by Ilana Sobo
“Thou pretty herb of Venus Tree
Thy true name is Yarrow
Now who my bosom friend must be
Pray tell thou me tomorrow”.
Yarrow is one the world's oldest medicinal plants and has been used since very ancient times. As a herbalist, Yarrow is one of the plants I recommend most, as it is uniquely gifted in helping just about anything and everything that could ail one in mind, body and soul. 'Tis true my friends, and like a most beloved friend the amount of protection, love, and gifts that Yarrow has for us is immense and steadfast. As a herb of Venus, Yarrow dances on the land with beautiful white tufts of tiny white to pink daisy like flowers atop a woody stem, lined with many delicate and lovely leaves resembling feathery lace. Yarrow bears the Latin name millefolium, meaning a thousand leaves, also Named for the great hero Achilles. Yarrow also goes by folk names such as Milfoil, Soldier's Woundwort, Knight's Milfoil, Thousand Weed, Nose Bleed, Carpenter's Weed, and Staunchweed. Releasing a beautiful aroma, Yarrow is an aromatic and hardy perennial plant that can be found in the Central and Eastern US flourishing in the countryside, in meadows and pastures, as well as the edges of highways, in cities, disturbed soils, as well as many other places in need of healing and balance. In fact, Yarrow, can be found all over the globe.
Below is a video from foraging and herbal teacher Dan De Lion on how to identify and work with this amazing plant from the wild.
(Please make sure you can identify positively, and harvest from a non industrial site. Harvest with respect and care, taking only what is needed and allowing the plant to regenerate.)
In nature, yarrow is doing great work attracting many beneficial bees, wasps, and butterflies. It contains root secretions that strengthen and protect the other plants around, while also helping them become more disease resistant. Essential oil rich yarrow will also help keep harmful pests away with its potent aromatic phytochemicals. Yarrow is excellent for binding loose soil together and preventing erosion, while also proving a wonderful companion plant in the garden, helping co-create a very healthy ecosystem.
As a medicinal herb, Yarrow is profound. But before we journey there, a wee bit of fantastic folklore on our plant friend. Yarrow is an ancient ally and maybe even a magical friend we once knew well. Known to humans for many thousands of years, only recently have we lost our connection to this amazing herb of Venus.
Folklore & History
One of the most fascinating things about Yarrow is that it has been made use of for a very long time by humans. In fact, Yarrow was found amongst other medicinal herbs in a Neanderthal burial site in Iraq, which dates from around 60,000 BC .
Given this long historical use, which also includes traditional use in Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and Native American Medicine, there is much folklore associated with this wonderful herb. Renowned Ayurvedic and Medical Herbalist Anne McIntyre shares the folklore of Achillea:
"Yarrow is one of the finest and most versatile healing plants, and respected as such since at least the time of the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Dioscorides, the Greek physician, writing in the 1st century AD referred to the healing properties of yarrow for battle wounds."
The name yarrow is apparently derived from hieros, which means sacred, because of the plant’s association with ceremonial magic. Yarrow was thought to be richly endowed with spiritual properties, so it was preserved in temples and treated with special reverence. Its healing effect upon the blood was seen as an ability to influence the ‘life—blood’, the essence or ego that is carried in the blood. It was used as an amulet, a charm to protect against negative energy and evil, capable of overcoming the forces of darkness and being a conductor of benevolent powers. It was also believed to be a love charm and to be ruled by the planet Venus. In folklore, a maiden who places yarrow under her pillow and repeats the rhyme below will dream of her future husband."
Yarrow’s botanical name Achillea refers to the ancient Greek hero Achilles who during the Trojan War, legend says, used yarrow to treat his and his soldier’s wounds. Throughout, history until the First World War, yarrow has been used for treating wounds, hence its common names soldiers’ woundwort and staunchweed.’
In China, yarrow stalks were used to reawaken the spiritual forces of the superconscious mind during ritual divination using the I Ching.
Below, amazing herbalist Yarrow Willard explains the legend of Achilles and yarrow.
Yarrow is an extremely valuable medicinal herb, and is antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, anti inflammatory, an excellent diaphoretic, vasodilator, febrifuge, haemostatic, diuretic, alterative, digestive, tonic, bitter tonic, hepatic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antihistamine, analgesic, expectorant, an emmenagogue, antiviral, stimulant, tonic, a vasodilator, and vulnerary wound healer. Meaning: yarrow is kind of a bad ass. In fact, yarrow can assist with almost every system in the body, and is used for so many different ailments, including colds and flu, cramps, fevers, digestive complaints & disorders, nose bleeds -- any hemorrhaging for that matter -- for skin irritations and infections, to regulate the menses, to stimulate the flow of bile due to its bitterness, and is an excellent blood purifier .
