Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) has a long history of use – ‘achillea’ refers to its reputed use by Achilles to staunch his men’s wounds after the siege of Troy, and ‘yarrow’ is a corruption of its Anglo-Saxon name, ‘gearwe’. It has many alternative names, some describing the many segments of its foliage (eg. ‘milfoil’), some to its use as snuff and many others to its blood-staunching properties.
Yarrow is closely linked with divination in many parts of the world: its stalks are used to consult the I Ching (or ‘Book of Changes’) in China, for example.
Medicinally, yarrow is valuable in relieving hayfever, easing menstrual cramps and reducing heavy menstruation. The infusion can be taken for severe colds, flu and catarrh, especially at the onset of fever, and in the Orkneys is said to dispel melancholy. This herb can also treat diarrhoea, dyspepsia and hypertension, and is still used externally to treat wounds, as an ointment or by binding washed fresh leaves to cuts and grazes as a poultice.
A bitter, astringent herb.
Flowers June to September.
Collect stems, leaves and flowers from the wild in August (the flowers for teas and tinctures, the leaves and stems for salves and poultices).
CAUTION: Prolonged use may cause allergic reaction or sun sensitivity.
PLEASE NOTE: These notes on the history and use of herbs have been compiled for general interest and are not intended as medical advice, for which you should consult a professional herbalist.
'A Modern Herbal' Mrs M. Grieve FRHS ed. Mrs C. F. Leyel (1973)
'The Herb Society's Complete Medicinal Herbal' Penelope Ody MNIMH (1993)
'RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses' Deni Brown (2002)