There are not many plants with so many names and legends like the yarrow.
Popular in European folk medicine, yarrow has a long history as a powerful healing herb used for wounds, cuts and abrasions.
It was called by the Ancients, the Herba Militaris, the military herb, for its use in staunching the flow of blood from wounds.
Achilles, the Greek mythical figure stanched the bleeding wounds of his soldiers, hence the name of the genus, Achillea.
Other common names such as Staunchweed and Soldier's Woundwort also reflect this medicinal action of the plant.
Yarrow is frequently found in meadows and along roadsides, blooming from June to October.
The stem of the yarrow is angular and rough, emerging from taproots.
The flowers are produced at the top of branches in flat-topped, compact clusters. Flower color is typically white, but pink or pale purple flowers are common as well.
Leaves are 5–20 cm long, alternate, feathery, with many finely detailed tiny leaflets. The basal leaves are longer than those growing on stem, usually displaying a gentle downward curving arch. Its popular names, Milfoil and Thousand Weed are derived from the many segments of its foliage.
The whole plant is more or less covered with white, silky hairs.
Both flowers and leaves have a bitterish, astringent, pungent taste.
Uses in herbal medicine:
Yarrow is a diaphoretic, astringent, tonic, stimulant and mild aromatic herb.
The most medicinally active part of the plant is the flower.
- Decoctions have been used to treat inflammations, such as hemorrhoids, and headaches.
- Infusions of yarrow, taken either internally or externally, are said to speed recovery from severe bruising.
- Infusions are also used externally as a wash for eczema
- Very confusingly, the name Nosebleed describes yarrow's property of stanching bleeding of the nose but also causes a bleeding from the nose when the leaves are rolled up and applied to the nostrils, which will thus afford relief to headache. The yarrow seems to act either way.
- It has been employed as snuff for its mild stimulant effect.
- On account of the pungency of its foliage it's also called Old Man's Pepper and Old Man's Mustard.
- Old folk names for yarrow are very suggestive and descriptive for the plant's wide and various uses, like in witchcraft; Yarrow was one of the herbs dedicated to the Evil One, in earlier days, being sometimes known as Devil's Nettle, Devil's Plaything, Bad Man's Plaything, and was used for divination in spells.
- Today, Yarrow is valued mainly for its action in colds and influenza, and also for its effect on the circulatory, digestive, excretory, and urinary systems.
- Yarrow essential oil, extracted by steam distillation of the flowers, is used as an anti-inflammatory or in chest rubs for colds and influenza.