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Yarrow - Achillea millefolium

The erect stem of the perennial yarrow, which grows up to a metre tall, is covered in soft hairs, and bears numerous white or pink flowers arranged in a flat-topped corymbs - the flower stalks do not all join at one point. Flowers throughout summer and autumn. The leaves are fern like, finely dissected, about 5 -15cm in length, and lacy in appearance. Can be found growing in grass and waste land.

Used in divination, prediction and folk rituals for thousands of years, yarrow stalks are still used today in the i-ching. In East Anglia, as late as the 1900s, Yarrow was credited with the power to avert sickness and protect from spells, and was scattered over doorsteps on Midsummer’s Eve.

Traditionally used as a styptic, a folk remedy for nose bleeds suggests inserting a couple of the feathery fresh leaves into the nostril to provide ‘ideal encouragement for clotting’ - a slightly more comfortable solution might be to soak some cotton wool in a yarrow infusion and then use this to plug the nostrils. (A folk name of Yarrow is in fact ‘nose bleed’).

Also known as “soldier’s woundwort,” its use in the treatment of wounds is said to go back to Achilles, who was reported to use it as a salve for soldiers injuries in the Trojan war. The American Indians have since used it similarly.

Antiseptic to the urinary tract, Yarrow also increases urination, and helps clear wind and indigestion, as well as relaxing peripheral blood vessels, and can help to reduce high blood pressure. It is also cooling in fevers.

The anti-allergenic compounds in Yarrow are activated by hot water and steam - Yarrow tea can be helpful for coughs, flu, hay fever, and catarrh, and a steam inhalation of the flowers will help relieve sinusitis pain. The tea is also useful in soothing menstrual cramps, and will check excessive bleeding.

Yarrow contains chamazulenes, which are soothing and anti-inflammatory, and the oil can be used in a chest rub for colds or catarrh. The oil can be used in a range of skin care treatments : acne, rashes, eczema, wounds, cuts, scars, burns... to name a few, and helps tone the skin. It can also be used as a hair rinse to promote hair growth.

! Avoid in high doses in pregnancy - Yarrow is a uterine stimulant. The fresh herb can cause dermatitis - and in rare cases, prolonged use may increase skin photosensitivity !


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