Yarrow is known as a “styptic” – an astringent herb that stops bleeding. Its wound healing ability comes mostly from the alkaloid achilleine, which facilitates the coagulation of blood, which leads to the rapid closing of the wound.. A 1954 study found that just half a milligram of achilleine per kilogram of body weight can reduce the time it takes a wound to clot by 32%.
To minimise the risk of infection, Yarrow activates the blood platelets in the affected area, which form a protective layer to keep the body protected from infection-causing bacteria. It has powerful anti-microbial properties which can be traced to the terpenes in its essential oil, effectively killing the bacteria when it is applied to the wound. The natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of this herb make it ideal for use on minor cuts and burns, encouraging healing whilst relieving pain and inflammation.
Somewhat conversely, Yarrow strengthens blood circulation and improves blood flow. It is known to dilate the capillaries, which in turn increases circulation. Healthy blood circulation is essential to maintaining the overall health of the body as it ensures that every part of the body receives enough blood and oxygen to function properly.
Varicose veins are a common complaint caused by poor circulation – Yarrow is an excellent herb to prevent or treat this uncomfortable condition. It does this by dispersing blood congestion and by toning the walls of the veins with its astringent properties. This also makes it helpful for more serious complaints such as atherosclerosis.
Classed as a “bitter herb”, Yarrow is an excellent digestive stimulant that encourages proper bile secretion from the gallbladder, which in turn promotes digestion and can prevent gallstones from forming. It also contains the phytochemical azulene, which has anti-spasmodic properties and relaxes the internal stomach muscles, making it useful cases of digestive cramps.
Yarrow is the traditional go to herb for stomach flu and other gastro-intestinal disorders because of its ability to heal and tone the mucus membranes in the digestive tract. It can also normalise hydrochloric acid secretions, with low stomach acid now being known to be the cause of many digestive issues – including indigestion and heartburn.
The benefits of Yarrow for women’s health in particular are many. It is particularly effective in either lessening heavy menstrual flow or in stimulating the uterus to bring on menstruation. Yarrow aids in toning the muscles and increasing muscular activity of the uterus, which serves to initiate menstrual flow. This is a wonderful herb for women with absent periods, also known as “Amenorrhea”. If you are using this herb to stop heavy bleeding, it is important to address the cause of this whilst using Yarrow.
Additionally, its antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory actions make it especially useful in relieving menstrual cramps.
With regards to fertility issues, its positive effect on circulation ensures that the proper amount of blood is getting to the reproductive organs. This increased circulation helps to eliminate pelvic congestion such as PCOS and endometriosis and helps to relieve the pain brought about by these conditions.
Yarrow Essential Oil
This sweet, green and herbaceously scented essential oil is naturally anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic and astringent.
As an effective wound healer, it can be added to creams, lotions or a carrier oil and applied to prevent a wound becoming septic and to speed up healing. It forms a protective covering over the wound and stimulates the blood platelets and leukocytes (white blood cells that fight off foreign invaders).
Burning Yarrow essential oil in an oil burner will not only eliminate germs and pathogens from the immediate vicinity, it can help to bring down the inflammation of the respiratory tract and nasal passages, providing relief from coughs and colds.
Dilute Yarrow with a carrier oil and massage into sore, aching muscles for relief. It also makes an excellent bath oil that is relaxing and good for the skin.
Folklore and history
Yarrow's Latin name "Achillea millefolium" is said to derive from the Greek hero Achilles, who was dipped in the river Styx to make him immortal. Not wanting to let go of him completely, his mother kept hold of him by his heel - the only place on his body that wasn't immortal - which is now famously known as "Achilles Heel". The Spartan warrior had an affinity to Yarrow, after being shown its many uses by Chiron the Centaur, and went on to use this herb to heal his wounded soldiers during the Trojan war. He was eventually slain with a poisoned arrow, shot into his heel, his only vulnerable spot.
Yarrow has an ancient Chinese history too, where bundles of 64 Yarrow sticks have been used to read the hexagrams of the I Ching for millenia.
As Yarrow seems to aid in the physical flow of the body's most important substance, blood, its magical use is connected to managing the energetic flow in the body.
In astrology, Yarrow is considered to be feminine and is associated with Venus, the goddess of love.
Used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years, Yarrow has a long history of use in the traditional medicine systems of many ancient cultures. In fact it is so ancient that it was found amongst other medicinal herbs at a Neanderthal burial site in Iraq, dating from around 60,000 BCE.
Throughout history Yarrow was THE herb for the battlefield, hence its nicknamed “Herbal Militaris” and “Soldier’s Woundwort”. Whilst its ability to staunch blood flow is second to none, Yarrow was also used to relieve pain, inflammation, fight infection and soothe spasms.
Yarrow Powder can be added to smoothies, encapsulated or mixed with a little water or juice. It can be also be used topically on minor wounds and made into a healing salve.
Traditional Use: 2-3ml taken 2-3 times per day, or as directed by a Herbal Practitioner.
Yarrow Herb Tea
Use 1-2 teaspoons per cup of boiling water and steep for 5 -10 minutes depending on taste.
Yarrow Essential Oil
Yarrow essential oil can be used in the bath, or vaporized in an oil burner. It can be added to a massage oil or cream. Use 6-8 drops per bath and 10 -18 drops per 30ml of carrier oil.
Blends well with; valerian, oakmoss, vetivert, ylang ylang, cedar, lavender and german chamomile essential oils. It enhances the aroma of black pepper, bergamot and grapefruit essential oils.
Yarrow contains; achillein & achilleic acid, volatile oil, azulene, camphor, potassium, calcium salts, resin, gum, tannin, isovaleric acid, salicylic acid, sterols, flavonoids
Do not consume Yarrow if you are allergic to members of the Aster family (such as daisies).
Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Do not take Yarrow if you are on blood thinning medications. If you are taking any prescription medications, please consult your healthcare practitioner before using this herb.