Today we shine the spotlight on yarrow, an amazing healing herb that excels in many applications, especially wound healing. We use organic yarrow in our Mama Mend Postpartum Healing Herbs, since yarrow is such an amazing healing agent we can use to soothe and heal our tender bottoms after birth, especially if we have torn or had an episiotomy.
Other names: bloodwort, carpenter’s weed, milfoil, soldiers’ woundwort, nosebleed plant Yarrow belongs to the sunflower or aster family (asteraceae) and is closely related to chrysanthemums and chamomile.
Common yarrow is a perennial herb found in Asia, Europe and North America. It has thin vein like leaves and an umbrella-shaped cluster of small flowers, typically white, pink, or golden.
This plant is highly aromatic.
History of Yarrow Use for Healing
The Latin name for yarrow, Achilles, points to the famous ancient Greek warrior Achilles, who allegedly used yarrow to treat arrow wounds and other battle injuries during the Trojan War. This was immortalized in Homer’s Iliad. For generations, other warriors and soldiers brought yarrow onto the battlefield to treat wounds. Yarrow has been used in traditional European herbalism for centuries. In country medicine, it was used for long lasting stomach and intestinal inflammation, including stomach failure. It has long been used for bruises, ulcers, wounds and hemorrhage. Saint Hildegard wrote that it “prolongs life and brings back the good mood.” It was thought that an infusion of yarrow, mixed with milk and honey, improves general strength. Baths containing yarrow herb was encouraged for rheumatism and physical exhaustion. Here in North America, the Pawnee used the stalk of yarrow in a treatment for pain relief. The Chippewa used the leaves in a steam inhalant for headaches. They also chewed the roots and applied the saliva to their appendages as a stimulant. The Cherokee drank a tea of common yarrow to reduce fever and aid in restful sleep.
An Herbalist’s Darling
Renowned herbalist Matthew Wood states that if he could only have one herb in his practice, it would be yarrow. He claims it is the single most important wound healing plant—that it can literally save life and limb. Wood tells the story of a student of his, who was out cutting firewood when he slipped. The chainsaw cut across his skin, all the way to the bone, three inches long and as wide as a chainsaw blade. Being a student of herbalism, this man went into the woods and found some yarrow. He chewed it up and placed it over the gash (this is a sort of a poultice). In ten minutes he replaces this first yarrow poultice with a fresh one. The bruising around the wound had disappeared and the lips of the wound were drawing together. Within 24 hours all that remained as a brown line across the skin. From this and other stories it is remarkable how quickly and efficiently yarrow can heal serious injuries quickly and efficiently. You can read more from herbalist Matthew Wood on Yarrow here.
Benefits of Yarrow
Exceptional Wound Healer
Yarrow shines as an appropriate herbal treatment for deep open wounds that bleed freely. It is less effective in cases of puncture or for wounds that bleed little. It seems that the more a wound bleeds, the more effective yarrow is in healing. Yarrow:
- stops bleeding quickly—there are three ways that yarrow reduces bleeding—by promoting coagulation of the blood, by astringing the wound (laying town proteins that pucker the tissue), and, as a stimulant, by increasing peripheral circulation to disperse the blood throughout the body so that less is available to surge out of the wound.
- Stimulates blood flow, which nourishes the tissues, removes waste products, and supports healing
- draws the lips of the wound together,
- prevents excess inflammation,
- diminishes bruising (especially those that are red and blue),
- prevents infection,
- promotes healing,
- and minimizes scarring.
Other kinds of physical trauma/injury
Yarrow can also work on internal bleeding and head or spinal injuries. It can also be helpful in surgery to reduce blood pooling that swells and kills nerves.
For Women’s Health
- In a compress for achy or tight varicose veins during pregnancy.
- To shrink hemorrhoids (as ointment or poultice alone or in combination with plantain)
- For a bladder infection (prepare alone as tea or in a 1:1 preparation with uva ursi)
- As poultice, relieves pain and heals cracked nipples quickly
- Yarrow, as an anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory agent, can also be used to ease painful period cramps, before or during the period. It may be taken at a low dose all month to prevent cramps or more aggressively when symptoms are present.
Yarrow Flower Essence: For environmental protection and sensitive souls
Much research has been done on the use of yarrow as a flower essence to help buffer sensitive people from disharmonious or overwhelming aspects of their environment. Energetically, yarrow flower reinforces the protective auric shield.
The flower essence preparation of a plant generally works on a similar theme as the herbal preparation. In some ways the flower essence operates on a level higher than the herb. Whereas the herb typically works on the denser physical matter, the flower essence will work on the more subtle energetic, emotional, and mental bodies. Yarrow flower essences work on a psychic level to heal the bleeding or merging of the aura with the surrounding emotional environment just as the herb helps to curb bleeding on the physical level. The yarrow flower essence helps to regulate the bleeding, or regulate the boundaries, between the individual and the environment, via the aura.
Minneapolis clinical psychologist Krya Meish, who has extensively studied the use of yarrow flower essence in helping sensitive people, writes “Just as the herbal yarrow cleanses and heals the skin after a wound, Yarrow essence heals and rebalances the empathetic person’s energetic boundaries and natural empathic protection.” There are three kinds of yarrow used in flower essence therapy:
White Yarrow: this is a multi-purpose remedy for us modern day folks who have been negatively affected by too much technology, materialism, overstimulation, and a lack of connection to nature.
Pink Yarrow: this variety is good for emotional sensitivity, those who deeply feel what others feel—especially for those that look to complete themselves in relationships, give too much to others, try to solve people’s problems, and may have experienced past abuse.
Golden Yarrow: especially for artists and creative types, this variety of yarrow flower essence protect those who feel vulnerable about their creative expression and for those who erect walls of protection (and may even withdrawal into substance abuse).
Yarrow for the Wounded Healer
Dr. Mesich feels that yarrow flower essence is ideal for the “wounded warrior” type, as well as the “wounded healer,” from the natural healers to the doctors, nurses, and other health professionals, as well as teachers, social workers, fire fighters, police officers, lawyers and therapists—really all those whose life work demands sensitive perception and social acuity. Yarrow is great for supporting healthy emotional boundaries between us and those we serve. We can have all the mental conceptions and expectations about our boundaries we like, but the yarrow flowers help on the energetic level to ground, support, protect, and vitalize us as we serve the world.
If you are looking to enjoy the benefits of yarrow as a skin and tissue healer, you can enjoy its benefits in our Mama Mend Postpartum Healing Herbs. If you are interested in Yarrow as a flower essence preparation, please contact us for a custom blend made just for you, to assist you with your specific healing goals.
Matthew Wood. “Herbal First Aide” http://www.woodherbs.com/FirstAidHerbs.pd Aviva Romm. Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. 2010 Jann Garitty. “Developing Positive Sensitivity: The Healing Message of Yarrow.” Calix: International Journal on Flower Essence Therapy, Vol 1. 2001 Susun Weed. Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year. 1986 Lakshmi et al. “Yarrow: An Herbal Medicinal Plant with Broad Therapeutic Use.” International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Review and Research. 2011.