I first learned about Yarrow, Achillea millefolium while on an herb walk with David Winston at the Medicines From The Earth Conference in 2003. David showed us its "thousand leaves" which translate to "millefolium" in its Latin binomial. It was amazing to see these feathery soft leaves which in the language of plant signatures look like the aerating spread of capillaries in the lungs. David shared the plants association with the Greek god Achilles who used this plant to heal his solider's wounds. This ability of Yarrow to stop bleeding makes it a valuable herb among farmers, shepherds, and soldiers.
Along with its styptic and vulnerary properties, this Old World plant is antiviral and antibacterial making it a wonderful plant to apply to a wound. I can imagine my great grandfather, Francesco Parinnello, who lived as a shepherd in Sicily, keeping a little yarrow in his medicine bag as he traveled through the hills with his sheep. It would be the ideal medicine to apply to a small jagged cut on a lambs leg from running into a barbed wire fence or to a wound received while chopping firewood.
I would not be a good herbalist if I didn't also mention that yarrow is one of the best overall blood tonics.
Herbalist Matthew Wood includes Yarrow in his top ten herbs to have on hand and says, "Yarrow is one of the primal remedies of the Western herbal tradition. It can
Yarrow is amphoteric, complicated, and has so many uses. It is warming AND cooling and is both astringent AND stimulates blood flow. When I see plants that contain contradictory actions it makes me think of a multi-faceted being that can help us when we are feeling polarized or stuck on one side of the pond.
To me, yarrow helps us to keep things moving in just the right way. Not too much, and not too little. I’ve used this plant with a number of clients recently. One client has been feeling ‘unsafe’ in her home and was suffering from feelings of irritation alternating with stagnation. After taking Yarrow for a few weeks she noticed a significant shift in her feelings of security and her emotional stability. Another client was having circulation issues and had fears about leaving her ‘secure’ job to pursue a more soulful path. Within a few weeks her circulation and digestion improved and she was offered a new job that would allow her to do more of the work she loves.
Yarrow grows just about everywhere and it is an easy plant to identify by its leaf shape and camphorous scent. I will be leading an herb walk on the Summer Solstice, on June 21st from 11 - 5 in Silver Spring, MD if you'd like to join me and the Herbal Apprentices for a day with the plants. I know a nice patch I would be happy to share with you!