I am lucky enough to have family who stay on the edge of a Swedish National Park, and every year get to come and spend some time here in the beautiful wilderness, surrounded by nature’s bounty of indigenous, medicinal plants. The Swedish climate is somewhat similar to ours in Scotland, and so the species here pretty much overlaps with that back home. I’ve finally got some time to spend with herbs in their most natural, wild environment. I’m hoping to post information about a few, starting with Yarrow, hugely abundant and highly therapeutic..
Botanical Name: Achillea millefolium, Daisy family
Common Names: Yarrow, Lus chosgadh na fola (Gallic) Soldier’s Woundwort, Thousand Weed, Bloodwort, Staunchweed, Herbe Militaris
Identification: Yarrow can be found growing everywhere, in grasslands, meadows and by the roadside. It has alternate leaves which appear very feathery, having many segments. this is where it gets its genus name ‘millefolium’ from – for having a ‘thousand leaves’.
Yarrow flowers from June to September, with flowers being white or pale lilac which appear like minute, flattened daisies. Yarrow too is a member of the daisy family. The whole plant is finely hairy, with white, silky hairs.
Growing: Yarrow is a hardy perennial, suitable to most climates, and is very easy to cultivate. It spreads both by its roots and its seeds, & it is known to horticulturalists as a troublesome weed. It prefers sunshine and a fertile soil.
Parts Used: The whole herb collected when in flower
Medicinal Actions & Uses:
- Matthew Wood describes Yarrow as “one of the primal remedies of traditional Western herbal medicine”, having a stimulating, yet relaxing effect. Its main action is on the veins, toning, clarifiying and stimulating them: opening them up and relieving congestion of the capillaries.
- As a wound healer and haemostatic, its main use is for treating lacerations, bruises and bleeding
- It is used as a diaphoretic to encourage sweating, and so has applications in reducing fevers and chills
- Yarrow is also used for relieving congestion in the digestive tract, liver, abdomen, and uterus. In the uterus in particular it has been used to regulate the cycle, reduce heavy bleeding caused by problems like fibroids, or ease pain caused by congestion.
History and Folklore:
Pollen from Yarrow plants among other medicinal herbs was discovered at a burial site for a Neanderthal man as long ago as 60,000 BC, indicated the importance of this plant throughout human history.
Even as recently as the twentieth century it was considered lucky to attach a sprig of yarrow to a child’s cot to bring a long and healthy life.
In the Scottish Highlands, Yarrow was used in healing ointments and was burnt as an insect repellent, as it also was in North America. It has since been found to contain strong repellent compounds.
Legend has it that Yarrow was the plant used by Achilles to staunch the bleeding wounds of his soldiers, which is where it gets the name Achillea from. The Ancients called it the Herba Militaris, or the military herb for its great reputation as a wound healer. The Gallic name for the plant, Lus chosgadh na fola, means ‘the plant which staunches bleeding’.
The herb is associated with masculinity, power and virility.
It is also known as Nosebleed, for its ability to stop bleeding from the nose, though some state to the contrary, that the leaf stuck in the nose can relieve headaches through causing a nosebleed.
Yarrow was one of the herbs dedicated to the Evil One in earlier times, and was used for divination in spells, or to reveal one’s true love.
Preparations & Dosages: Yarrow combines well with Nettle, Hawthorn, Miseltoe and Lime Flowers for High blood pressure; and with Elderflowers, Peppermint, Cayenne and Ginger for colds and feverish conditions.
Tincture: 1:5, 25%
Poultice: fresh leaves for a wound
Bath: add fresh or dried leaves to a bath for inflammation
Active Constituents: Volatile oil (including azulenes such as chamazulene), bitter sesquiterpene lactones, coumarins and flavonoids.
Contra-indications: People with allergies to other Asteraceae (Daisy family) plants should be careful
Mrs Grieve’s Modern Herbal http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/y/yarrow02.html
Carr Gomm Philip & Carr Gomm Stephanie (2007) The Druid Plant Oracle, Connections Book Publishing, London
Wood, Matthew (2004) The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism, Berkeley: North Atlantic Books
Chevallier, Andrew (1996) The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants, London: Dorling Kindersley
Skenderi, G (2003) Herbal Vade Mecum, Rutherford, NJ: Herbacy Press