Saturday, 5 November 2016

Yarrow: Weed or Medicine For The Soil and Our Bodies?

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is an amazingly useful plant in the garden and in the home, although it’s commonly considered a weed and often ripped out. I was out wandering in my garden today and drawn to the lush new growth and abundance of flowers. 


I have yarrow planted close to my verandah, in my medicinal herb section. I was aware it had great medicinal benefits but to be honest, I haven’t being using it this way much.  I regularly harvest young leaves for salads and soups (apparently it was a very popular vegetable in the 17th century.)

I have mostly been using Yarrow, a hardy perennial from Eurasia, as a plant to benefit the garden system as a whole:
  • to improve the soil - its deep roots accumulate potassium, phosphorus, and copper from the subsoil.
  • as a compost activator to speed decomposition - a few leaves in each layer of the compost
  • as a fertilising tea - soak yarrow leaves in a bucket of water for a few weeks, and used 1 part tea to 10 parts water
  • as a bee and good bug attractor - habitat for lacewings, parasitoid wasps, ground beetles, spiders, ladybugs, and hoverflies
  • its pungent odour repel pests
  • as a drought tolerant plant - use as a living mulch in dry areas  
  • under fruit trees as a cover crop to help fertilise and enhance fruit production
  • chop and drop mulch helping to build soil
  • as a nourishing green leaf added when making a no-dig garden

I have read too that it can be grown to clean up contaminated soil (lead), but in this case of course, you would need to dispose of and not use it for food, mulch, compost or medicine. 

I can't believe that for so many years however I've been largely overlooking Yarrow’s full benefits because I had been seeing it with gardener’s eyes. I decided it was time to find out more. 

Today, science credits yarrow for its benefits to almost every organ in the body. Ancients knew - yarrow was one of the earliest herbs used as a medicine. It was found in a Neanderthal burial site in Iraq from around 60,000 BC. There’s a myth that yarrow was given to Achilles by the centaur Chiron so he could use it on the battlefield. Its Latin name, Achillea millefollium, reflects this tale. Roman soldiers too took it with them to the battlefield too.  Common names include soldier’s woundwort, herba militaris, Knight’s milfoil, carpenter’s grass and nosebleed.


Below is a summary of what I gleaned from my research about it's medicinal benefits. I'd be very interested in hearing how you use Yarrow.

For Wounds 

Yarrow’s most famous and most ancient use is for wounds, typically as a poultice. It can:
  • stop bleeding
  • stop nosebleeds
  • prevent infection
  • speed healing
  • give pain relief
  • soothe bruises and sprains

For children

  • Yarrow reduces itching (yarrow salve, rub yarrow leaves directly)
  • Yarrow brings down fever naturally (bath with yarrow tea)

For Skin

  • Yarrow tea wash or bath soothes rashes
  • Yarrow infused oil can be used to make a soothing salve for eczema and irritated skin

For Women

  • Yarrow is considered the first and foremost herb for women. 
  • Taken as a tea it can alleviate heavy menstrual bleeding as well as stimulate light bleeding.
  • Yarrow can also lessen menstrual cramps and spasms due to endometriosis.

For Colds and Flu

  • Yarrow contains a drying effect and seems to improve coughs and sinus infections. 
  • Yarrow shortens a cold and flu.
  • Yarrow helps make us sweat to help our bodies get rid of infection. A tea of this mixed with peppermint and elderflower helps to bring on a sweat. (In Australia these plants are all plentiful now -  good idea perhaps to harvest and dry them for later when flu season begins again.)

For Allergies

  • Yarrow and mint tea can reduce runny nose and watery eyes caused by mould, dust, pollen and dander.

For Pain Relief

  • Chew Yarrow for toothache
  • Rub Yarrow on skin to soothe arthritis - anti-inflammatory

For Circulation

  • Yarrow helps circulation. 
  • Yarrow tones the blood vessels and dilates capillaries and lowers high blood pressure
  • Yarrow helps prevent blood clots and used for treating varicose veins

For Digestion:

  • Yarrow, being bitter and pungent, stimulates digestion and gets the bile and pancreatic juices flowing.  
  • Yarrow prevents gallstones from forming

For Urinary Systems:

  • Yarrow tea (warm or cool) is a useful remedy for urinary tract infections. 
  • I have also seen yarrow mentioned for helping cases of urinary incontinence.

Caution:

  • Yarrow is best avoided during pregnancy because it stimulates the uterus. Good after labour for helping to tone the uterus.
  • Some people develop a rash from touching the fresh plant. 
  • Avoid yarrow if you have an allergy to ragweed.




2 comments:

  1. Hi, I have a form of yarrow growing, but the flower is a mauve-y colour. Is this still the same, or just a 'flower' version? Does that make sense? Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. For all the benefits that I mentioned in the post, you really want the true white yarrow - the common yarrow, rather than the ornamental coloured species. There is a Chinese species A. asiatica, which has pink flowers - this one is ornamental but also good for fever pains and arthritis.

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