By Steph Zabel
Herbalist, Ethnobotanist & Educator
Yarrow is an amazing plant that can yield incredible results when used in the right situation. If you don’t know this herb already, it’s time to become better acquainted with it, for this is a plant that has a direct, immediate and sometimes miraculous action in first aid situations.
Also known as Soldier’s Woundwort, Achillea millefolium has been used for thousands of years. It is an herb of the battlefield, an important herb for the soldier and the warrior, the healer and the medic. With its bright white, flattened cluster of flowers it easily catches the eye where it grows in meadows and areas of human disturbance.
Yarrow, despite being a humble, overlooked plant, has the most incredible ability: it quickly and effectively stops bleeding. In my opinion, it is one of the most important plants for self-sufficient folks to be familiar with, and, if possible, to grow near the home. If you are ever in a situation where you’ve been wounded, cut, or bruised get your hands on some yarrow as quickly as you can. Let me share a few of my own experiences with this amazing plant to highlight its effectiveness…
One of the first times I got to see yarrow in action was many years ago when I was alone in the woods cutting some birch twigs with a knife. I was harvesting some small twigs off of a main branch when all of a sudden I used too much force and ended up slashing my left palm with the knife. I started to bleed profusely. Very fortunately for me, I had noticed where there was a patch of yarrow before I entered the woods so I ran back to it, picked a few leaves, chewed them in my mouth and placed this “spit poultice” on the wound. It stopped the flow of blood immediately. I was amazed and grateful, especially since I was in a remote area without further assistance.
Another time, a friend of mine accidentally bit her tongue while eating, which besides being bloody, was also painful. Since it was winter I only had dried yarrow on hand so I quickly made a strong tea, strained out the herb and gave her the remaining liquid to hold in her mouth. It helped her right away — the bleeding stopped and the pain subsided.
One more story: a couple of years ago my husband was collapsing a big folding table in half when he got one of his fingers caught in the metal hinges in the middle. It was a deep, nasty gash that was quite painful. I gave him a few fresh yarrow leaves to chew and place on the wound. He was amazed to find that it helped dull the pain right away. For the rest of that day — and the following — he continued to put fresh leaf poultices on the area. What was a deep cut was quickly healed in record time. He couldn’t believe it. We have grown plenty of yarrow near our house ever since.
I share these anecdotes to emphasize what an amazing healer this plant is. Its actions are considerable: as a hemostatic it stops the flow of blood, as an analgesic it lessens pain, and as an antiseptic it prevents infections. There is a reason why soldiers and healers have relied on the power of yarrow for centuries.
It deserves a place in any first-aid kit, so please keep some on hand for times you might need it! Below are a few different ways to use this amazing healer externally.
HOW TO USE YARROW TOPICALLY:
➤ Use the fresh leaf as a poultice on wounds. Take some clean, fresh leaves and chew them up in order to release the juices of the plant. Use this “spit poultice” on your cut, scrape or wound. If you’d rather not chew-up the leaves, place them in a mortar and pestle or in a food processor and grind up.
➤ If you don’t have fresh leaves, you can use the dried and finely powdered leaf sprinkled directly onto wounds.
➤ Or, take the dried leaf and steep 1 tablespoon in 4 - 8 oz of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain. Dip a clean cloth into the remaining liquid and place on the affected area.
Yarrow is in the Aster family of plants, which some people are allergic to.
Not to be used internally during pregnancy.
Do not overuse internally as it may aggravate the liver.
Steph Zabel, MSc, is an herbalist and educator who helps urban dwellers connect with the plant world. She teaches seasonal herbal classes and is the founder of HERBSTALK, Boston’s community herbal conference. Learn more about her work at: www.flowerfolkherbs.com and www.herbstalk.org.
This blog series — Herbs and Botanicals— is for general health information only. This Web site is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. Users of this Web site should not rely on information provided on this Web site for their own health problems. Any questions regarding your own health should be addressed to your own physician or other healthcare provider.