This is the season for Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) in Minnesota and probably many parts of the country. It's blooming on the prairies, in the ditches, in vacant unmown lots and everywhere. The wild yarrow has white, sometimes even pinkish, flowers. You can grow yarrow in your garden, and the colors range from yellow to orange to red to pink and white. It's a beautiful wild prairie plant, with lacy green leaves all up and down the rather woody stems.
Here's a photo of cultivated yarrow that I planted in my boulevard:
And here's a closer-up photo where you can really see the lacy leaves (well, sort of, if I had a better camera):
The leaves point to one of Yarrow's signature uses in that they look a bit like saw blades. Yarrow has various nicknames including "carpenter's weed" and "knight's milfoil" and is useful for the type of wound one might get from a saw or sword, a deep cut "down to the bone" with gushing blood. Yarrow can stop the bleeding and heal the wound quickly. You can use the fresh plant for this--if you happen to be injured in a place where yarrow is growing, you can stuff the cut with yarrow leaves. More conveniently at home, you can also use the oil or salve of yarrow and a compress pad of gauze or fabric.
My Yarrow Oil steeping for six weeks in the sunny window of my porch. I used cold-pressed olive oil and dried the yarrow for a day or so before cutting it into one inch pieces, packing it tightly into the jar and then filling the jar with oil.
Another name for yarrow is "Nosebleed" because it can both stop the gushing blood of a nosebleed as well as bring on a nosebleed in a person who may need to bleed (an old-fashioned medical concept). You can stop the nosebleed with yarrow oil or salve on a piece of tissue or a handkerchief inserted into the nostril, being careful not too stick it in too far for all the usual reasons. A friend's son who was having frequent nosebleeds used yarrow oil with great success. It stopped the bleed right away and helped in healing the spot that kept opening up.
In the same vein, yarrow is good for fevers and headaches with fevers. Once when my son was sick with a high fever and a headache with bright red cheeks, suggesting heat and excess blood in his facial capillaries, I gave him a couple drops of yarrow tincture. Not much later his nose began to bleed. This took some pressure off his forehead and he felt relieved. Yarrow tea would work well in this situation, as does the tincture.
Since yarrow is a blood remedy (both starts and stops bleeding) it is also good for bruises, varicose veins, hemorrhoids and other "stagnant blood" situations. Yarrow is a local version of Arnica for us. Arnica is used widely and is much praised by many for its wound-healing properties. Put Arnica on a bump or lump with a bruise and it immediately brings the swelling down. Yarrow does the same thing. I use Yarrow over Arnica always, because I can make the yarrow salves and tinctures myself. It, like Arnica, helps the wounded person with the feelings of shock and trauma as well.
Yarrow salve or oil can be rubbed on varicose veins to provide relief and hopefully healing of these stagnant, protruding blood vessels. An infusion of yarrow can be poured into a bath to soak the legs and/or bottom for either varicose veins or hemorrhoids, respectively. One could also soak just the feet in a yarrow infusion poured into a basin of water for bruised and swollen feet. I know of someone trying this now; we'll see if it works for her.
If you have a dirty wound, however, like a sidewalk scrape or wood sliver, the herb you want is not yarrow but plantain. Yarrow will bind up a wound too quickly and will leave the sliver or infectious dirt, etc. in there. Not good!
In order to effectively treat disease we have to be able to decongest blood
associated with inflammation, thin stagnant, congealed blood, tone the veins,
stimulant the capillaries and arteries, and move the blood to or from the
surface. Yarrow, the great ‘normalizer’ of the blood does all these
The classic work, Maud Grieve's A Modern Herbal, has a page on Yarrow here. And if you want to read the old Master himself, Nicolas Culpeper, Biblomania.com has his page on yarrow here. And here's an excellent page on using yarrow flower essences: Developing Positive Sympathy by Kyra Mesich. Those are all excellent resources online. If you can get the original sources, Culpeper's Complete Herbal, Grieve's A Modern Herbal, and Matthew Wood's The Book of Herbal Wisdom, I encourage you to do so. All are filled with wonderful herbal information.
Refer to the sidebar of my blog page where I have instructions for making herbal oils, salves, tinctures, teas and infusions. And let me know if Yarrow has helped you!