Over the years, I’ve spent many hours harvesting wild herbs from my property, in the forest or in other natural settings. Yarrow, a lovely, herb with feathery leaves and tiny white flowers, is among my favorites.
I collect yarrow during the summer to dry and store for use throughout the year. One of the reasons I love yarrow is that it is highly effective for many applications. It’s also easy to identify and tends to grow somewhat rampant—an indicator of plant strength. After all, plants produce compounds to ensure their survival, and these same compounds are frequently found to be potent medicines that ensure our survival as well.
According to legend, Achilles stopped the bleeding of soldiers’ wounds during the Trojan War by applying yarrow leaves (hence the Latin name, which is Achillea millefolium). He was clearly on the right track, since modern research has confirmed what herbalists have long known: that yarrow has the ability to stop bleeding and reduce pain and inflammation when applied to wounds.
Yarrow has been approved by the German government as a remedy for the pain of menstrual cramps. According to herbal expert and author of The Green Pharmacy, its effectiveness is probably due to several antispasmodic constituents. He also recommends yarrow to help restore periods in women who are not experiencing them (known as amenorrhea). Of course, if your periods have stopped, you should consult a physician to rule out any serious health conditions.
Urinary Tract Cleanser
The leaves, stems and flowers of this plant make an effective remedy for cleansing the kidneys. This helps to regulate high blood pressure, which is managed largely by the kidneys.
Yarrow is also a good liver cleanser. Two animal studies have demonstrated its ability to protect the liver from toxic chemical damage. A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research demonstrated its abilities to protect the liver from damage.
In the herbal world, yarrow is known as a diaphoretic herb — one that induces sweating. The skin is your body’s largest detoxification organ, and in some cases of high fever or serious infection, sweating is one of the best ways for the body to reduce its internal temperature and eliminate toxic buildup linked to the infection.
New research in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing found that yarrow was highly effective when used as a mouthwash to alleviate irritation and sores in the mucous membranes of the mouth (oral mucositis), which are a symptom of oral cancers and a serious side effect of cancer chemotherapy.
Anti-wrinkle Skin Refresher
According to the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, an extract of yarrow applied to the skin significantly reduced the visibility of wrinkles and pores, compared with a placebo and glycolic acid products. Glycolic acid is a substance frequently added to anti-wrinkle creams to help remove dead skin cells and give skin a fresher look. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing yarrow extracts used in the cosmetics industry in the future.
To make a yarrow tea: Use one teaspoon of the dried herb (any combination of leaves, flowers, and stems) per cup of boiling water and let steep for at least ten minutes before straining. Drink one cup three times per day.
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-news World’s Healthiest News, president of PureFood BC, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include the upcoming book: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty Cooking.