Plant Profile - Yarrow

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

A post by Sarah Mann, Naturopath.

Yarrow is abundant in the Lyttleton Garden. It features at the centre of our woven garden bed, and is a friend to every hand that passes its soft feathery reaches. It is these aerial parts of Yarrow that are used medicinally. You’ll notice that while Yarrow has light and gentle foliage, the leaves hold their form quite steadily and are upright in their gentleness. This is mirrored in its medicinal action. Yarrow is astringent, tonic, styptic, diaphoretic and antihaemorrhagic… what does that even mean!? Imagine blood vessels that are constricted, tight, clasped and congested… like a feather duster Yarrow dilates constricted blood vessels, opening them to blood flow while also toning the vessels. It is stimulating and warming which makes it an addition to many herbal mixes for women with slow congested periods or period pain. Yarrow’s tonifying action is also used to stem bleeding, great for a grazed knee or wounds that just won’t heal. Simply crush up some yarrow leaves in your hand and gently rub the juice over the graze, or make a compress or poultice from the fresh leaves and dress the wound.

Yarrow, elder and peppermint tea, or YEP tea for short, has been used for a long time as a wonderful remedy for children’s fevers and colds. Yarrow is dry and warm in quality, drying up runny noses, warming the body and promoting sweating when fever hits. Its slightly bitter, stimulating warmth makes it also wonderful for an under the weather tummy, improving the appetite and easing tummy aches. Yarrow can be made into a tea, into a compress or poultice, crushed and the juice used topically, or dispensed by your herbalist as a tincture. A teapot of Yarrow tea can be added to a bath to relieve pain and inflammation, wonderful for period pain or sore muscles of the flu.

It is beautiful to walk through the Lyttleton Gardens and see all the help that is on hand to us if we are ever ill. Yarrow is one of many beautiful herbs easily incorporated into your natural first aid kit, and a wonderful herb a Naturopath or Herbalist may prescribe you. 

Garden coordinator Manu says yarrow also plays a very important role in a healthy, productive garden. Its roots accumulate many nutrients in the soil and makes them available to other plants. Its flowers and leaves are used in biodynamic mixtures and compost as they are extremely rich in minerals. The umbelliferous flowers are also a magnet for beneficial insects and bees.