When it comes to wound healing, yarrow has a long-standing and famous history of being used to cleanse wounds and help control the bleeding of lacerations, puncture wounds, and abrasions . Containing anti-inflammatory and antiseptic oils, as well as astringent tannins and resins, yarrow possesses excellent wound healing gifts. and also contains silica, which will help in repairing damaged tissue.
When used internally, yarrow’s bitterness increases digestion as well as the absorption of nutrients by the body. The astringent gifts of yarrow makes her very useful in stopping diarrhea. In addition, her antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties help to heal infections and swollen organs, like in cases of food poisoning, gastritis, and enteritis. The bitter properties of yarrow invigorate the liver and help it release bile while the antispasmodic gifts (an agent that relieves spasms or cramps) help in relieving cramps arising out of tensions, wind, colic, or nervous digestion.
Yarrow is also beneficial in removing heat and toxins from the system through increased perspiration. A family favorite in my home for colds and flu is called gypsy cold care, which makes use of yarrow’s many gifts, particularly those diaphoretic actions, to help move toxins out of the body via sweating, whic helps the body to break fevers while the antiviral and antibacterial actions support systemic recovery. The herb is also an efficient diuretic, promoting urine production and flow, and helps let out excessive fluids and toxins through enhanced urination. In addition, the herb is useful in soothing painful joints, and also clears acne prone skin. Yarrow contains sterols, which have actions similar to hormones, and aid in balancing the menstrual cycle. Yarrow has an affinity for healing conditions of the blood and circulation. Thus, yarrow is an extremely beneficial remedy for women and what I would consider a woman’s herb for sure.
Spiritual gifts and Flower Essences
When clients , colleagues or friends come to me speaking about bad vibes or feeling sensitive to everyone around them; or feeling the victim of what are called “energy vampires”, yarrow is the choice remedy. Either by keeping the plant near or by making use of the flower essence, Yarrow can help protect against negative outside influences and provide psychic protection. Several different kinds of yarrows are used to make the flower essences and have each particular benefits in addition to yarrow’s other protective qualities.. The flower essences also help protect from EMFs and other electromagnetic frequencies from radio, computers or tvs.
Anne McIntyre shares that yarrow:
“Helps to clarify boundaries between people: particularly useful for those who are easily influenced and depleted by others and their environment. It is for those who easily absorb negative influences, and may be prone to allergies and environmental illness. By ‘astringing’ the boundaries around a person and preventing their energies from ‘bleeding’ into their environment, it acts to strengthen and solidify the self, the essence, allowing and enhancing their ability to heal, teach, counsel or follow their chosen path.”
Oh yes indeed. What a magical plant. Yarrow is a such a wonderful plant to get to know well and make use of in your life. I hope you will visit with her sometime. You can do so much with Yarrow, such as adding young leaves to salads and soups, make poultices for healing, and for staunching bleeding. You can make a tea of yarrow flowers or take a tincture, make vinegars, use as a bug repellant, a deodorant, use the flower essence and much more. Even when simply holding yarrow, the energy of this plant friend can transfer many of its protective gifts to you and your beautiful heart. I reckon Yarrow would love to get to know you, and if you cannot find it in the wild, you can grow this friend in your garden. Humanity knows this amazing plant. It is in our DNA, and we have lived amongst her feathery lacy leaves for so long now. We are good good friends indeed.
“Flow on for ever, Yarrow Stream!
Fulfill thy pensive duty,
Well pleased that future Bards should chant
For simple hearts thy beauty”
Please check out Dan De Lion’s amazing work at Returntonature.us. and youtube https://www.youtube.com/user/ReturntoNatureSkills
Dan offers foraging, fermentation and many other amazing classes in the Tri State area including in Prospect Park in Brooklyn NY
You can visit Yarrow at his website https://harmonicarts.ca and youtube page chock full of amazing vidoes
PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU CAN IDENTIFY POSITIVELY when harvesting. As always, do the homework to find the proper dosage for Yarrow, and work with an herbal practitioner if needed. Visit your physician if an ailment does not heal as expected. Proper wound care is vital and all serious wounds should be tended by a professional. While the flower essence of Yarrow is completely safe over longer periods of time, do not continue regular consumption of the plant for long periods of time as she is potent medicine. In rare cases, Yarrow can cause allergic skin rashes. Prolonged use of Yarrow does increase the skin's photosensitivity. Yarrow should be avoided in pregnancy because the herb is a uterine stimulant. Excessive doses may interfere with existing anticoagulant and hypo/ hypertensive medicines.
This article is intended for educational use only. The statements above have not been approved by the FDA as said cures for any disease or ailment.
Ilana Sobo is a community herbalist, Ayurvedic Practitioner and artist in the greater NYC area. Visit shaktibotanica.com to learn more about her work with organic botanicals and holistic healing.