Friday, July 20, 2012

Yarrow 

(ACHILLEA MILLEFOLIUM)

Yarrow, a natural ally.
Two separate incidents in the past week prompted me to get out the yarrow.  My five year old received a small cut on the bottom of her foot while on holidays.  The cut appeared to be healing when, ten days later, it flared up into a staph infection and began travelling across the top of her foot and starting up the leg.


Intravenous antibiotics were required to get the infection under control.  As the antibiotics were doing their work, I headed into the herb closet and pulled out some yarrow for a foot soak, to relieve the swelling, cleanse the affected area and provide support while her body got back on track. 


Two days later, my husband returned home from work, having swerved to miss a dog and owner on the bike path, he'd laid down his bike and sustained a rather nasty case of road rash on his elbow and forearm.  As I was preparing another yarrow foot soak for the five year old, I simply added a poultice for him, applying it to his arm until the poultice felt warm.  


To me, it's a two-way street; the herbs impart their healing qualities to the wound and also draw out any toxins, heat, inflammation or infection.  


My daughter's foot then received a little calendula-infused bees' balm, a favourite of mine for the children, to encourage healing of the skin and my husband's arm later received an application of aloe vera gel with lavender and ravintsara, to further cool, soothe and protect the skin.


Yarrow is quite common, growing in meadows, along roadsides, in the mountains and pastures.  The plant flowers between June and September.


Also referred to as bloodwort or staunchweed, that is precisely for what this plant is known best; staunching bleeding.  According to Gerard, this is the same plant Achilles used to staunch the wounds of soldiers.  Hence the name Achillea.


I have heard of cases of campers sustaining serious injuries in the woods and packing the injury with yarrow to stop bleeding until medical attention could be received.


Some have used the tender spring leaves of yarrow in salads or soup seasonings, predominantly in the 17th century.  My favourite tradition with yarrow is, when on holidays at the top of the mountain, I pick one small bunch on my first hike, soak it overnight then drink the next morning.  It's my welcome-to-the-mountain tonic.  For me it removes any residue of a busy life, mind and body, connects me to my surroundings and restores balance naturally.


I typically add essential oil of yarrow to preparations for clients who are dealing with issues stemming from environmental toxins.  Sore hands or joints from working or living on land that has been polluted or contaminated.  To the oil or balm blend I simply add the yarrow essential oil.  


I have infused it in a carrier oil, however, I prefer to make it up fresh and specific to the need, working either with the dried material as a wash or a poultice, or the fresh plant for similar uses.


Tincture or tea of yarrow has been taken by women experiencing extreme menstrual cramping and excess bleeding.


The leaves have been used in nose bleeds, both stopping them as well as using them to relieve headache.  
Yarrow stalks have been used with the I Ching and there is a great history of yarrow use in divination and healing ceremonies over the centuries.  Thought to bring courage and protection as well as release evil spirits or negative energy from the body, yarrow is considered a great ally in war; personal, physical, mental or spiritual.


Yarrow is used in seventh chakra work, cleansing the aura and offering protection from external or internal negative influences.


Yarrow is said to be cooling, therefore it lowers excess pitta yet can aggravate vata if too much is used.


As always with plants, make sure you can identify the plant correctly before use.  Many plants look similar but have very different properties.


Obviously caution must be used in people with blood-clotting issues as well as those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.  It is always best to work with herbs under the guidance of a professional.


Read up on yarrow.  Chances are this powerful and lovely little healer grows right under your nose.




The information in this blog is provided simply for information purposes and is not intended to treat or diagnose any conditions.

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