Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium) aka Soldier’s woundwort, staunchweed or nosebleed. This aromatic perrenial is well known for it’s wound healing and blood stemming properties, with references of use throughout history. You’ll find the spreading plants all over roadsides and in farmlands, where the white & pink flowers pop up on feathery stems.
Yarrow is one of my favorite foraged first aid ingredients. Grab a handful of flowers & leaves and pack it into a bleeding wound, or up a bleeding nose to reduce bloodflow. Yarrow can also be used for internal bleeding, heavy menstruation or bleeding gums, by making into an infusion.
I use Yarrow as a natural disinfectant, I tincture it each season and we use a little bottle of Yarrow tincture to cleanse all manner of wounds. When camping I make a tea from it and use that to wash out fresh wounds and sores.
Not only does Yarrow contain antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties, it’s also diaphoretic (produces sweating) so Yarrow is commonly used during fevers & flu's, to encourage sweating out of fevers. An old folk remedy contains Yarrow, Peppermint & Elderflower in a herbal tea for fevers and flu. Yarrow is also a bitter herb, so it stimulates the digestive system and can be used for all sorts of digestive troubles, be it bloating, flatulence, constipation & also diarrhea (given it’s astringent nature).
I also add Yarrow to many of my botanical skincare balms for it's astringent (skin tightening) and wound healing properties.
You can brew both the leaves & flowers in a herbal infusion, the flavor is very strong. You can also add a few feathery leaves to salads, which look beautiful, but again, don't use too many, as the flavor can be overpowering.
Many believe that Yarrow got it’s name: Achillea Millefolium from the hero of Greek mythology Achilles who used Yarrow to treat his soldiers wounds on the battlefields. However the name actually means ‘a thousand leaf’, referring to the feathery green foliage.
Yarrow pollen was found in the Neanderthal burial caves, indicating it’s association with humans over 60,000 years ago, and it’s an important herb for native American Indians who have a long list of uses for it.
I really love the stories and legends surrounding Yarrow.
The Saxons would pack Yarrow into amulets, along with other herbs for protection against everything including blindness, robbers, or mad dogs.
A British shopkeeper named Abraham How combined yarrow, brandy, comfrey, borage and gunpowder and claimed it was an excellent remedy for backpain (maybe don’t try that one at home).
Apparently putting Yarrow under your pillow will give you a vision of your one true love. And to determine the devotion of your lover simply pack yarrow up your nostrils, twiddle it around while chanting ‘Yarroway, Yarroway, bear a white blow, if my love love me, my nose will bleed now’ (presumably leading to it’s name ‘nosebleed’).
In the garden Yarrow is a compost activator, and great for attracting beneficial insects, including predatory wasps & lady bugs. If planting at home, seed in poor soil and water sparingly as stressful conditions produces flowers with a higher essential oil content. Beware Yarrow spreads quickly, both by creeping runners and seed. You’ll find a lot in the wild, just make sure it’s not sprayed (eg. On the side of the road).
Lastly, if you’re into home brewing, yarrow is a great bitter herb to add to your brews.
p.s. be very careful to I.D. Yarrow correctly, do not confuse it with Hemlock which is poisonous and also has dainty white flowers.