5 Handy Benefits Of Yarrow And How To Use It At Home

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Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is one of those plants you often see growing wild, and it's one of the medicinal wild herbs we harvest here at Wild Dispensary. Its beautiful white flowers spread through fields and paddocks easily, making it a wonderful plant to learn about and use. The health benefits of yarrow include everything from helping with perimenopause and PMS to its lesser-known benefits in helping digestion or a runny nose.

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Where can you find yarrow?

Yarrow is found in many temperate climates across the globe. It is often seen on the side of the road as a weed as it grows prolifically once established.  It’s also found in fields or wide open spaces and does not seem to mind hot, cold or dry climates but does not like wet soil. Given its ability to grow so well, there are no known sustainability issues, and you can find it all throughout New Zealand.

How to identify yarrow

Yarrow has beautiful feathery fern-like leaves that branch off the steam; they also have long soft hairs that are more noticeable in younger yarrow plants. Yarrow spreads easily via its root system (similar to mint) and can grow to at least three feet tall. Always be completely certain of what you’re foraging, as hemlock is a highly poisonous plant that also has clusters of small white flowers.

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Yarrow flowers from summer to autumn in New Zealand in a variety of colours ranging from pink to yellow and its more common form, white. Interestingly, the more coloured varieties are used for ornamental purposes, whereas the white flowers are mostly used in herbalism.


How to harvest yarrow

Yarrow is packed with active constituents, volatile oils, vitamins and minerals, and it is usually harvested when it is flowering. The flower is often the most harvested part of the plant; however, the stem, leaves and roots can also be used. If you’re harvesting the leaves - pick the young yarrow leaves in spring before the plant flowers. If you want to harvest the flowers, do so in the morning after the dew has dried, but before the heat of the day has evaporated any of the lighter volatile oils.

Historical use of yarrow

Yarrow has been used for thousands of years, with documented use from Ancient Greek and Egyptian times. The earliest mention of the traditional use of yarrow can be traced back to the works of Dioscorides (40-90 CE), who was a Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist.

The genus name of yarrow, Achillea, actually comes from Achilles. Achilles was the Greek hero who was dipped into a bath of yarrow tea (other versions of this myth say the River Styx) at birth by his mother - covering all but his heel where she held him. The heel became a place of vulnerability - as anyone who has been hit by a shopping trolley in that place can attest to! Yarrow was also thought to be the herb that Achilles used to treat the bleeding wounds of his soldiers.

Medicinal uses of yarrow

Yarrow is well known for its ability to reduce bleeding in wounds and its ability to work with menstrual cycles, reducing heavy bleeding, helping with cramping and also supporting regular periods. However, yarrow benefits many other areas within the body. 

The active constituents within the plant have the following actions:
  • Antiseptic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Hypotensive (lowers blood pressure)
  • Antispasmodic (reduce muscle spasms i.e. cramps)
  • Diuretic (helps with fluid retention)
  • Astringent (reduces bleeding)
  • Analgesic (helps with pain)
  • Diaphoretic (helps with fever)


5 health benefits of yarrow

1. Yarrow is anti-inflammatory

While inflammation can be caused by a variety of issues such as diet, lifestyle and diagnosed health issues, it can also be caused by hormonal imbalances such as perimenopause.

The years of fluctuating hormone levels can definitely see an increase in inflammation within the body. Yarrow has anti-inflammatory actions that can help support these levels. This is one of the reasons why we use yarrow in our Hormone Balance.

Yarrow can also support skin health as well, in particular inflamed and itchy skin. It is often found in dermatological products to reduce inflammation and bleeding.


2. Yarrow can support you from ills and chills

Another great benefit of yarrow is that it can support you through the ‘ills and chills’. It can help as a mild circulatory tonic and also support fevers. Its drying ability helps support runny noses or excessive mucus that can affect the respiratory system and sinuses. 

For some people going through perimenopause, they can find that they are suddenly reacting to more things than before. Those reactions can look like runny noses or coughs that they had not previously experienced.

3. Yarrow can help your digestive system

Hormonal changes can also affect how you digest your food. Yarrow can support the digestive system by helping with gastritis, indigestion and diarrhoea. Yarrow is not only bitter (which activates our bitter taste receptors and the detoxification pathways) but also high in tannins which are astringent (or drying) and can help with diarrhoea and upset stomachs. It is also used to help reduce haemorrhoids and varicose veins.

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4. Yarrow can support your urinary health

The benefits of yarrow also extend to supporting those with UTIs (urinary tract infections) and cystitis. UTIs can occur more frequently through perimenopause due to the decline of estrogen. Estrogen helps the tissues within the vagina and the urethra to stay elastic.

The decline in estrogen can lead to thinning of this tissue, which causes dryness and irritation - which can lead to UTIs. Having a plant ally to reduce the reoccurrence of these painful bouts of cystitis is vital.

5. Yarrow can help with pain

Given its anti-inflammatory actions and active constituents, yarrow has the ability to reduce spasms and inflammation in people who have been injured or are struggling with joint pain.

One of the most documented symptoms of menopause can be joint pain or discomfort - so yarrow is helpful in this respect, too.

Yarrow has also been used to help people with arthritis, colds, headaches, and tooth pain, and has been used for hundreds of years to help with swelling and wounds.

5 ways to use yarrow at home

1. Yarrow infused oil

  1. Dry your fresh yarrow flower heads.
  2. In a clean jar, add 2/3 of a cup of dried yarrow flowers.
  3. Top with olive oil or oil of choice and cover.
  4. Label with date and ingredients and keep in a cool place.
  5. Shake the jar daily for four weeks.
  6. After four weeks, strain the oil and place it in a new clean, labelled jar.

2. Yarrow balm 

You can use your yarrow-infused oil to make a balm by adding beeswax and cocoa butter. This balm can be helpful for skin irritation, cuts, grazes, bug bites, burns, and rashes.

3. Yarrow tea

Dry your fresh yarrow flower heads thoroughly. Store them in a clean labelled jar.
You can use this yarrow tea to help with fevers, runny noses, ills and chills and to help with period cramps and digestive upsets. 

4. Yarrow poultice

You can also mulch up yarrow to help with bleeding. This is very helpful as a first aid response if you are injured out in nature and do not have bandages. The yarrow can help stem the blood flow until you get further help.

5. Yarrow toner

You can make a yarrow tea and leave it to cool. Make it in a teapot to keep it covered. Once cooled, add it to a clean labelled spray bottle and use it as a facial toner. Its astringent properties help to support clear skin and tighten pores. You could also infuse the dried yarrow in witch hazel to have a very powerful skin toner.

1 comment

  • Posted on by Sally
    This is fabulous information. My daughter recently identified Yarrow for me. So this feels like devine timing. Thank you so much.

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