Yarrow – Achillia Millefolium
Yarrow is one the world’s oldest medicinal plants.
Wort is an old English word meaning “plant” or “herb”.
The name “Achillia Millefolium” is quite special. “Achillia” comes from the Greek hero Achilles (see Yarrow in mythology further down on this page) and “millefolium” means thousand leafed.
Yarrow is a hardy perennial plant. It is about 5 – 30 cm (2 – 12 in) tall. Yarrow is native to northern temperature regions. It can be found in fields, meadows and also by the roadside.
The leaves of the yarrow are what make the plant easier to identify. Take a close look at the leaves; they are different from other plants with similar flowers.
The leaves have a feathery appearance and are about 5 – 15 cm (2- 8 in) long. Earlier many just called the yarrow plant “thousand leaf”.
Parts used: Leaves and flowers.
Yarrow leaves have been used since ancient times on wounds as cuts, burns and inflammation. Yarrow is known to stop any bleeding from a wound quickly. Take a few yarrow leaves and chew them slightly without swallowing the juice. Put the leaves on the bleeding wound. This should help stop the bleeding.
You can also wash the wound with yarrow tea to thoroughly clean the wound before adding a bandage or soak the bandage in yarrow tea before applying it on the wound.
Yarrow tea is famous for its qualities as a fever reducer. Drinking yarrow tea to fight fever is said to be quite effective.
Some who do not like the taste of yarrow tea report that soaking cloth in yarrow tea and wrapping it around the wrist and other body parts also does help to reduce fever.
Yarrow leaves can be used as an insect repellent. Rub some yarrow leaves on your skin when you are out hiking.
Yarrow is also used by some to reduce high blood pressure. Yarrow helps the circulation of the blood and is useful to fight bacteria.
Yarrow is a well-known remedy to treat heavy and painful menstrual bleeding. This is why yarrow is known as the herb especially valuable to women.
Warning: Do not use yarrow if you are pregnant or breastfeeding your infant.
History, Folklore and Superstition
Yarrow was believed to protect against evil spirits. In Egtved, Denmark they found a grave dating back to the Bronze Age. In the grave they found the remains of a woman about 20 years old. Buried along with the woman they discovered some jewelry and a yarrow plant. Yarrow followed the woman to protect her from evil spirits on her journey to the next world.
Alexander the Great used several herbs to treat his army. Yarrow was always a part of his “medicine chest”.
Many superstitions about yarrow contradict each other. In many parts of Europe yarrow was believed to protect against all evil.
In Wales the opposite was claimed. There it was told that bringing yarrow into the home was extremely unlucky. In some areas of Wales it was even called “the death flower”.
In Ireland yarrow was considered auspicious. Many used to hang yarrow around their house on midsummer night’s eve to protect the household from disease the coming year.
In Scotland yarrow was also a lucky plant. In old superstition they too claimed yarrow protected against malicious forces and used it as an amulet.
Yarrow was often used in beer brewing. This was most popular during the Middle Ages.
During the 17th century yarrow leaves were used in cooking, much the same way we normally use spinach today.
In China yarrow is considered tremendously auspicious. In the past 52 straight, dried yarrow stems were used when consulting the I Ching, Book of Changes. Today mostly coins are used for this purpose.
Yarrow in Mythology
The official name of yarrow is “Achillea millefolium”. This herb is named after the great Greek hero named Achilles who fought in the battle of Troy.
He was the son of the goddess Thetis and the mortal Peleus. Achilles was born a mortal. In an attempt to make her son immortal, Thetis dipped him into the River Styx. The only body part that remained mortal and vulnerable was his heel. His mother had held Achilles by one heel.
Achilles grew up to be a famous hero. In the Battle of Troy Achilles used the herb Yarrow to heal his wounded soldiers. He had learned the healing benefits of the herb from a wise centaur (half man and half horse) named Chiron.
Achilles eventually was struck by an arrow on the only vulnerable spot on his body; his heel. He died.