Here I sit, sipping on a cup of yarrow tea sweetened with honey. Why have I plucked the flowers and leaves from the flower beds in my yard for this steamy drink? Because I have a red, inflamed throat, of course!
I have yarrow growing in my backyard. It can be identified by the dome-shaped clusters of white, daisy-like flowerettes. It is a member of the aster/composite family (Asteraceae). Each individual flower has a visible middle and individual petal groupings. They bloom from April through October. While the most common color is white, ornamental varieties can be orange, red, pink, and yellow. It can grow to about three feet high. The leaves are the real dead giveaway of the identity of yarrow. They are feather-like in appearance. The roots are more like runners, as opposed to tubers.
Yarrow grows in the northern hemisphere in America, as well as Europe and Asia. It is a common resident of sunny open areas and edges of woodlands. Of course, it’s many varieties are sold as ornamental perennials at nurseries and big box garden centers.
The Greek warriors Achilles was said to have been dipped in yarrow steeped in water by his mother for protection. It was carried by the soldiers in Achilles’ army. Historical texts state it was stuffed into wounds. It was said to be used to staunch the bleeding and promote clotting. It has been known under many names, including “nosebleed.” Midwives have historically used yarrow to jump start a period and, conversely, ease heavy bleeding. It is thought to both break up coagulation and activate platelets. Many herbalists refer to it as a regulator of the blood.
Many herbal texts list teas made from the flowers, leaves and Arial parts (that means everything above the ground) for encouraging sweating and purifying the body. This would be why I’m sipping on it for my sore, inflamed throat. A popular blend for respiratory complaints is yarrow with mint and/or elderberry. Janice Schofield has suggested lying the plant on the hot rocks in a sauna while sipping a tea made from the plant. This sweating occurs because yarrow encourages the blood to circulate closer to the surface of the skin.
Bitter herbs encourage the secretion of digestive liquids. Yarrow is one such bitter herb. It provides the bitter flavor to vermouth and is sometimes used as a hops substitute in the brewing of beer. The digestive tract may also benefit from its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to increase circulation. The assorted flavonoid and alkaloid compounds are known to alleviate many digestive complaints. Animal studies allude to its benefit in fighting spasms, inflammation and other IBS like symptoms, as well as it having some promise in protecting against stomach acid and exhibited anti-ulcer qualities.
It is said to protect the skin when in excessive sun and/or wind. One suggested way to take advantage of this is by “tenting” a towel over one’s head over a steam bath of yarrow in boiling hot water.
Many herbs are thought to support the emotions. Yarrow is no different. There is some preliminary research to suggest yarrow may be helpful for eliminating anxiety and depression. While much more research is needed to confirm this, some writings suggest it to be helpful for eliminating what I refer to as the “F-You” attitude. It is said to be of use to lighten the mood in its form as a tea, a flower essence, and an essential oil.
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Properties of Yarrow: Alterative, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiphlogistic, antiseptic, antiviral, aromatic, astringent, bitter, coagulent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenegogue, febrifuge, hypotensive, lymphatic, nervine, parasympatholytic, stimulant, stomachic, styptic, tonic, uterine and vulnerary
**Yarrow is not for everyone. Those who have ragweed allergies or allergies to other daisy-like plants may want to steer clear of yarrow. Also, it is not suggested to utilize this plant internally if you are using medications that thin the blood.
Some of my favorite Yarrow products