Yarrow – From Battlefield to Fevers

By Sarah Dafoe

Many have seen this plant growing along roadsides or wastelands, neglected but standing proud and waving its white flattened flower clusters, never imagining the critical role it played prior to modern day medicine.
Yarrow has a couple of look-a-likes and can easily get mixed up with Queen Anne’s Lace as well as Poison Hemlock, so it is essential that you correctly identify this plant before working with it.

Yarrow has a multitude of benefits and was once highly esteemed and incorporated into everyday life, from skin care to colds and fevers, but where it was really essential was on the battlefields.
It’s Latin name is Achillea millefolium and it has many common names such as milfoil, old man’s pepper, soldier’s woundwort, knight’s milfoil, military herb, nose bleed, carpenter’s weed, bloodwort, staunchweed and many more!

How Yarrow Was Used

You most likely get a sense of how it was worked with from the common names given to it, such as military, soldier, knight, wound, blood and staunch:)
It was always carried among the Roman soldiers and is the same plant with which Achilles staunched the bleeding wounds of his soldiers, hence the name of the genus, Achillea.
It is said that when the Greek hero Achilles was born, his mother held him by the heel and dipped him into a vat of yarrow tea to protect him from harm.

As we know, he eventually died due to a wound on the ankle, where according to lore the yarrow
did not touch.
Even today this plant medicine is taken into the forest by those working there and has saved lives when needed.
There was one case in particular of a chainsaw accident in which it was applied to stop the bleeding and saved the person’s life.
Yarrow is also a powerful insect repellant. Many people still rub yarrow flowers directly onto skin or clothing to repel mosquitos.
Native Americans in the pacific northwest traditionally hung yarrow in longhouses for this purpose, as well as spraying a strongly brewed yarrow tea around salmon during processing to repel hungry and curious flies.

Harvesting Yarrow

Yarrow is best harvested when the flowers are entirely open, still full and healthy looking, and not discolored.
If gathering from your own garden or from a healthy stand of yarrow, collect the aerial parts by cutting the entire stem halfway down.
To dry, tie the stems in small bunches and hang in ambient temperatures away from direct sunlight. Once fully dry, separate the leaves and flowers and store them in an airtight jar away from sunlight and temperature variation.

Read the remainder of this article in the June issue of the Herbal Collective and discover how to make Yarrow oil when you subscribe to the online magazine.

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