Yarrow, a Healing Herb of the Ancients
Since ancient times Yarrow has been known and valued for its first aid in stopping different types of bleeding, as a herb for wounds, cuts and abrasions (used topically), in home decoration and as a delicious vegetable added in salad and soup with a slight bitter taste. Now it is a good remedy to treat cold and flue and a valued component in nowadays cosmetics. By the Ancients Yarrow was called Herba Militaris – the military herb, or ‘healing herb’ that also tells about its healing wound’s properties.
Yarrow. This aromatic, perennial herb can be both a weed and a flower. Its botanical name is Achillea millefolium of family Asteraceae. Its genus name Achillea is derived from mythical Greek character Achilles as he (according to the myth) would always take the herb with him for treating wound after the battles.
Old folk names for Yarrow are Nosebleed, Gordaldo, Sanguinary, Arrowroot, Yarroway, Soldier's Woundwort, Bloodwort, Milfoil, Knight's Milfoil, Old Man's Pepper, Carpenter's Weed, Thousand Weed, Herbe Militaris, Yerw and others. The English name Yarrow comes from the Saxon and Dutch words – ‘gearwe’ and ‘yerw’.
It is rather beautiful erect perennial plant that grows in several stems of 20 cm to 1 m in high. The whole plant is more or less hairy, with white, silky appressed hairs. It has fuzzy green leaves that are very long (up to 20 cm), arranged spirally on the stems and have an unmistakable odor when crushed. The herb has several white ray flowers and yellow disk flowers. Disks flowers have generally 3 to 8 rays and range from 15 to 40. Flowers are usually white in color (though can be reddish, gold or pink) with yellow centres. Generally the plant blooms from June to August (or September) depending on location.
Yarrow is native in California and other areas of the Western United States and is cultivated in many countries. It grows everywhere: in the grass, in meadows, pastures, and by the roadside. Due to the way it creeps greatly by its roots and because of the number of seeds with the help of which it multiplies Yarrow turns from a beautiful flower into a troublesome weed when in gardens. When in pots it is a nice floppy plant that needs no special conditions and easy grows. The flower will be rather wide. A nice dry flower arrangements can be done from Yarrow, it can stand in a vase for years.
Yarrow is undemanding, likes a dry soil and lots of sunshine, but can grow even in poor soil. It multiplies from the seed (it takes a year or two to establish itself from seed), by root division or from woody cuttings taken in autumn or spring.
In folk medicine the whole plant is used: the stem, leaves and flowers, that are collected when in bloom (generally in August).
Yarrow Tea is a good remedy for colds. The infusion (1 OZ. of dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water) is really great in case of fevers and obstructed perspiration. A decoction of the whole plant (or dried plant) is excellent for kidney disorders and for bleeding piles. It is also used for washing head (as it has the reputation of preventing boldness).
Yarrow tinctures are used for different purposes: it relieves minor pains, prevent infection, and promotes healing of skin wounds a stops bleeding of skin wounds. It is taken either under the tongue or added in juice (6-12 drops). Some tinctures promote sweating that is very good when fever; also dilates blood vessels, lowering blood pressure. Yarrow formulation is used in case of chronic hyposecretory gastritis.
Main constituents of Yarrow are flavonoids, alkaloids, isovaleric ands alicylic acid, triterpenes, tannins, volatile oils, asparagin, and others plus Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin C and Niacin (nicotinic acid).
Yarrow is good antipyretic, astringent, urinary antiseptic, diuretic, anti- inflammatory. It stops internal bleeding and promotes menstruation. It is also mild aromatic, stimulant, diaphoretic and tonic.
The high content of minerals in yarrow makes it useful for muscle spasms, muscle weakness, depression, hypertension, convulsions, confusion, nausea, personality changes, lack of coordination and gastrointestinal disorders (magnesium, calcium and phosphorus function together in bone formation, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission).
Yarrow Tea is recommended in the early stages of children's colds, and in measles and other eruptive diseases (though it is good for adults). In case of severe cold tea is irreplaceable. It opens the pores freely and purifies the blood. The taste would be not so bitter when sweetened with sugar or honey. It makes the tea really effective when a little Cayenne Pepper is added (or peppermint and elderflower).
Yarrow (its tinctures, pills or tea) lowers blood pressure, promotes digestion, improves circulation by acting as a vasodilator and can be of benefit in mild cystitis.
A piece of the plant will staunch bleeding of the wound when used locally. It reduces heavy bleeding and helps regulate and ease menstrual pain.
Yarrow is very useful in case of essential hypertension, dysentary, amenorrhoea and diarrhoea.
In rare cases Yarrow can cause side effects: severe allergic skin rashes and when used long can increase the skin's photosensitivity. Other side effects have no trials confirmation.
Another caution against using yarrow is to avoid yarrow treatment during pregnancies (or use very carefully in very small doses) because yarrow is a powerful uterine stimulant. Also do not use it during undiagnosed bleeding.
Yarrow is used not only in folk medicine; it is used in fresh arrangementsor in decorations when dried. Like other weed-like flower it grows in our gardens with all its health benefits, the only thing to do is knowing how to use it and, actually, use it.
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