Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is the herb to treat wounds, stomach problems and menstrual complaints. People in antiquity called it herba militaris, the military herb, and used it to stop bleeding and treat soldier’s wounds.
This hardy flowering perennial is a member of the aster family (Asteraceae) and native to Eurasia. It has spread throughout the entire northern hemisphere including the arctic. It grows from sea level to high altitude and does well in poor and dry soils. Spreading rapidly through its rhizomatous roots, it grows from 20 to 100 cm and flowers from June.
Medicinal use of Yarrow
Yarrow is most noteworthy as a vulnerary, digestant and analgesic herb.
The bitters in Yarrow stimulate the gallbladder and improve digestion. They help digest fats and regulate bowel movements. In addition, they also help relieve cramps such as menstrual cramps.
The essential oils and flavonoids have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and are especially beneficial to people who have a sensitive stomach mucosa. If you have a sensitive stomach, it is a good idea to combine Yarrow with other herbs which have similar properties such as Peppermint, Chamomile and Fennel.
Yarrow is also a woman’s herb since it regulates menstruation, relieves menstrual cramps and destroys germs. It stimulates menstrual flow when there isn’t much or any of it and lightens a heavy period. Furthermore, it improves blood circulation to the organs in the lesser pelvis (colon, rectum, bladder, ovaries, uterus and vagina) which reduces abdominal pain.
Yarrow also lowers the heart rate and blood pressure and increases blood flow to the heart muscle. It strengthen veins which improves the return of blood to the heart and, therefore, prevents varicose veins.
Yarrow is also knows as woundwort, soldier’s woundwort, knight’s milefoil, bloodwort, carpenter’s weed which attests to its use as a vulnerary herb. The tannins present in it are astringent and anti-inflammatory. Together with the essential oils, they speed up the healing of wounds. The tannins also stop nosebleed and soothe hemorrhoids.
You can use Yarrow tea to treat light inflammation of the skin and mucosa, and to disinfect and treat wounds and abscesses.
Internally, Yarrow is good to:
- stimulate the gallbladder
- improve digestion
- regulate bowel movement
- regulate menstruation
- relieve menstrual cramps
- sterilize germs
- improve blood circulation
- reduce abdominal pain
- lower heart rate and blood pressure
- increase blood flow to the heart muscle
- strengthen veins
- improve venous flow (the flow of blood back to the heart)
- prevent varicose veins
- treat wounds
- stop bleeding
- stop nosebleeding
- soothe hemorrhoids
- lowers inflammation of the skin and mucosa
- disinfects and speeds up the healing of wounds and abscesses
Essential oils (Proazulen, Cineol, Pinen, Camphor, Eugenol, Thujon, Caryophyllen, Limonen, Sesquiterpene, Chamazulen), Bitters, Tannins, Flavonoids and silicic acid.
4.5 g of leaves and flowers or 3 tablespoons of fresh pressed juice.
- Sitz bath
- Infused oil
- Wound powder
Yarrow loves the sun and prefers a dry area where the soil is not rich. It won’t grow well in rich, over-fertilized and humid soil. To propagate it, sow seeds (don’t cover them with earth as they need light to germinate), divide a plant or take a rhizome cutting.
For medicinal use, cut the flowering herb (aerial parts) between June and September in the strong midday sun because this is the time of day when there is a high concentration of essential oils.
Bundle up the stems and hang them in a dark and well-ventilated room to dry. You can also dry the flowers and leaves in a dehydrator at 30 degrees Celsius (86 F). Store the dried herb in a airtight container. As an alternative, use it fresh to make a tincture.
Unlike the herb, Yarrow essential oil isn’t a digestive. The strength of this oil lies in its anti-inflammatory properties. The essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of Yarrow flowers and leaves.
- Vulnerary (promotes the healing of wounds)
- Anti-neuralgic (lowers nerve pain)
- Cicatrisive (promotes formation of scar tissue)
- Antispasmodic (stops spasms)
- Hemostatic (stops bleeding)
- Hypotensive (lowers blood pressure)
- Stomachic (stimulates digestion and improves the appetite)
- Common cold
- Neuropathy (inflammation of the nerves)
- Nerve pain
- Trigger finger
- Fresh wounds
- Hard-to-heal wounds
Color: deep blue
Aroma: dry, smooth, herbal
Blends well with: bay, black pepper, bergamot, cedarwood, chamomile, clary sage, cypress, grapefruit, lavender, neroli, pine, valerian, vetiver, ylang ylang
Side effects of herb and essential oil: In some people, Yarrow may cause contact dermatitis, skin irritation or light sensitivity.
Contra-indications of herb and essential oil: Don’t use Yarrow if you are pregnant. It’s a uterine tonic and may cause abortion. Don’t take it if you have allergies or are sensitive to Yarrow and plants in the Asteraceae family.
You can harvest Yarrow leaves all year round and use them in a wild salad or add them to soup and wild pesto. Yarrow is aromatic, bitter and slightly salty. In the middle ages in Europe, people used it to flavor beer before they started using hops.
How do you use Yarrow?