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Yarrow was found amongst other medicinal herbs in the Neanderthal burial site in Iraq which dates from around 60,000 BC and has become famous in herbal medicine as one of the earliest indications of human’s use of medicinal plants.
What is Yarrow?
Yarrow is a bitter herb and one of the most important medicines for your healing repertoire. It is a common weed native to the Northern hemisphere that grows freely in grassland, chalk land, roadsides and other sites with a well-draining ground. It is instantly recognizable due to its feathery leaves, strong stems and broad white flower heads made up of many small individual flowers. Yarrow was also considered a sacred herb by many cultures of the world and has lots of interesting folklore attached to it.
Yarrow is one of the most useful wound herbs we have as it staunches bleeding and is antimicrobial and pain relieving too.
COLDS AND FEVERS
When fever is building, drinking hot teas of yarrow can help it to break by relaxing the circulation and the pores of the skin, allowing us to sweat freely and ridding the body of infection. The classic formula for colds and flus is yarrow, peppermint, and elderflower which should be drunk as a hot tea.
Yarrow’s affinity for the blood and circulation can be seen internally as well as externally. It tones the blood vessels at the same time as dilating capillaries and moving the blood, thus giving it a wide range of applications. It has been used to treat high blood pressure, prevent blood clots and is useful for treating varicose veins, hemorrhoids and much more.
Being bitter, pungent and aromatic means that yarrow is particularly useful for stimulating the digestion and getting the bile and pancreatic juices flowing. Because of it’s affinity to the circulation as well it can help move congested blood in the portal vein which, in turn, helps the liver.
Maria Treben considers yarrow “first and foremost… a herb for women” and quotes Abbe Kneipp in saying “women could be spared many troubles if they just took yarrow tea from time to time.” It is such a wonderful herb for the female reproductive systems because it can both staunch heavy bleeding and stimulate scanty bleeding.
Yarrow is a good urinary antiseptic and, when drunk as a warm or cool (rather than hot) infusion, the diuretic properties are emphasized making it a useful remedy for cystitis and urinary tract infections. It has also been praised for helping cases of urinary incontinence. Culpepper informs us that it “helps such as cannot hold their water.”
If we think about some of the ways in which yarrow might work we can start to draw together all these different facets of it’s healing ability. When you taste yarrow it is pungent and aromatic with quite a bitter aftertaste. The volatile oils which make it so aromatic and warming are dispersive in nature and therefore are one of the things that gives yarrow this wonderful ability to move congestion and stagnation, equalize the circulation and open up the skin. Volatile oils are also often anti-microbial.
The bitterness balances it’s warmth with more cooling qualities and also stimulates digestion. Though the bitter gets our juices flowing and the aromatic qualities get things moving, you can also tell yarrow is an astringent which is what makes it so helpful for toning blood vessels. It may seem like a plant of contradictions but yarrow is just another example of how wonderfully complex our herbs can be. They demand that we know them, rather than just a list of their actions, and that we let go of linear thinking and delve into the realms of experiential understanding instead.
Preparations are usually made from the areal parts including leaf, flower and some stem. Yarrow can be used in a variety of ways:
- Tea – Drink hot tea for colds and flu OR drink warm or cool tea for cystitis. Use as a wash for grazes or rashes.
Tincture – For chronic congestion in the reproductive system and high blood pressure (teas could also be used here).
- Baths – For skin irritations.
- Sitz Baths – For cystitis, vaginal infections, bleeding fibroids, hemorrhoids, post-partum healing, heavy periods, etc.
- Footbaths – For chilblains.
- Infused Oil – For first aid healing ointments or soothing creams for irritated skins.
- Poultice or Compress – Spit poultices for wounds and first aid, compresses for larger areas of grazed skin.
- Wound Powder – Finely powdered dried herb can be sprinkled on minor wounds.
- Spray – The tincture or herb infused in witch hazel can be sprayed on to varicose veins to tone and move stagnant blood.
- Flower Essence – Said to be protective for those who are overly sensitive to their environments and the emotions of others.
- Essential Oil – A wonderful anti-inflammatory for skin conditions.
NOTE: Yarrow is best avoided during pregnancy.
ASSUAGED TIP: Yarrow is rough and splintery. Use vegan cheesecloth and double its layer to use in cases of cooking and herbal tea.