Yarrow herb (Achillea millefolium) is a hardy perennial belonging to the Compositae family. The botanical name Achillea has been derived from the Greek hero, Achilles. This herb is also known by other names like the knight's milfoil, staunch weed, woundwort, thousand weed, nosebleed, carpenter's weed, etc. Interestingly, this herb is found on grassy strips, vacant lots, waste land, and even on the road sides in Europe, North America, and Asia.
The yarrow herb grows as bushy clumps, reaching a height of about one yard with a single main stem and green, feather-like leaves. The foliage resembles that of a fern, which is why it is also called millefoil. The name 'thousand leaves' caught on due to the plant's finely divided leaves that appear to be numerous in number. The blooming time of this herb is generally between the months of June to September, in the eastern regions of the United States. Tiny, inconspicuous creamy-white or lilac flowers appear in the form of composite clusters at the apex of the stems. These flowers further give rise to tiny, brown fruits and seeds.
The yarrow herb is touted for its therapeutic benefits, and is collected and dried, before it is used for various medicinal purposes. Traditionally, this herb has been used as an antiseptic, wherein, its leaves were used to heal wounds and open sores. It's also been used as first aid in battlefields (World War I). Its astringent properties help cease bleeding, which is precisely why the herb is also known as a nosebleed. Moreover, its powdered form is also applied on abrasions to quicken the healing process. Infusions of yarrow leaves, flowers, and stems can also assist the healing of hemorrhoids, rashes, skin ulcers, etc.
Some other uses are as follows:
- Heals stomach ailments and gastrointestinal cramping
- Lessens menstrual problems
- Cures bleeding hemorrhoids
- Treats urinary bleeding and bleeding ulcers
- Cures bloating and flatulence
- Treats skin problems
- Prevents baldness (infusion used as hair rinse)
- Fights fever
- Relieves toothaches (fresh leaves are chewed)
- Improves blood circulation
- Alleviates headaches
- Treats insomnia
- Alleviates phlegm problems
- Treats gynecological problems
- Clears congested sinuses
- Protects from pollen and dander allergies
- Heals dry cracked hands
- Acts as relaxant when added to baths
Besides the above mentioned medicinal properties, there are some other uses as well. This herb works as an effective mosquito repellent. For low maintenance, naturalized landscapes, this herb is used for ornamental purposes. It also helps the neighboring plants become more resistant to disease. Moreover, it's also a great food source for animals like the deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, etc. Domestic sheep and goats also derive part of their nutrition by consuming this herb.
Yarrow herb is commonly found in nurseries, garden stores, plant dealers, etc. This herb can be consumed in the form of tea, or made into ointments and face washes to be applied externally. Fresh root can also be chewed to alleviate toothaches. To clean wounds soak the towel in a strong yarrow herb infusion and apply it on the wound. The herb is also available in the tincture or capsule form. Both tincture and capsule need to be taken 2-5 times a day.
Although this herb is known for its health benefits, it's also important to keep its side effects in mind. Frequent use of yarrow herb can cause the skin to become highly photosensitive. So, before using this herb it's important to consult your health care provider.
Disclaimer: This HolisticZine article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert advice.