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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Yarrow, Woundwort, A Multitude of Uses

To see Yarrow listed as a common weed is an insult to this plant. For a plant to be known as woundwort makes one wonder just how many lives it saved over the years. Today when we think of illness we figure there must be a physical cause and even if a cure is not yet known, with enough research we'll find a physical cure.

Years and years ago illness was thought to be more mystical and linked to the stars, the humors and even the Devil himself. To discover a plant that could heal was much more than simply a medicine, it had mystical powers.
Dioscorides,(c 40 - 90 AD), the Greek physician who wrote the De Materia Medica, a 5 volume encyclopedia about herbal medicine, claimed that the name "achillea" originated from the fact that Achilles, the Greek hero of the Trojan War, used it to heal his wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Throughout the millennia and much of the world until after the American Civil War, yarrow was part of the battle gear right along with the weapons.

The power of healing was not only physical. The name "yarrow" comes from the Anglo-Saxon (Dutch) gearwe, which is believed to come from gierwan, meaning "to be ready". Considered a defense against other ills, yarrow was burned to protect against evil.

Achillea millefolium, common yarrow, is a member of the aster or composite family (Asteraceae). Achillea is the genus name and millefolium is the species which means "a thousand leaves". Yarrow has flat-topped clusters of small white flowers that are in bloom from June through October. A hardy perennial, this fern-like, feathery plant with it's clusters of tiny daisy-like florets making up each flower head, is an important pollinator plant for butterflies, bees and many other insects.

If you want a plant the deer will leave alone, yarrow fits the bill. It spreads quickly and being it is so bitter, (the leaves contain tannin),animals won't touch it, domestic or wild.

All parts of yarrow are useful, whether its fresh, dried, in tea form, poultices, steamed vapors, alcohol tinctures, herbal oils and vinegars.
It's reputation as woundwort comes from it being a styptic, or stops bleeding. On the battlefield, most wounds were a result of the types of weapons used back then, resulting in deep gashes and puncture wounds. These types of wounds were very high risk for infection if the soldier didn't bleed to death first. Yarrow leaves and flowers were crushed and chewed to add saliva which formed a poultice and then  packed into the wounds. This method was used to stop the bleeding, act as an antiseptic for infection, and as an analgesic to help lessen pain.

Yarrow has so many uses the list could go on and on. It's best known for wound care, but it is also used to sweat and break a fever. Drinking hot yarrow tea does this by relaxing the circulation, allowing the body to sweat and get rid of infection.In fact, the original formula for cold tea is a combination of peppermint, elderflowers and yarrow.
By the way, this blend should not be used by pregnant women.

Since yarrow is so good for the circulatory system, it tones the blood vessels, dilates capillaries and gets the blood moving. People with spider veins, varicose veins and hemorrhoids find yarrow balm massages very soothing and effective.

The effects on the circulatory system along with it being one of the "bitters", yarrow is very useful for stimulating the digestive juices, excellent for the liver and pancreas.

Maria Treben considers yarrow an "herb for women". An aid for reproductive troubles, yarrow can help everything from heavy bleeding, clotted blood during menstruation and painful periods, as well as spotting between cycles.
Women with recurrent bladder infections could benefit from the anti-septic properties of yarrow tea.

Cosmetically, yarrow's astringent properties make it an excellent herb to use for a facial steam or astringent for oily skin and blackheads.

As a bug repellent, yarrow works. Infused in 100 proof vodka is creates the base for a very effective insect deterrent.

Below are some very good ways this amazing plant has been put to use. For therapeutic purposes, the white flowers from the wild yarrow plants are used rather than the yellow and pink hues from the nursery.
Click on the link below each picture for more detailed information on each of these items.

Spider Vein Massage Oil

Biting Insect Deterrent

Healing Yarrow Balm/Salve

Men's Aftershave
Facial Astringent/Toner
Pet Flea Powder
Information for this post came from sources: Whispering Earth, 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names and a post by Ryan Drum.