A lovely addition to any flower garden, Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) also plays an essential role for every herbal apothecary. The benefits of this time-honored plant could fill a volume, but the following article will provide a helpful overview of Yarrow’s history, its botanical characteristics, and its myriad medicinal properties.
The written records of Yarrow being used as an herbal remedy date back as least as far as the Homeric epics of Ancient Greece. According to Homer, the centaur Chiron imparted the medicinal secrets of Yarrow to one of his most well-known pupils, the Greek hero and demigod Achilles. Were it not for his infamously vulnerable heel, this potent herb would have rendered Achilles utterly invincible, at least according to the pages of The Iliad.
By way of another branch of mythology, Druid folklore of the British Hebrides maintains that Yarrow can be used to bestow second sight, or clairvoyance. In fact, modern Wiccans are still known to prepare tea with Yarrow and other herbs to enhance a person’s potential powers of extra-sensory perception. Chinese sages, furthermore, have long used dried stalks of Yarrow for purposes of divination through the ancient and sacred practices of the I-Ching.
Apart from these mystical applications, Native Americans have been familiar with the many healing properties of Yarrow, many of the same properties that we employ in a variety of Ruth’s Herbal Remedies products. These medicinal benefits include pain relief, sleep aid, fever reduction and headache relief. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory and an antiseptic, so it sounds like the Homeric heroes may have really been on to something. Yarrow has even been used to treat mastitis, manage blood pressure, and balance hormones.
For these benefits, Yarrow is an important ingredient in a wide assortment of Ruth’s products, including the Savvy Salve, Soothing Joint Salve, Baby Belly Rub, Very Vein Salve, Allergy Ease tincture, Bring the Moon tincture, Flu Fighter tincture, and others.
If you’re planting or harvesting Yarrow, you should be aware that the most common cultivars have been selected for their ornamental qualities, the size and color of their inflorescence, rather than their healing properties. But the medicinal properties are present throughout all cultivars of the species.
When harvesting Yarrow, all parts of the plant can be used, but the flowers are used most commonly. It’s best to harvest them when they are fully open, but not yet turning brown. This means probably mid to late summer, depending on the recent weather and your specific location.
Yarrow grows best in drier climates, thriving in most of California and other Mediterranean zones, and so makes a great addition to any drought tolerant garden. You’ll also notice that it does a marvelous job of attracting butterflies. So plant in widely, use it wisely, and let’s hope for epic results.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia