Yarrow is commonly seen tucked away in flower gardens and, just as often, growing wild in fields and sunny meadows. The botanical name of this plant, Achillea millefolium, is a reference to the Greek hero, Achilles, whose mother, Thetis, made him nearly invincible by dipping him in a vat of Yarrow tea. It has a long history of use in many different cultures including the Native American and the Traditional Chinese systems of medicine. In fact, the stems of the Yarrow plant were traditionally used in the Chinese culture to make I Ching sticks.
However, Yarrow is far more than just a pretty flower with strong stems! It is a potent medicinal plant with a wide variety of proven uses.
Reliable and gentle, Yarrow excels at helping the body to deal with fever naturally and effectively. A traditional recipe for addressing the fevers o colds and flus uses equal parts yarrow, peppermint and elderflower steeped as a strong tea. Yarrow is a safe choice for feverish children and the elderly, but potent enough to be effective on very serious infections.
Long used as a wound remedy, Yarrow has the incredible ability to staunch blood flow and stop heavy bleeding. Herbalist Kiva Rose writes,“This plant is most well known as a vulnerary, and deservingly so. It truly excels at preventing infection, promoting healing and slowing bleeding. I am most likely to use Yarrow on an acute injury, especially one that includes serious trauma or bleeding. It works admirably well on bruises, scratches and scrapes but it is most amazing in cases of profuse bleeding or deep cuts.”
Speaking of preventing infection, studies have proven Yarrow to have broad spectrum anti-microbial activity. In fact, in WW1, when medicine was in short supply, yarrow was used to treat wounded soldiers to stop bleeding and prevent and treat infection.
Because of it's bitter taste and high essential oil content, Yarrow has the ability to stimulate digestive secretions as well as soothe inflammation, relieve digestive spasms, diffuse stagnation and generally keep the entire GI tract moving smoothly. This has been confirmed by scientific studies.
Another reason that Yarrow is not only such a powerful first aid remedy in cases of injury, but also explains its usefulness as a digestive tonic is that is is very anti-inflammatory. Recent studies show that Yarrow is as effective or even more effective than prescription NSAIDS.
While there are a multitude of other uses attributed to Yarrow, this list is enough to give it a place of honor in my medicine cabinet! What about you?