Contributed by Dori Cranmore R.N

Yarrow or achillea millefolium can grow to about three feet tall and is found worldwide, yet it is native to California and found in abundance in Alaska. The flowers are quite colorful in whites, yellows and pinks.  

The latin name, achillea, comes from the Greek legend of Achelles, as he used it as a poultice to stop the bleeding of his fellow soldiers during the Trojan War. Chinese physicians used yarrow to treat snake bites, bleeding and inflammation. In India, it was used to treat fevers. Early American settlers used yarrow for diarrhea, dysentery, hemorrhaging, bloody urine and menstrual cramps.

There are many medicinal uses documented over the centuries. It has been studied and used as a diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and useful in slowing heavy menstrual flow.  Dr Christopher once wrote, “Yarrow when administered hot and copiously, will raise the heat of the body, equalize the circulation and produce perspiration.” Thus is known as one of the best herbal teas to sweat out a fever. It can tone and dilate the blood vessels, which can help lower blood pressure. 

Yarrow has been called the “woman’s herb” because of the many female uses. It can help relax the smooth muscles of the uterus and digestive tract. It is great for stomach and menstrual cramps, but it is not recommended during pregnancy. Used as a poultice, it has been found to give almost instant relief from mastitis and sore, cracked nipples. (See Sitz bath use below.)    

The bitter, pungent character is particular useful to stimulate the digestion and get the bile and pancreatic juices moving. It’s known to be used for anxiety, insomnia and a mild sedative due to its thujone properties that have been compared to marijuana and valium, but without the euphoria. The anti-inflammatory effects relax blood vessels and improve breathing. Externally it can aid in blood coagulation, stop bleeding and can heal wounds. (People on blood thinners should avoid yarrow.)

Many different preparations are useful:

•    Infused Oil: For healing ointments or soothing creams.
•    Flower Extract: Can help with hay fever.
•    Poultice or Compress: Placed over wounds, helps stop bleeding or used for first aid.
•    Ticture: For congestion in the reproductive system, asthma and high blood pressure.
•    Tea: For colds, flus and cyctitis. Use as a wash for rashes.
•    Sitz Baths: For cystitis, vaginal infections, hemorrhoids, post-partum healing.
•    Fresh Leaves: Used in salads or chewed to relieve a toothache. 
•    Fresh Flowers: Used to flavor liquors and beer.

This information is intended for educational purposes only. It does not replaced the advice of your healthcare provider. Dori is the owner of All About Herbs Inc. in Wasilla, AK. 907-376-8327