Yarrow is a native European plant, with a long history as a wound healer. In classical times, it was known as herba militaris, being used to staunch war wounds. It has long been taken as a strengthening bitter tonic, and all kinds of bitter drinks have been made from it. Yarrow helps recovery from colds and flu and is beneficial for hay fever. It is also helpful for menstrual problems and circulatory disorders.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to Europe and western Asia, yarrow can be found growing wild in temperate regions throughout the world, in meadows and along roadsides. The herb spreads via its roots, and the aerial parts are picked in summer when in flower.
- Volatile oil with variable content (linalool, camphor, sabinene, azulene)
- Sesquiterpene lactones
- Alkaloids (achilleine)
- Bitter tonic
- Increases sweating
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces fever
- Mild diuretic and urinary antiseptic
- Stops internal bleeding
- Promotes menstruation
Despite its many uses and similarity to German chamomile (Chamomilla recutita), yarrow has been poorly researched. The herb and its volatile oil have been shown to be anti-inflammatory; the azulenes are also antiallergenic. The sesquiterpene lactones are bitter and have antitumor activity. Achilleine and the flavonoids help arrest internal and external bleeding; the flavonoids may be responsible for yarrow’s antispasmodic action. Laboratory studies indicate that yarrow dilates blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. It works, in part, like conventional medicines known as ACE inhibitors, which are commonly prescribed for high blood pressure.
Traditional & Current Uses
- Healing wounds: Achilles reputedly used yarrow to heal wounds, hence its botanical name. It has been used for this purpose for centuries, and in Scotland a traditional wound ointment was made from yarrow.
- Gynecological herb: Yarrow helps regulate the menstrual cycle, reduces heavy menstrual bleeding, and eases period pain.
- Other uses: Combined with other herbs, yarrow helps colds and flu. Its bitter tonic properties make it useful for weak digestion and colic. It also helps hay fever, lowers high blood pressure, improves venous circulation, and tones varicose veins.