Sunday, August 15, 2010

Herbal Ally: Yarrow

Yarrow is a dear, dear friend of mine. I discovered this lovely plant on a trip to Salem, Mass. several years ago. At the time it was mostly a lot of folklore and stories, and the more I read about Yarrow, the more intrigued I was. Yarrow has a reputation for being the "Witches Herb" and I have no issues with that, considering I think 'witch' is a term that was thrown around haphazardly at any woman who was skilled in herbs, midwifery and healing. Let's just say the 'misogynistic religious right' was quite intimidated, with the herbwifes and midwives who came before us. I myself can accept the fact that if I was currently in those times, I'd have been burnt at the stake several times over by now. :::sheesh::

Yarrow is an amazing herb. Just being in her presence relaxes and calms the mind. Her gentle scent is very soothing. I personally love to pet the flowers and enjoy how each tiny flower feels of my hand. Spending time with a plant is truly the best way to get to know it. Even allowing it to 'speak' to you. (How do you Wise Women of the past learned how to use herbs?) By the way, do not think this is an odd practice or expectation . The book of Iyov/Job, chapter 12 verse 8 states, "...Speak to the earth, and it will teach you." Expect the plant to teach you what it is good for and begin to trust your intuition regarding it. By developing a relationship with the plant you will learn more than you ever expected to. That said, a little book knowledge doesn't hurt, so I did some online research and decided to post that information here for you. But don't be limited to what is here. Go out and find some yarrow! It grows wild in many parts of North America and Europe or you may find a neighbor who would be willing to let you keep their yarrow company. Heck, it couldn't hurt to ask!



From the Alternative Nature Online Herbal: and Herb Monographs

Yarrow

Achillea millefolium

Other Names: Milfoil, Old Man's Pepper, Soldier's Woundwort, Knight's Milfoil, Thousand Weed, Nose Bleed, Carpenter's Weed, Bloodwort, Staunchweed

Habitat
Yarrow is a perennial herb, native to Europe and Asia and naturalized in North America and most other countries throughout the world. Yarrow is very common along roadsides and in old fields, pastures, and meadows in the eastern and central United States and Canada.

Cultivation
Yarrow is easily cultivated, will survive in poor soil. Prefers a well-drained soil in a sunny position. A very good companion plant, it improves the health of plants growing nearby and enhances their essential oil content thus making them more resistant to insect predations also improves the soil fertility.

Parts used:
All parts of the herb that are above the ground are used, flowers, leaves and stems

Collection and preparation: Harvest Yarrow in the morning, after the dew has dried but before the heat of the day. Yarrow is best dried upside down in a dark, airy, dry place

Constituents
up to 0.5% volatile oil, flavonoids, tannins, a bitter alkaloid

Actions
Diaphoretic, hypotensive, astringent, diuretic, antiseptic, anticatarrhal, emmenagogue, hepatic, stimulant, tonic

Indications
Fevers, common cold, essential hypertension, digestive complaints, loss of appetite, amenorrhoea, dysentery, diarrhoea. Specifically indicated in thrombotic conditions with hypertension, including cerebral and coronary thromboses. Used topically for slow-healing wounds and skin inflammations.
Yarrow is a valuable diaphoretic herb and is the central ingredient in any fever-management programme. It prevents the body temperature from rising too high but has a minimal suppressant effect on the course of the fever.

The flowers are rich in chemicals that are converted by steam distillation into anti-allergenic compounds, of use in the treatment of allergic catarrhal problems such as hay fever. The dark blue essential oil, azulene, is generally used as an anti-inflammatory, or in chest rubs for colds and influenza.

Yarrow lowers high blood pressure by dilating the peripheral vessels, and it also tones the blood vessels. It is considered to be a specific in thrombotic conditions associated with high blood pressure. Used externally, its astringent properties will aid in the healing of wounds, and it has been used to treat haemorrhoids and varicose veins. The leaves encourage blood clotting, so can be used fresh for nosebleeds. However, inserting a leaf in the nostril may also start a nosebleed. Achillea has also been used in the treatment of heavy and painful periods, and the presence of steroidal constituents may help to explain this activity.

Description
Yarrow grows from 10 to 20 inches high, a single stem, fibrous and rough, the leaves alternate, 3 to 4 inches long and 1 inch broad, larger and rosette at the base, clasping the stem, bipinnatifid, the segments very finely cut, fern-like, dark-green, giving the leaves a feathery appearance. The flowers are several bunches of flat-topped panicles consisting of numerous small, white flower heads. Each tiny flower resembling a daisy. The whole plant is more or less hairy, with white, silky appressed hairs. Flowers bloom from May to August. Gather stem, leaves and flower heads in bloom, dry for later herb use. Dry herb edible as a spice or flavoring, strong sage flavor.



