A common wildflower across the United States, yarrow’s white-to-pink flowers are easy to spot in fallow fields and roadsides. The leaves of this medicinal plant are feathery, fernlike, with a springy feel and green hue in summer. At first glance, the casual observer would never guess that the “millefolium” leaves and lacey white flowers of yarrow pack a healing punch. It’s Latin name, Achillea millefolium, is named after the famed herb used on the wounded mythological warrior, Achilles.
Yarrow has been used by herbalists for centuries to heal wounds, reduce fevers, stop bleeding, relax cramps and soothe inflamed tissue. Both practical and magical, yarrow is an essential herb for our home herbal medicine cabinet.
Yarrow’s common name, “woundwort,” refers to it’s use is as a “styptic,” an herb which slows or stops bleeding. A powder of the dried leaves can be applied directly to a wound, cut or nosebleed to stop the flow of blood. This quality, combined with it’s soothing nature, makes yarrow a powerful ally for women. Dried yarrow flowers and leaves are an excellent addition to a post-partum sitz bath to ease swelling, tears and bleeding. The same treatment can be helpful for women who have experienced pelvic trauma. Taken internally, yarrow tincture can be used heavy bleeding and menstrual cramps.
Yarrow heals wounds of all kinds. Herbalist Deb Soule likes to use yarrow flowers in a bath to bring healing energy to emotional trauma as well.
Yarrow has an amazing capacity to lower fevers by stimulating the body to sweat and liberate heat. The flowers and leaves can be brewed as a strong, bitter, hot tea and drunk frequently in small quantities to induce sweating and bring the fever to a safe and manageable temperature. This is a wonderful remedy for young children, or anyone who wants an alternative to common drugstore fever reducers. For children over the age of one, the bitter taste of the tea can be mitigated with a bit of honey. (Of course, consult with your healthcare practitioner who is well-versed in plant medicine before use.)
Yarrow’s antispasmodic and bitter qualities make it an excellent aid for digestive woes. It relaxes the smooth muscles, reducing cramping. By activating the bitter receptors, it stimulates the digestive fire and improves a sluggish gastrointestinal tract.
As a flower essence, yarrow acts as a shield to protect one from absorbing negative energy. This is especially helpful for those who are sensitive and easily take on the energy and feelings of others.
Yarrow flower essence creates a positive and protective psychic barrier around its user, making it clear where one boundary stops and another begins.
We asked this year’s BotanicWise MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference keynote speaker, Rosita Arvigo if she could remember a time when she used yarrow and it was the perfect healer.