Yarrow (Achillea millifolium)

This pretty little herb is still vigorously in flower along the banks of one of my local stream ways. The leaves are a soft, feathery dark green and the flowers arranged in umbrella shaped clusters. Yarrow is one of the world’s oldest medicinal herbs and was one of eight pollens found in a Neanderthal burial site in Iraq which dates from around 60,000 BC. According to mythology the herb was given to Achilles by the centaur Chiron for use on the battlefield, hence its Latin name, and yarrow is indeed one of the most useful wound herbs we have as it so effectively staunches bleeding, as well as having antimicrobial and pain relieving properties.

In cases of First Aid yarrow can be applied as a spit poultice, where the leaves are chewed first and then packed against the wound. Otherwise a strong infusion of the herb can be made and a cloth dipped into the liquid and applied as a compress to the cleaned wound. Keep the compress on until it has started to dry out, usually around thirty minutes. It’s up to you whether you want to use a warm or cold compress, be guided by your instincts on this one.

The herb has a toning effect on the blood vessels whilst dilating capillaries, which makes it beneficial in the treatment of varicose veins and useful for high blood pressure. Its pain relieving properties are considerable and it has been found to have a comparable effect to ibuprofen in trials with sufferers of osteoarthritis.

Yarrow is a powerful diaphoretic, (induces sweating), and is traditionally combined with elderflower and peppermint to aid recovery from colds and flu. The three herbs can be mixed together in equal parts and steeped in hot water for five minutes. Strain and drink whilst still hot. If you are running a fever the herbs may facilitate profuse sweating for a short time, this supports the body’s natural recovery process. The herbs also have a gentle drying effect to soothe congestion often associated with colds and flu.

As a women’s herb I use it frequently for cases where there is excessive menstrual bleeding as it is one of the most effective herbs we have for this. It is also a good urinary tract herb and one to consider using in cases of bladder infections as it has diuretic and antiseptic properties.