Whenever I teach about the healing power of medicinal plants I like to share a bit of their history. Learning about the history of an herb, how it traveled to different parts of the world, how it was used by different groups of people, and the various ways its usage may have changed over the centuries can teach us a lot about a particular plant. When herbalism fell out of common use in this country in favor of the “better living through chemistry” philosophy, much valuable information was lost. As we learn the old ways of herbalism once again, we regain tremendous insight into the herb’s character and important uses.
One such herb is Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) which I refer to as the “warrior’s herb”. The genus name gives us a little insight into this characteristic, as is often the case with many plants. “Achillea” refers to the Greek Warrior Achilles, the greatest warrior and central character in Homer’s Illiad. Yarrow has a long history of use on the battlefield and Achilles is said to have taken this potent herb into battle with him where it was used to pack wounds and staunch bleeding, both internally and externally. Today Yarrow’s reputation continues as an “herbal bandaid” and his styptic properties are well founded. Although we no longer take the plant into combat, Yarrow excels in the modern “battlefield” of our workplaces. Energetically Yarrow can help to provide energetic protection in contentious situations and working with the flower essence can assist in helping us or other parties move into a better place , either physically or emotionally.
Yarrow, however, is full of mystery and seeming contradictions as he is not merely an herb of battlefields. Ruled by the planet Venus, Yarrow is strengthening to the organs of Venus, the venous system for one, and can be used to treat varicose veins and enlarged veins such as hemorrhoids. By helping to return venous blood to the heart, he takes the strain off the heart and circulatory system. Those herbs ruled by Venus are often used for women’s ailments and Yarrow shines in this application as well, healing menstrual cramps and balancing both scant and excessive menses. Compresses of Yarrow flowers and leaves can be applied to the abdomen of menopausal women to reduce the discomfort and cramping often associated with this crone time. Such is the power that is Yarrow that he is often employed during cold and flu season. His diaphoretic and astringent properties are helpful with sore throats and fevers.
Yarrow is a hardy perennial that is easy to grow and overwinters successfully even in the coldest of winters. A wonderful and crucial addition to any medicinal herb garden.