Ask any herbalist what their #1 indispensable herb is, and chances are good that most will name Yarrow. The true stories of yarrow saving lives abound – from the young man who sliced his leg with a chainsaw to internal bleeding injury from a skateboard accident*.
Yarrow’s healing properties are legendary, as her many common names reveal: Bloodwort, Woundwort, Carpenter’s Weed, and Plumajillo (little healing feather). Even her Latin genus name, Achillea, refers to her alliance with soldiers and healing. Achilles was the hero from the Iliad, and he is said to have used yarrow a great deal to help heal the soldiers he led in battle.
Yarrow is a wild herb, but she is also easy to grow from seed, and she makes a beautiful addition to landscaping. There are many decorative cultivars of yarrow in a variety of colors (pink, yellow, red and more), but for medicine and magic, stick with the original white-flowered Achillea millefolium.
Yarrow can be used both internally and externally. When used externally for wounds, she helps stop bleeding, pulls the edges of a wound together, speeds healing, and prevents infection. She can help resolve active infections, and any ailment involving the fluids of the body will likely benefit from Yarrow. Yarrow is one of the rare balancing herbs, and she helps restore balance to the waters of the body.
What to do about fever? Fever is the body’s way of making the environment inhospitable to whatever pathogen is attempting to gain a foothold. Unfortunately, many people think a fever is supposed to be treated with pills, but doing so has been shown to have negative – and in some cases severe – effects. I don’t the term “side effects” – it minimizes that what is happening is an EFFECT, just not the one the pharma companies wanted. In the case of NSAIDS (acetaminophen and ibuprofen), studies have shown taking them when sick makes you more contagious AND extends the illness. Instead, let your body do its job. Taking a cup of hot yarrow + elderflower tea can assist the body in its efforts, bringing the fever up slightly and then breaking it.
Here’s how I use Yarrow medicinally:
Poultice/Compress – open wounds, infections, impact injuries/bruising (fresh crushed or dried and rehydrated)
Tea – first sign of illness, to resolve fever (along with elderflower), internal injury, after surgery or tooth extraction, treat/prevent uterine congestion. Short-term use only (6 weeks max, then at least 2 weeks off).
Tincture – external use only due to an alcohol-soluble constituent (B-iso-thujone) which can cause serious health issues. Used externally as liniment to treat impact injuries/bruising and combine with plantain + calendula tinctures as a first aid antiseptic spray.
Oil/Salve – combine dried yarrow + plantain + calendula and infuse in oil to use as the base of healing salves.
*see herbalists Matthew Wood and Margi Flint
Why is Achillea millefolium’s common name Yarrow? It is thought to be derived from the old English word, gearwe, a word associated with the art of magic. Yarrow has a long, cross-cultural history of being used magically. If you are familiar with the Chinese I-Ching, you may be surprised to learn that I-Ching divination was originally performed with dried yarrow stems.
Yarrow is said to have the ability to anchor us in the earth plane while facilitating connection with the unseen. She can be an ally in opening up channels for divination and in ritual or ceremony to enhance intentions for protection, bravery and healing, as well communicating with ancestors/deities or other ethereal beings.
Yarrow flower essence can help establish healthy boundaries, strengthen the aura and aid with processing trauma, much like Bach Flower Essences’ famous Rescue Remedy.
For magical purposes, drink yarrow as a tea, dry and burn as a smoke (great for consecrating sacred items and cleansing), or lay the fresh or dried plant directly on the body and/or altar. For helping facilitate seeing beyond visible realities, place over the closed eyes while journeying.
How do you use yarrow? What have your yarrow experiences been – either healing or magic?
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