Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a versatile and fascinating herb with a rich history of traditional use in various cultures. This perennial plant is known for its beautiful white, purple or yellow flowers and feathery leaves. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, yarrow possesses numerous health benefits and has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb. In this blog post, we will delve into the world of yarrow, exploring its health benefits, diverse applications, how to forage for it in the wild, as well as a few recipes for use.
Yarrow is one of the easiest (and one of my favorite) herbs to forage. There are very few look alikes and its pungent smell lets you know you’ve found what you’re looking for! I’ve used it for years for various ailments: toothaches, wound healing, to stop bleeding, menstrual cramps, reducing fever, and much more. It is the number one herb I recommend everyone have in their apothecary.
How to Forage for Yarrow:
Yarrow is a hardy plant that can be found in temperate regions throughout the world. Here are some tips for foraging yarrow:
1. Identification: Learn to identify yarrow correctly before foraging. Look for plants with feathery, fern-like leaves and clusters of white or yellow flowers. The leaves have a strong, distinct aroma when crushed.
2. Preferred Habitats: Yarrow thrives in dry, open areas such as meadows, fields, and roadsides. Look for it in sunny locations with well-drained soil.
3. Harvesting: When harvesting yarrow, choose plants that are in full bloom. Use a pair of scissors or pruning shears to snip the flowering tops, leaving the lower leaves intact. Leave some plants behind to ensure their regrowth.
4. Drying and Storing: After harvesting, tie the yarrow stems in small bunches and hang them upside down in a well-ventilated area. Once dry, store the leaves and flowers in airtight containers away from direct sunlight.
Health Benefits of Yarrow:
1. Wound Healing and First Aid: Yarrow has potent wound-healing properties, making it an excellent herb for first aid. Its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties help cleanse wounds and promote faster healing. Yarrow can be applied topically as a poultice or infused oil to soothe cuts, scrapes, and bruises.
2. Digestive Health: Yarrow aids in digestive health by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes and promoting healthy bowel movements. It can help alleviate symptoms of indigestion, bloating, and flatulence. Yarrow tea or tincture can be consumed to support overall digestive well-being.
3. Cold and Flu Relief: Yarrow has been traditionally used to alleviate symptoms of the common cold and flu. It acts as an expectorant, helping to relieve congestion and coughs. Yarrow tea with honey and lemon can provide soothing relief for respiratory ailments.
4. Menstrual Support: For centuries, yarrow has been used to support women’s reproductive health. It can help regulate menstrual cycles, reduce menstrual cramps, and alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Drinking yarrow tea during menstruation can provide relief and promote hormonal balance.
5. Anti-inflammatory Properties: Yarrow contains anti-inflammatory compounds, such as flavonoids and sesquiterpene lactones, which can help reduce inflammation in the body. It may be beneficial for individuals suffering from inflammatory conditions like arthritis, rheumatism, and gastrointestinal inflammation.
6. Toothache: Known for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, yarrow can provide soothing relief for dental discomfort.
7. To Stop Bleeding: Yarrow contains compounds that can help constrict blood vessels and promote clotting, effectively reducing the flow of blood from minor wounds or cuts. Applying crushed yarrow leaves or a yarrow-infused salve to the affected area can help accelerate the natural clotting process and aid in the cessation of bleeding.
Uses of Yarrow:
1. Herbal Infusions and Tea: Yarrow leaves and flowers can be dried and used to make herbal infusions and tea. Simply steep a teaspoon of dried yarrow in hot water for 10-15 minutes. Yarrow tea is a popular choice for its therapeutic benefits and can be enjoyed both hot and cold.
2. Topical Applications: Yarrow’s antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent addition to salves, balms, and creams for various skin conditions. It can help soothe rashes, eczema, and minor burns. Infused yarrow oil can also be used as a massage oil for muscle tension relief.
3. Culinary Uses: While yarrow is primarily known for its medicinal properties, it can also be used in culinary applications. The young leaves and flowers can be used as a flavorful addition to salads, soups, and stews. Yarrow adds a slightly bitter and aromatic taste to dishes.
Yarrow + Clove Toothache Mouth Rinse Recipe:
If you or a loved one are experiencing a toothache, yarrow is an excellent herb for helping to relieve the pain. It doesn’t have an amazing taste (in my opinion), but it does have many healing properties to help take down swelling and to disinfect the problem area. This is my all time favorite recipe for toothaches, especially when my family can’t get in to the dentist right away.
- Use fresh or dried yarrow. Fill the jar halfway with the plant. Any part works, but if you’re using the roots be sure to clean them thoroughly and chop them up before adding to the jar. You can also add yarrow to tea bags, but make sure you’re using enough.
- Pour hot water from your tea kettle over the herb, cover, and let it steep for an hour.
- Uncover and use cheesecloth (if you didn’t use tea bags) to strain and filter the yarrow “tea” into a new jar.
- Allow to cool until at room temperature.
- Add a few drops of clove oil. If the coolness doesn’t irritate the tooth, you can also add peppermint oil to help counter the taste. Cover the mouth wash with a lid
- To use: shake the jar (water and oil don’t mix well), put some in your mouth (DON’T swollow!!), and swish around until you start to feel some relief.
- Yarrow mouth wash can be used multiple times throughout the day, but the contents of the jar aren’t shelf stable as it’s free of preservatives, so be sure to either store in the fridge for no more than a couple of days or store at room temperature and make a new batch daily. The temp the mouth rinse is kept at should be determined by the sensitivity to the tooth that’s already hurting. Many times, room temperature is best.
Yarrow Powder to Stop Bleeding
We keep a small jar of yarrow powder in our first aid kit to stop the bleeding of minor wounds. And with how accident prone both my husband and I are, we’ve had to use it more than once.
To make; place dry yarrow leaves (don’t include stems or roots, as it’s hard to powder those and can poke the wound) into a grain mill or coffee grinder. Grind the yarrow until it’s a fine powder. Place the yarrow powder in a small jar and carry that in your firstaid kit.
Yarrow Tincture Recipe
I use yarrow tincture for both internal and external purposes. Sometimes, a wound is jagged and you don’t want to rub yarrow powder in the wound, that’s where a yarrow tincture comes in handy. The alcohol is also an added bonus for helping to further clean and disinfect the wound. Here’s how to make a yarrow tincture:
- Pack a jar with yarrow leaves, about 3/4 of the way full.
- Cover the contents of the jar with 80-100 proof alcohol. Vodka is best.
- You want to make sure that none of the plant is above the alcohol line and that the alcohol is almost all the way up to the brim.
- Put a lid on the jar and shake it thoroughly.
- Place the jar in a cool dark location for 6-8 weeks, shaking the jar daily.
- After the tincture is ready to go into individual bottles, sift out the plant material using a cheesecloth covered bowl.
- Amber colored bottles with attached droppers are best for storing. This helps prevent the tincture from UVA/UVB exposure, which can cause it to deteriorate. Using a small funnel can help get the tincture into the bottles.
- It’s typically safe to take 1/2-1 dropperful of yarrow tincture, up to 3 times a day as needed. However, consult with your doctor, naturopath, or local herbalist before using.
Yarrow is a remarkable herb that offers a wide array of health benefits and applications. From wound healing and digestive support to cold relief and menstrual health, yarrow has been a trusted herbal remedy for centuries. By understanding how to forage for yarrow and utilize it in various preparations, you can incorporate this versatile herb into your wellness routine. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional before using yarrow for medicinal purposes, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are on medication. Embrace the wonders of yarrow and explore its potential to enhance your health and well-being.