Wether you are using Yarrow Herb for it’s medicinal, or magical associations, this potent little plant is one that you won’t regret having on hand! Its ‘cure all’ abilities and accessibility has made it a wonder herb for people across the globe since ancient times.
This article delves into the various medicinal uses of Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), its historical significance in mythology and divination, and precautions one must take while using it. Additionally, we will explore its harvesting process and different methods of administration.
Where and when does Yarrow grow?
Yarrow is a perennial flowering plant of the Asteraceae family (includes more familiar flowers, such as the daisy) that grows in most corners of the world. It’s flowers can bloom in to clusters of creamy white, blushed pink (my personal favourite!). The yellow variant of yarrow tends to be a different species from Achillea and is less commonly found growing wild in this form.
Standing proud at around 8-40 Inches in height, it can be found growing wild in abundance in sunny spots, ranging from meadows, woodland edges and even green patches in urban environments.
It is evergreen and can be harvested almost throughout the year, with the best time being when it’s flowering from June-November (although this will completely depend on the weather patterns of the year, you may be lucky enough to find them flowering by May!).
You may even be lucky enough to find it growing in your lawn, although only as an eruption of it’s delicate, featherlike leaves close to the ground, as it may not flower here.
All parts of the plant above ground are used in herbalism, including the stalks, flowers and leaves. I like to harvest yarrow on a dry, sunny day when the flowers are in full bloom and smelling fragrant. I do adore the scent of this plant for its sweet, mellow, pine-like aroma. Crushing the leaves in your hand and unleashing the oils will intensify the smell and is also a good way of telling wether or not the plant is ready to be harvested. If the leaves do not realise this aroma – it’s not ready yet!
It’s important to note that the wide surface area of the flower heads makes them a magnet for pollutants, so refrain from picking near busy roads.
If you want to follow the traditions of British plant lore, the eve of St. John on June 23rd holds special significance for harvesting yarrow. This aligns with the Summer Solstice, believed to be a time of heightened energy when medicinal herbs are most potent. The following day, June 24th, marks the year’s longest day of light, inspiring various customs.
In England, herbs gathered on St. John’s Eve are fashioned into wreaths and garlands with flowers, adorning home entrances. Some of these herbs are tossed into St. John’s fires which release a pleasant aroma, aiding to dispel negativity and evil spirits.
Medicinal Qualities of Yarrow:
Yarrow is renowned for its remarkable medicinal properties, making it a go-to herb for various ailments. Most notably, it excels in healing conditions relating to the blood, both stimulating flow and stopping it where needed. It is these qualities that give it the alternative and rather curious name of ‘bloodwort’, sounding more like it belongs on a shelf in Hogwarts!
- Wound and Nosebleed Treatment: Yarrow is an excellent first aid remedy for wounds and nosebleeds. By bruising the leaves in your hand and creating a nasal plug, it can effectively stop bleeding. It can also have a counter effect and has been known to induce nosebleeds, which was a popular method of curing headaches, long before paracetamol was invented!
- Blood Pressure and Menstrual Problems: The herb tones blood vessels and lowers high blood pressure. It is also beneficial for menstrual problems, regulating blood flow and alleviating painful periods.
- Antimicrobial and Antibacterial Properties: Crushed yarrow leaves can be packed into wounds to act as a repellent against infections. A great companion to have if you find yourself wounded whilst exploring the wilds!
- Fever Reducer: Consuming yarrow in the form of tea or bath promotes sweating, releasing toxins from the body and aiding in fever reduction.
Lore & Magick of Yarrow:
Being one of the worlds most ancient and most used herbs, Yarrow has an intriguing history steeped in mythology and magickal associations! Its role in fostering bodily equilibrium and harmony is mirrored by its function as a nurturing tonic for emotional and spiritual well-being, too.
Soldiers’ Woundwort: Known as ‘soldiers’ woundwort,’ yarrow gained this name after Achilles used it as a field dressing for his soldiers’ wounds during the Trojan War. This is also where the latin name originates (Achillea millefolium).
Achilles was famous for having a weakness that we can all relate to one way or another, wether it’s a physical ailment, or something that runs deeper within us. We all have that one thing that has the power to stop us our tracks. Working with yarrow herb can help us open up and reveal our own weaknesses, just like Achilles’ heel. By identifying our vulnerabilities, we can be much better prepared for situations and can better protect ourselves, achieving strength and personal growth in the process.
Divination: Druids used yarrow stalks for weather prediction and as a magical tool for divination.
Love Charm: Yarrow has strong association as being a herb of love. Leaves were used by hopeful English maidens as love charms to determine their true love, typically by placing a spring under their pillow at night by inducing dreams and visions of a future love. In eastern counties of England, the saying;
“Yarroway, yarroway, bear a white blow, if my love love me, my nose will bleed now”,
was recited with anticipation while tickling the nose with yarrow leaves. If the nostril presented blood, the feelings she had for the person that they admired the most would indeed be reciprocated!
Due to Yarrow’s strong associations with both healing and romantic love, The Victorians also gave Yarrow a meaning of love and good health and often included them purposefully in their floral bouquets. They were true connoisseurs of the language of flowers!
Carrying yarrow not only brings love but it also attracts friends and distant relations you wish to contact. It draws attention to those you most want to see.
Protection and Courage: Carrying or wearing yarrow is believed to bring courage and protection, most likely because of it’s association with soldiers bringing springs in to battle. Saxons have also been known to carry amulets of Yarrow.
Yarrow is also is an excellent herb to banish all fear and is used to exorcise negativity and evil, particularly from places. Branches of the herb may be hung above cradles of new borns, to repel ill wishing and it was a sign there was a magic worker about. As the old saying goes:
“Where yarrow grows, there is one who Knows”
I personally love to carry a little pouch of yarrow around with me when I feel like I need a boost of courage if I have a daunting task ahead of me!
Methods of Administration:
- Yarrow Tea: Prepare a tea by steeping a heaped teaspoonful of dried yarrow in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain and drink. For colds and feverish conditions, consume a cupful every two hours until improvement, and then have 3 cups a day until recovery. Yarrow combines well with mint and elderflower.
- Yarrow Tincture: Take 20 drops in water three times a day.
- Culinary Use: Throw yarrow leaves into a salad to aid digestion.
While yarrow is a potent herb, certain precautions should be observed:
- Pregnancy: Due to its stimulative effect on uterine contractions, yarrow should be avoided during pregnancy.
- Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic rashes or increased sensitivity to sunlight after using yarrow.
- Headaches: Large doses of yarrow can lead to headaches.
Yarrow, with its diverse medicinal benefits and storied history in mythology and magick, continues to be a revered herb in herbal medicine and spiritual practices. However, it is crucial to exercise caution, especially during pregnancy, and be aware of potential allergies. When used responsibly, yarrow can be a powerful ally for healing and protection, connecting us to the ancient wisdom of the natural world.