Properties

Yarrow is a very valuable medicinal herb, with much scientific evidence of use in alternative medicine as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, stimulant, and tonics, vasodilator and vulnerary. Yarrow is used against colds, cramps, fevers, kidney disorders, toothaches, skin irritations, and hemorrhages, and to regulate menses, stimulate the flow of bile, and purify the blood. Medicinal tea is a good remedy for severe colds and flu, for stomach ulcers, amenorrhea, abdominal cramps, abscesses, trauma and bleeding, and to reduce inflammation. The main constituents are volatile oils including linalool, camphor, sabinene, and chamazulene, sesquiterpene lctones, flavanoids, alkaloids including achilleine, polyacetylenes, triterpenes, salicylic acid, coumarins, and tannins which prove these uses in alternative medicine to be effective. Extracts of yarrow exhibit antibiotic activity and may also act as anti-neoplastic drugs. Externally for treating wounds and stopping the flow of blood. Yarrow oil has been traditionally used in hair shampoos. Some caution is advised , large or frequent doses taken over a long period may cause the skin to be more sensitive to sunlight.

Contraindications
In rare cases yarrow can cause severe allergic skin rashes. Prolonged use can increase the skin's photosensitivity. Large doses should be avoided in pregnancy because the herb is a uterine stimulant. Excessive doses may interfere with existing anticoagulant and hypo- or hypertensive therapies. Caution should be exercised by epileptic patients

Folklore and additional comments
Yarrow stalks are traditionally thrown to read the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of divination. Yarrows botanical name Achillea refers to the ancient Greek hero Achilles, who, during the Trojan War, reputedly used it to treat his wounds. Its specific name means ‘a thousand leaves’ and refers to its feathery foliage. The folk name Nosebleed confirms its traditional use as an emergency styptic. The name ‘yarrow’ is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon name for the plant, gearwe.

Yarrow was used for love divination in the past, one of the herbs dedicated to the Evil One, in earlier days being sometimes known as Devil's Nettle, Devil's Plaything, Bad Man's Plaything, and was used for divination in spells. In Ireland young girls would cut a square sod in which grew a yarrow plant and place it beneath their pillow so that they would dream of their sweetheart. In France and Ireland it is one of the herbs of St. John, and on St. John’s Eve the Irish hang it in their homes to avert illness. It has been employed as a snuff and, in the seventeenth century, it was an ingredient of salads. In Sweden it has been used in the manufacture of beer and the peppery leaves and the flowers are used to flavour liqueurs.

Folk tales tell of how yarrow can prevent but not cure baldness. It is said to attract friends and distant relations to you and, if used in the bridal bouquet, it is believed to ensure that love will last for at least seven years. It was also believed that the yarrow could help you find your true love, either by sleeping with yarrow under your pillow to bring dreams of your true love or by cutting the stems across the middle, which would reveal the initials of your future spouse

A popular remedy for treating fevers and feverish conditions, yarrow was once used as a substitute for quinine. Native Americans burned yarrow to help drive away evil spirits, and it’s said that to understand the voice of yarrow, chew a little of the root and hold it in the mouth, a tea of leaf and flower will continue the story. European women would throw yarrow onto the fire and look into the flames for a picture of their future husband.

Whilst yarrow will stop a nosebleed it may (see above in Therapeutics) also start one, this was used to relieve a headache. It has been employed as snuff, and is also called Old Man's Pepper, on account of the pungency of its foliage. Both flowers and leaves have a bitter, astringent, pungent taste. In the seventeenth century it was an ingredient of salads.

In the middle ages, yarrow was one of the ingredients in Gruit, a selection of herbs that were used to make beer, before the widespread use of hops. Other Gruit ingredients included sweet gale, mugwort and juniper

Dried yarrow flowers can be used for decoration and in pot-pourri mixture. Leaves added to the compost bin help speed up the process. An infusion of yarrow can also be made and added to the garden to boost copper levels.

Dried yarrow included in incense or smoked in a pipe is very calming and has a lovely scent, thoroughly recommended for lowering stress levels.

The weirdest suggestion found when researching folklore of Yarrow is that if the hands are smeared with yarrow juice and then plunged into a river they will act as magnets to fish. This one has yet to be confirmed!

Preparation and dosage

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 to 2 teaspoonful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes, drink hot three times a day
Tincture: take 2 to 4ml of the tincture three times a day.




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2 comments:

  1. Lovely pictures! I like yarrow too because its unified as a plant but so different and individual from other plants- I mean, its herb and flower, all in one! :P

    blessings,
    Katherine

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh yeah, I'd be roasting in the fire with you.

    What a blessing to know women who know herbs and gardening! I live on 3.5 acres, most of it is wooded, but what's not - I would love to turn into a garden of herbs and flowers. What a lovely dream it is!

    Melissa

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Thanks so much for you comment! I look forward to reading it! Blessings!