Achillea millefolium- Or otherwise known as Yarrow is an umbel shaped flowering plant that is an essential herb for the home apothecary. Here you will learn how to understand it's compounds and benefits, identify, harvest and use yarrow.
I am not a doctor, nor do I recommend herbs for ailments. The information provided is from research, and actual usage from us on our farm. Please use any herb at your own risk.
Yarrow can be grown in the garden, however there are many coloration varieties from purple, dusty pink to yellow. But only the white and yarrow is found in nature. The pinks and purples have been hybridized meaning the medicinal properties may be compromised. Interestingly yarrow (white or yellow) that is grown in the garden setting is found to have higher fat and saturated fatty acids, proteins, energy value, sugars and flavonoids, while wild yarrow has higher levels of carbohydrates, organic acids, unsaturated fatty acids, tocopherols (vitamin E) and phenolic acids (antioxidants).
When foraging for wild yarrow, you want to looks in fields, pastures, along roadways and in cities too. Yarrow is an umbel type flower and identifying this plant correctly is essential as there are some look alsikes out there. First thing to look for is the feathery leaves of the yarrow plant, they will look fern like. The flower head of yarrow can be mistaken for Queen Ann's Lace, however there is a distinct difference between the two. Queens Ann's Lace has a pinkish center to the overall umbel flower head. The petals of the flower are very small and the stem only produces a single umbel flower head, where as yarrow will have multiple umbel flower heads per one stem.
Whichever way you decide to acquire yarrow, always pick in the morning right after the morning dew has evaporated, doing this when the plants beneficial compounds are at there peak ensure the best herb for medicinal usage and storage in the apothecary.
The whole yarrow plant can be used and harvested. That means the leaves, stalks, flower heads and roots are all beneficial. That said as with most plants that are used for root harvest, and older root is more valuable. Growing yarrow in your garden will help ensure that you can obtain an older root growth 2 years and up are best. Hang yarrow upside down in a cool, dry location away from direct sun until the plant is crunchy when touched. I like to store flower heads and roots separate from the stalks and leaves.
Now for some of the benefits of yarrow.
Emmenagogue (stimulate blood flow)
Short and long term sedative and anti-anxiety (study)
As one can clearly see yarrow is not only a well researched medicinal herd it is a do all herb, lets break down some practical uses for yarrow.
As yarrow is antiseptic it can be used to treat wounds to help keep infections at bay, and as a preventative to infections. Making yarrow a great herb to add to wound ointments.
Yarrow has been used for centuries on the battle field, sprinkling yarrow onto a wound is shown to dull pain.
As an antitumoral studies have shown that yarrow aids malignancy in pancreatic cancer.
Taking yarrow internally has shown to help aide in digestion, it helps to reduce diarrhea, flatulence and cramping. Yarrow has been proven to reduce muscle spasms as well, making it a great herb for menstrual problems and gastro intestinal issues.
Lactating women who have cracked, chapped nipples or who are experiencing mastitis found that using a poultice of yarrow reduced pain and swelling.
With all the benefits of yarrow there are some contradictions, meaning you need to use caution. You should never use yarrow if you are pregnant, as it is used to INDUCE bleeding it may cause spontaneous abortion.
You should never use yarrow for more than 2 weeks at a time.
Yarrow CAN interact with these common medicines, so if you are taking them do not use yarrow unless your GP has instructed you to do so:
Blood thinners (like warfarin)
Stomach acid-reducing medications (like omeprazole)
High blood pressure medications
Drugs that cause sleepiness (like anticonvulsants and sleeping pills)
Yarrow flowers, leaves and stems can be used to make this medicinal tea. You can use either the fresh or dried flower/leaves.
Yarrow tea can taste bitter the bitter aides in digestion as well as absorption into the intestines, therefore we add honey or other sweeteners to take the edge off if needed.
Many tea recipes include lemon balm, which gives a nice boost. Try also combining yarrow with echinacea, elder flower, ginger, for additional respiratory and digestive-soothing effects.
1 teaspoon dried yarrow or 3 fresh leaves
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
1 lemon slice (optional)
Steep yarrow in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove leaves if desired.
Add honey and/or lemon juice if desired.
PRINT RECIPE BELOW
Yarrow can be used in cooking include the following:
Younger leaves can be used in soups or stews similar to how you would use a delicate leafy green like spinach.
Substitute it for tarragon in recipes.
For sautéed dishes, add it at the very end.
Use it to make infused vinegars and oils.
Fresh, young flowers can be used in salads.
Historically, it’s also been used to make liquor and bitters.
The flavor of yarrow is sweet but also somewhat bitter with an anise-like scent. It’s often compared to tarragon.
When using it in cooked dishes, keep in mind that it’s a soft herb and high heat destroys its flavor.