Achilles used Yarrow on the battlefield to heal his wounded soldiers. It is still used today in the treatment of wounds where is a powerful styptic, meaning it can staunch the flow of blood. It is also anti-inflammatory and antibacterial; reducing infection and bringing down inflammation.
Actions: Diaphoretic, astringent, styptic, tonic, emmenogogue, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, hypotensive, urinary antiseptic.
Constituents: Bitter, achillein, achilleic acid, volatile oil, azulene, camphor, potassium, calcium salts, resin, gum, tannin, isovaleric acid, salicylic acid, sterols, flavonoids.
Circulatory System: Yarrow has a specific action on the blood. It tones the circulatory system, making blood vessels strong and flexible (when blood vessels are rigid they burst easily which can result in haemorrhage). It can lower blood pressure by encouraging blood flow to the peripheral blood vessels.
It has a dual action on the circulatory system. It can stop excessive blood loss by acting as a styptic, it also possesses the ability to break down congealed blood making it a great remedy where there is stagnation of the blood.
Gynaecological: Because of this dual effect on the blood, Yarrow has a specific action on the female reproductive system. It possesses the ability to normalise the menstrual flow, making it an invaluable medicine for female complaints where stagnation of blood causes suppressed menstruation or heavy bleeding. As stagnation of the blood is often a cause of painful menstruation, Yarrow can also be added to mixes to encourage productive flow and therefore lessen pains caused by cramping.
For scanty or excessive menstrual flow we like to use an infusion of yarrow. To make an infusion take 2 heaped teaspoons of the dried or fresh flowers per cup, cover with boiling water and leave to steep in a covered vessel for 5-10 minutes (keeping the brew covered helps to keep in the precious essential oils).
Wounds: Topically, Yarrow is a great styptic, it can help staunch excessive blood loss from the body. For cuts crush or chew some clean Yarrow leaves and apply to the wound, this will help reduce bleeding and encourage healing. For nosebleeds crush the leaves between the fingers, roll into a nostril-shaped plug and insert into the nostril. Leave in place until the bleeding stops and then gently remove. It is often added to ointments for haemorrhoids and varicose veins, to strengthen the capillaries and reduce bleeding and swelling.
A beautiful blue essential oil can be extracted from Yarrow. This can be added to face creams for acne and rosacea. We like to make an infused oil with Yarrow (make infused oil), applied as a moisturiser, it works well to bring down swelling and redness, grapeseed oil is a great base for the face as it is light, astringent and does not block the pores.
Urinary Infections: Yarrow's slight diuretic and antibacterial effects make it a great herb to add to tea blends for urinary tract infections.
Fevers, Colds & Flu: Yarrow has a reputation for bringing down high fevers. It has been used throughout history in cold and flu remedies. A traditional recipe that is still in use today combines yarrow with peppermint and elderflower in equal amounts. This tea encourages sweating by opening the pores, allowing the body to ‘sweat out’ the fever.
Edible: Yarrow was once eaten as a vegetable, while it can be rather bitter when eaten alone, the young leaves cooked and mixed in with other greens are quite pleasant. It can also be dried and added to soups and casseroles by the teaspoon full.
Dosage: Infusion: 1-2 teaspoons dried or fresh herb to one cup of boiling water in a covered vessel. Leave to infuse 10-15mins drink 1-3 times a day. Tincture: 2-4ml of a 1:3 tincture 1-3 times a day.
Cautions: Avoid in pregnancy due to possible uterine stimulating effects. Large internal doses may cause headaches. Prolonged external use may cause skin irritation in some.