How to Grow, Forage, and Use Yarrow

| 2/9/2017 12:00:00 AM

 achillea millefolium
Fotolia/Marta Jonina

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a drought-tolerant perennial with feathery, fern-like leaves and tiny flowers that are spread out over large, flat heads. A number of showy yarrow hybrids have been bred to display an entire rainbow of colors, however; if you’re growing yarrow for its medicinal properties then stick to the traditional white-flowered heirloom, which most resembles its wild and hardy ancestors. Yarrow often grows in the disturbed soil of roadsides and along fields and meadows. A popular choice for pollinator gardens, yarrow can become invasive because it spreads by both its creeping roots and dropped seeds.   

Yarrow’s genus name, Achillea, comes from the Greek mythological warrior Achilles. Legend says that Achilles used yarrow in the battlefield to help heal his soldiers’ wounds and to stop the bleeding, which also explains why yarrow’s other common names include soldier’s woundwort, knight’s milfoil, and herbe mĀ­ilitaris. As a battlefield herb, yarrow was picked fresh, chewed or mashed, and then applied directly to the wound as a poultice.

Yarrow is well known for its vulnerary (wound healing) and diaphoretic (perspiration inducing) properties. Applied topically as a poultice or rinse, this antimicrobial, styptic, and astringent herb helps promote the growth of healthy tissue while protecting against infection and preventing blood loss. Taken internally as an infusion or tincture, yarrow’s diaphoretic properties cause a light sweat, which helps cool the body and reduce fevers. A uterine stimulant and antispasmodic, yarrow is also traditionally used for relieving painful and delayed menstruation (but should be avoided by pregnant woman).

 yarrow tea