I planted the yarrow in the above photo almost ten years ago, and I have a great fondness for it. Whenever I’m tending the garden, I marvel at how blessed I am to have this amazing medicinal herb so close to hand. From the beginning of summer to the end of autumn I harvest the aerial parts to make remedies for my dispensary. For a quick fix to help ease muscle aches and pains brought on from working in the garden, I often take advantage of yarrow’s anti-inflammatory action and snip off a few leaves and flowers to make an infusion.
The herb will help reduce any type of swollen tissue and staunch bleeding so it is a wonderful wound herb. A cup of yarrow tea (infusion) will stop a nosebleed if it doesn’t stop on its own, and if you have a minor cut snip off a bit of leaf and place it on top to stop it bleeding, especially if it’s a clean cut such as from a kitchen knife. I always let wounds bleed for a bit to make sure any bacteria or dirt bleeds out before cleaning them.
Bodies weakened from infectious conditions such as colds and flu, and any prolonged, debilitating illness can benefit from taking yarrow infusions or the tincture. Other conditions yarrow treats include varicose veins, internal and external haemorrhoids, fever, palpitations; rhinitis, asthma, bronchitis, conditions of the gastrointestinal tract such as colic, diarrhoea, indigestion, and gastritis. The herb can also be beneficial for cystitis, urethritis, and regulation of the menstrual cycle.
Yarrow was considered a 'sacred herb' by some of the most ancient cultures of man. It was even used by Druids to divine the weather with accurate predictions; perhaps some of today’s weather forecasters could learn a thing or two from them.
I have read that animals are natural herbalists knowing instinctively which plant they need to eat to help their body’s requirements and I have seen this with my own animals. Much of the herb lore we know came from observing animals choosing what to eat to help them with their ailments. A cattle herd that had been weakened by seasonal changes or lack of good grass were found eating yarrow in preference to other pasture food.
Apart from its wonderful healing properties, the herb is a great survivor. In my garden it has been through drought, trampling from tradesmen's feet when they were building our house, 50 degree (Celsius) heat last summer, and minus 4 degrees (Celsius) in winter. Each time I think it's succumbed to the elements, it bursts forth in spring to once again yield its healing properties.
Grown in the herb garden, yarrow will enhance the health, strength, and flavour of other herbs and it will help with composting. Just a couple of small leaves, clipped small and mixed through the compost, can halve the time taken for the compost to become rich and black and ready for the garden.
There are different varieties of yarrow suitable for the garden; however Achillea millefolium has the best medicinal properties.