Yarrow: the mythical, legendary and useful herb

Yarrow_(Achillea_millefolium)

yarrow blossoms

No other herb on earth possesses the rich history and medicinal track record of the lovely yarrow. This beautiful and medicinal plant is as unique as it is useful!

History

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a well-known wildflower that happens to be a member of the large sunflower family, Asteraceae. It is closely related to wild and cultivated chamomiles as well.  History buffs might note that the Latin name of yarrow – Achillea – looks very familiar. In fact, it was named after the mythical hero Achilles of Greek mythology.  Greek texts relay tales of Achilles using yarrow to stop the bleeding in the wounds of his soldiers. He was noted as always carrying the herb onto the battlefield.

achilles

Achilles in battle

But yarrow is not just a flower of legend. In fact, it’s one of the most widely used medicinal plants on the planet, with its use stretching back for millennia. Ayurvedic, Chinese  and Native American medicine all utilized this herb. Interestingly, a Neanderthal skull found in Spain ( from about 50,000 years ago) had traces of yarrow remnants in his or her teeth. Scientists feel that since the plant tastes bitter, it might have been used as a medicine and not as food.

Medicinal Properties 

So what makes yarrow so special that it permeates all throughout history? Lots, apparently!  As we have seen, yarrow is very popular in traditional folk medicine. It is used to treat a variety of ailments  including digestive issues, skin wounds and anxiety/insomnia. Its ability to stop bleeding and facilitate wound healing is well documented.

yarrowModern science has found yarrow to be useful for loss of appetite and gastrointestinal distress. Many studies have demonstrated the ability of yarrow to aid in wound healing and blood clotting. Current research has demonstrated that the essential oils in yarrow work as antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and diuretic agents while the tannins in the plant act as astringents. The alkaloids found in the leaves are both hypotensive and hypoglycemic. Yarrow even contains small amounts of coumarin, which works as an anti-thrombotic to reduce high blood pressure.

Below is a molecule that is responsible for the blood-clotting effect of yarrow:

achilleine bleeding.png

This amazing herb has a fascinating history and potent medicinal potential. It will be exciting to see how this flower will be used in the future by the scientific community. But for now, yarrow is still a powerful herb for anyone looking for useful, plant-based remedies to treat wounds. Have you every used yarrow before? We would love to hear your experience with this delightful herb!

 

Find all of Wild Earth’s herbal products by visiting the Etsy shop: Wild Earth Apothecary

Article written by Lauren Beihoffer, a biochemist and lover of natural, holistic skin care

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