Yarrow is one of those superstar plants that does pretty much everything well. Plus, it’s easy to grow, which makes it perfect for the botanically challenged like me. It can be considered a weed, but it’s actually part of the sunflower family!
Yarrow looks similar to Queen Anne’s Lace, but instead of a carrot-like root, it has spreading rhizomes. It has pretty small flowers (usually white, but some are pink ) and fern-like leaves.
Yarrow has many names such as woundwort and staunch blood, but it’s true name is Achillea millefolium after Achilles. Legend says that Achilles treated his soldiers with yarrow, thus it is named after him. It also apparently has a long history of folk uses. (If you are interested in history and religious uses of plants, including yarrow, check out Sacred Earth.)
Uses For Yarrow
The amazing thing about yarrow is just how many different uses it has. It’s great for the garden; it’s great as an herb. You can even feed it to livestock or use it in your pasture.
Using Yarrow Medicinally
Yarrow has a long history with many different groups as a poultice for wounds. It can staunch bleeding and provide some pain relief. It also has antimicrobial properties.
It can also be used internally, and yarrow tea is good for heavy periods and cramps or spotting. Internally, it can encourage blood movement within the body, so it would helpful for issues such as blood pressure and blood clots.
Another very common use for yarrow is to treat colds and fevers. This is particularly because taking yarrow makes you sweat. Here is a tea recipe for fevers that includes yarrow. Historically some groups chewed the stalk when using yarrow for colds or to break a fever. However, it is more common to drink it as a tea.
You can dry the flowers or use them fresh. (If using dried, you only need half as much as it is more potent). Steep the yarrow flowers in water and then drink the tea. You can let them steep for a long time for more potency, (an hour is not too long).
To make a yarrow tincture fill a quart jar with fresh yarrow and then cover with vodka. Let it sit in a dark place for 6 weeks and shake daily. Strain out the plant matter and you can use it internally for fevers or colds (30-60 drops per dose), or make a wet compress out of the tincture to put on wounds or bruises.
The plant is bitter, so it also stimulates digestion and bile and is considered good for the liver and gallbladder. It can also be a diuretic and help with incontinence problems. Just don’t use yarrow in pregnancy as it can stimulate labor!
Yarrow is also good for skin issues and acne. You can add it to skin lotions or salves to help with eczema and dry skin. It is also good for oily skin too! Some ways to use yarrow for skin is to rub the leaves directly on the skin. That works well to reduce itching. You could also make a poultice or even can put the tea onto your skin.
Making Your Own Skin Care Products
If using yarrow for skin care interests you, check out the Botanical Skin Care Course from The Herbal Academy. It is an entire in depth course on using herbs and other plants to create your own skin care products. It includes in depth information about herbal skin care.
The course starts out with a fascinating history of the history of skin care and even recipes for ancient cosmetics! It then continues with an overview of the skin anatomy and functions. This course is far more than a list of recipes! You walk away from the course with a solid understanding of not only how things work but also WHY they work.
The second unit of the course helps you understand how the health of the skin connects to the health of the rest of the body. This section is full of detail, and while it is easy to understand, you’ll want to take your time going through it so you don’t miss anything! In addition to western knowledge regarding herbs, the Botanical Skin Care Course also includes information about skin care from an Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine perspective.
The third unit of the course is a robust look at different ingredients in skin care recipes. It takes a look both at which ingredients to avoid (and why!) but also the properties of different types of ingredients. Going through this section of the course really helps you have the concrete knowledge of how each ingredient will work together with the others. This is not just a step by step list of directions or a recipe (although those are included too!) This course leaves you with a deep understanding of how everything works together.
The third unit is by far my favorite part of the course. It includes recipes on how to make basic skin care products such as creams and lotions. Once you successfully complete these lessons you should be able to tackle some hands on projects and start making your own skin care products.
The fourth unit discusses skin health from a holistic perspective and includes a discussion of how health and nutrition affect your body. It also delves into chronic conditions and herbal first aid for cuts, scrapes, and bruises. There’s even an entire section devoted to cold sores. And if you’ve ever gotten one of those nasty, owie things (or spent a truckload of money on medicine for it!) you know that anything that helps is wonderful!
As a companion to the online course, you can also buy a copy of the recipes in book format. I love the internet and all the things it helps us accomplish, but sometimes there is just no replacement for a proper book! The recipe book is attractive and includes fun illustrations of flowers and is a great addition to your homesteading library.
Using Yarrow For The Garden
Yarrow is a great companion plant for both vegetables and fruit trees. For example, it will attract green lacewings, which eat the pear rust mites that can discolor pears. It also attracts parasitoid wasps, ground beetles, spiders, ladybugs, and hoverflies.
Planting yarrow near your vegetable garden will help attract these beneficial insects as well as beautiful butterflies. It’s also a great addition underneath fruit trees, especially because it is perennial and you won’t need to disturb the root system of the tree to plant it each year.
The deep root system accumulate potassium, phosphorus, and copper (and calcium!) and bring it up to the surface where other plants can use them. You can then add the plants to your compost to speed it up, and provide those nutrients to your garden.
If you have enough yarrow, chop and drop and let it break down in place under a fruit tree or in the garden over the winter. You can also make a simple compost activator by soaking the leaves in water then adding the water to your compost.
Instead of plain grass, throw some yarrow seed into your pasture and let it grow. It will break up impacted soil and improve the soil quality. And finally you can eat yarrow yourself! The plant is bitter, but the young leaves can be added into salad and soups.
You can plant it from seed or by division in spring or fall. It’s most commonly sold by division and you can divide your own. Dig up the plant, cut it in half, and plant two new plants with about 1-2 feet of space each. If you grow yarrow from seed, just barely cover it with soil and keep it moist. The seed needs light to germinate. It should sprout in two to three weeks.
The plants like full sun, but it will be fine in part shade. Yarrow prefers alkaline or neutral ph soil with good drainage the best, and it does great in poor soils.
Yarrow will only need extra watering during severe droughts (it is fairly drought tolerant though!). It is also relatively unaffected by pests or disease although it can get powdery mildew or spittle bugs.
Because of yarrow’s propensity to spread and it’s ability to thrive in poor soil, or soil disturbed by human interference, some people consider yarrow an invasive weed. Given the attractiveness and usefulness of yarrow, I disagree, but if you do find yourself needing to remove yarrow you have two choices, chemicals, or digging the roots out completely. If you have a bit too much yarrow, simply harvest the leaves heavily and use for herbal remedies or add the excess to your compost.
Botanical Skin Care Course
Adding Yarrow To Your Materia Medica
Mountain Medicine: Yarrow And Arnica Uses
How to Grow, Forage, and Use Yarrow
Yarrow – Achillea Millefolium
The Top 8 Herbs For The Permaculture Garden
Herbs of Zaytuna Farm – Yarrow
5 Reasons To Grow Yarrow In Your Garden
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