A couple of autumns ago, just before deer season, we spent an afternoon scouting new hunting areas and enjoying the beautiful colors of the season.
Once we reached about 3500ft, I started seeing stands of a curious white flower – one I had only seen in books – Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – An ancient herb of healing named for one of the greatest warriors in Greek mythology.
In the weeks prior to this encounter, I had run across a reference about yarrow’s healing properties and after much research, I found myself yearning for this aromatic powerhouse. I felt so blessed (and excited) when it made it’s self known to me during our adventure.
A perennial plant that prefers dry soil and can often be found in open forests, meadows, and areas of disturbed soil, Yarrow (Achillea millefolium L) is of the Asteraceae family and is related to to daisy. It has feathery, fern-like leaves also called “millefoil” or “thousand leaves” and small aromatic flowers creating a showy flower head.
It is also name after one of the greatest warriors in Greek mythological character – Achilles. According to legend, Achilles’ soldiers used yarrow to treat their wounds and to stop bleeding.
It comes in many different colors, however, you will primarily find white or the palest of pink, purple and yellow in the wild. It can grow up to 3 feet tall and blooms from spring into late fall. It typically does well in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 3-9. Though Yarrow is often referred to as an invasive species, it has many traditional medicinal uses.
It’s important to be 100%+ certain of you identification before foraging or harvesting any plant. Yarrow is often confused with Wild Carrot, Queen Anne’s Lace and Poison Hemlock, so it’s imperative your identification be correct.
For me, the biggest clue is the differences in their leaves, Yarrow’s leaves are dissected and fern-like and are the easiest way to distinguish them from other, poisonous similar looking plants. However, before you go out foraging for any edible or medicinal ALWAYS make sure to do you research… and then research gain.
It was Introduced to North America by early colonists and soon became a valued remedy used by many indigenous people. American Shakers gathered yarrow for use in numerous medicinal preparations. Yarrow has been long associates magic and divination and revered by many folk herbalists as having special powers of protection. Yarrow was used in battlefield first aid as recently as World War I (1914–1918).
Traditionally, Yarrow has been used to: break fevers by increasing sweating, which also serves to stimulates the immune system; as a styptic to stop bleeding from minor wounds; taken orally to reduce inflammation, tummy troubles, as a mild sedative and aid in sleeping; and there is some evidence that chewing fresh leaves alleviate toothaches.
Topically it can sooth insect bites and stings, rashes, itchy skin, diaper rash, scrapes, and burns. The entire plant can be used: flowers, leaves & roots.
It can also be combined with other traditional herbal medicinals such as St. John’s Wort, Arnica, Calendula or Comfrey for added benefit.
WARNING: Yarrow may cause allergic reactions in those sensitive to other plants in the Aster family like ragweed, daisies, marigolds, chrysanthemums to name a few. Yarrow can also cause photosensitivity – a sensitivity to sunlight. It may cause blood clotting issues. Pregnant woman should not ingest Yarrow as it could cause miscarriage. If you are nursing, you should talk to your health care provider – in fact, it’s advisable to seek the advice of a qualified health provider before using any herbal supplement.
Harvesting & Processing
For general rules when harvesting wild plants, please se our post about “Wildcrafting”.
My first encounter with Yarrow, I used my dehydrator to dry it. This year, it’s been so warm and dry, I have been hanging bundles to dry outside. Once dry, place the dried flowers and leaves in to clean, dry, sterile jars to await their next adventure.
One of those adventures is our Yarrow Salve! If you don’t have the time to make your own, let us help you!!
We will all be making immune supporting tea blends, tinctures and adding to some of our other salve & balm blends that we use all year long.
Do you use Yarrow? What are your favorite ways to use it? Please leave a comment below.
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Below are some of the books we use for research and reference.
Disclaimer: We are not Physicians nor are we Certified Herbalists. The information provided on this site has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat or prevent conditions, illnesses or diseases, it is purely anecdotal and stem from our own personal fascination with the natural world around us.
Before trying any herbal remedy, consult a physician or certified medical professional to make sure it is safe for you to use.