I had a choice.. I could either use Lavender (which I LOVE and ADORE and use lots in my cooking and around the house and have 4 HUGE shrubs in my garden and one little one), or Yarrow. Which I also have in my garden. Both are blooming at the moment and are nearly ready for harvest.
I think lots of you already know about Lavender. You may have it in your garden, or have something lavender scented in your home, or use Lavender oil already. Yarrow on the other hand is little known, so I decided to give it the spotlight this month and do Lavender some other time.
Yarrow (achillea millefolium)
Common names: common yarrow, gordaldo, nosebleed plant, old man’s pepper, devil’s nettle, sanguinary, milfoil, soldier’s woundwort, thousand-leaf, and thousand-seal.
Yarrow, is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae, native to the Northern Hemisphere. In New Mexico and southern Colorado, it is called plumajillo, or “little feather”, for the shape of the leaves.
Appearance: Common yarrow is an herbaceous plant that produces from one to several stems between 0.2 and 1m tall. The leaves are evenly distributed along the stem, with the leaves near the middle and bottom of the stem being the largest. Leafs are 5–20 cm long,and feathery in appearance. They are arranged spirally on the stems.The flowers are white or pink and are arranged in a disk shaped cluster.
DO NOT CONFUSE YARROW WITH THE POISONOUS WESTERN HEMLOCK/WATER HEMLOCK!!!!! They are similar in appearance. I have a link to a picture of the Water hemlock here. As with all herbs: If you gather them in the wild and are not sure, rather leave be! Don’t gather anything you are not 100% sure of! It’s not a bad idea to go to the nursery and buy a plant there and be absolutely sure of what you have on hand.
Cultivation: Common Yarrow loves poorly developed soil and is drought tolerant. So, if the plant is near or in water, you are not looking at yarrow! You most commonly find it at roadsides, or other disturbed and neglected sites. It absolutely needs well drained soil! It will develop root rot otherwise. Due to it’s drought resistance it is a great plant to use to combat soil erosion. Thin, or transplant to 12 inches apart. deadhead for a second bloom. The plant can become invasive! Divide bigger plants in fall.
Uses other then medicinal: It is a great companion plant and will strengthen nearby plants’ ability to resist disease. It also intensives the flavour and scent of nearby herbs. Make an infusion of the whole plant for a copper fertiliser. Finely chopped, one small leaf can speed the decomposition of an entire wheelbarrow full of compost! Yarrow is known to repel harmful insects, while attracting the helpful ones! It also is said to improve soil quality for plants nearby and it attracts predatory wasps, which drink the nectar and then use insect pests as food for their larvae. Similarly, it attracts ladybugs and hoverflies. Its leaves are thought to be good fertiliser.
Medicinal uses: The plants Latin name Achillea millefolium, may stem from the the Greek Hero Achilles, who supposedly at the battle of Troy healed his wounded warriors with the plants blood-staunching properties! Fresh leaves pressed on a shaving cut will staunch the blood flow!
Infuse fresh flowers for a facial steam, or tonic lotion. Use the infusion as a basis for a face pack for greasy skin, or in a relaxing bath. Yarrow tea regulates menstrual flow and chewing a leaf will aid with a toothache. A decoction can be made to help wounds heal and chapped skin, or rashes. Yarrow tea also induces perspiration and cures colds.
Be aware: Extended use of Yarrow leaves may make the skin sensitive to light!!! Pregnant women should NOT use ANYthing containing Yarrow, as it will relax the smooth muscle of the uterus and could cause miscarriage.
CAUTION: The use of herbs is a time-honoured approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider. Please use common sense when using herbs!
You can buy yarrow in health- or herb-shops as a dried or fresh herb, Capsules or tablets, Tinctures, or Liquid extracts.
Yarrow was also used in traditional Native American herbal medicine. Navajo Indians chewed it for toothaches, and poured an infusion into ears for earaches. They considered it to be a “life medicine” . Several tribes of the Plains region used common yarrow. The Pawnee used the stalk for pain relief. The Chippewa used the leaves for headaches by inhaling it in a steam. The Cherokee drank a tea of common yarrow to reduce fever and aid in restful sleep.
Some birds line their nests with yarrow and studies have shown that it may prevent the growth of parasites in the birds nests.
Yarrow was one herb identified at a Neanderthal flower burial in northern Iraq, dated c.60,000BCE along with a number of other medicinal herbs.
I have a few links to recipes using Yarrow. I haven’t used it in food, only as a companion plant and in my compost. So I cannot tell you what it tastes like. Here are the links:
Fun facts about yarrow:
The druids used yarrow to divine the weather (ancient meteorology, hahahaha) and the Chinese still use it to tell the future in their I Ching oracle.
Here is an old “spell” that is supposed to reveal one’s true love:
Good morning, good morning, good Yarrow
And thrice a good morning to thee;
Tell me this time to-morrow,
Who my true love is to be.