Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Herbal Allies #1 Yarrow

As an outflow from my Herbal Allies classes I decided I would post a weekly ally here for everyone. In the second class we were learning about various herbs that were first aid kits in themselves like plantain, ginger, turmeric and yarrow. Since these are such useful and easily available herbs I thought I would begin with them. So here is the first of many friends you will meet here:

Yarrow - Achillea millefolium
also known as woundwort

Part used: flowers, leaf and roots. The dried stalks are used in I Ching divination

Preparations: tea, tincture, externally as wash, poultice, suppository, powder

The story goes that Achilles, taught by Chiron, found this herb so useful that he had all of his soldiers carry it with them into battle hence the first part of it's name. It is true that yarrow has been used on battlefields to heal soldiers’ wounds as far back as we have stories of war. The millefolium part of the name refers to the flower which is a flat head cluster of many little white flowers. Other color flower varieties have been cultivated but it is generally accepted that the best medicinal qualities come from the white flowers.

Yarrow is considered to be warming and dry in Eastern traditions. It is primarily known for it's ability to stop bleeding and to bring on sweating which can be useful for cleansing the bod or for reducing a hot, dry, fever. It is also anti- bacterial, anti-inflammatory and repels insects.

Yarrow can be useful for digestion. It is an aromatic bitter which makes it ideal for mild stomach indigestion. It relieves that bloated feeling, flatulence, and nausea, which are symptoms of excessive eating of heavy foods. Take one dropper of tincture or cup of tea as needed to alleviate the discomfort.

Yarrow is a diaphoretic which means it makes you sweat. This can be useful for cleaning your skin, and unclogging your pores. This can also be useful in beginning stages of colds and flus. For colds and flus begin drinking hot yarrow tea 3-4 cups per day as soon as you think you feel something coming on. This can often stop the symptoms from progressing any further.

For your skin, yarrow is used for its astringent, healing and soothing effects. The astringency strengthens skin tone. It can be used for oily skin, acne, large pores, wrinkles and eczema. To make a Facial Toner, add .5 oz of yarrow tincture to 2 oz of hydrosol, distilled water for normal skin or witchazel for oily skin. If you don't have any of these simply splash your face with cooled yarrow tea.

Yarrow is a good thing to have around in your yard and in your first aid kit. It can be picked fresh and placed directly on a bleeding wound even a deep one in an emergency situation. It will help to stop the bleeding and has antibacterial properties to help stop infection from occurring. It can also be used in the powdered form sprinkled on wounds. It will not only stop the bleeding but also dull pain, and prevent infection. Or, you can spray yarrow tincture on the skin several times per day where ever there is a bacterial infection. This can sting due to the alcohol in the tincture so you may want to heat it first to evaporate the alcohol or dilute it with a bit of distilled water before using it this way.

The tincture or tea can be used for bladder infections and to regulate menstrual cycles. It can be useful for women in menopause to ease symptoms and bring create a feeling of well-being.

Yarrow extract (tincture) has been said to repel mosquitoes. As an insect repellent you can spray the tincture directly on your skin or mix it with some distilled water, witchazel and/ or a few drops of essential oils - lavender, catnip, holy basil, lemongrass, or geranium are all good choices.

So, as you can see Achillea millefolium or Yarrow is truly an herb to make friends with. Luckily it grows almost everywhere very easily on it's own and is easy to cultivate as a member of your backyard medicine cabinet.

The information here comes from:
Susan Weed - http://www.susunweed.com
Ryan Drum - http://www.ryandrum.com
Howie Brounstein - http://www.botanicalstudies.net
Colette Gardiner - Blue Iris School of Herbal Studies
and wikipedia

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