Commonly known by several other names such as Soldier's Woundwort, Knight's Milfoil, Thousand Weed, and Carpenter's Weed, the yarrow plant has distinctive flat flower heads and lacy leaves. Its scientific name Achillea millefolium, comes from the belief that the Greek hero Achilles carried it with him, to treat the battle wounds of his men. There is a certain mysticism that surrounds the plant, as yarrow stalks were used for the divination of fortunes in the ancient orient. The plant also has a long history of being used for its numerous healing properties, especially for wounds, cuts, and abrasions in domestic medicine. The plant was used in different ways; it was ground and the paste was applied to wounds, and it was brewed, and consumed as tea.
One of the most common uses of yarrow is as a home remedy for colds. The primary benefits of this tea lie in its ability to chase away colds before they set in, and it has been used in this capacity for decades. Its anti cold properties are most likely due to the presence of sesquiterpene lactones including achillin, achillifolin, millefin, dihydroparthenolide, and balchanolide in it. These substances are believed to boost the immune system, making the tea an effective cold fighting remedy. It also contains oils that act as antimicrobial agents.
This tea is believed to perform the function of restricting blood flow to the mucous membrane. The outcome of this action is that the mucous membrane becomes less permeable to virus and bacteria. It also helps reduce inflammation of the mucous producing membrane. The oil azulene contained in the plant is believed to contribute to the reduction of inflammation of the mucous membrane as well as body temperature.
While the best way to activate the healing properties of yarrow is believed to be through brewing, there is also the strong possibility of some unpleasant side effects. Prolonged excessive use can result in skin that is highly photosensitive (sensitive to exposure to light). It may also have a mild psychotropic effect, which leaves one experiencing a shift in the color and intensity of light. There are also those who are sensitive to yarrow, and as a rule, if you are allergic to aspirin, you are likely to be allergic to yarrow as well.
There are a few different methods of going about making yarrow tea. One suggests that you pour 6 cups of boiling water over one cup of yarrow and let it sit for a while. Then strain the tea and drink it, one or half cup at a time. Another suggestion is to add two or three fresh or dried leaves to a cup, and pour boiling water over it. Let it brew for 5 minutes, and then add honey to sweeten, or serve with a slice of lemon.
Apart from its uses to heal wounds and staunch blood flow, yarrow is used as a remedy for several ailments. Some recommend it to deal with chronic urinary track infections. It may help in the treatment of hemoptysis, hematuria, forms of hemorrhage where there is small amounts of bleeding, incontinence of urine, diabetes, hemorrhoids with bloody or mucoid discharges, and dysentery. In addition, it was also used to treat amenorrhoea, flatulency, and spasmodic diseases and it was injected to treat leucorrhea with relaxed vaginal walls.
While evidence of the use of yarrow tea for its medicinal properties exist in ancient text, there is a lack of scientific evidence with regards to its actual effectiveness, or side effects. For this reason, one must consult their medical practitioner, to verify if this herbal remedy is safe for them to use. Those with delicate conditions, especially pregnant women, should only consume it with their doctors approval.