Parts Used: Leaf, Root & Flower
Appearance: Yarrow is a perennial aster with dark-green feathery leaves of 2-5 inches long. From May to August it sends up tall, flowering stalks topped with flat umbels of snow white flowers and can be anywhere from 1 to several feet tall. Yarrow flowers are highly aromatic and smell like a cross between chamomile and pine. In California it likes to live in mountainous areas where the pine trees grow, but in BC you can find Yarrow at any elevation along the coastal range and down to the river valleys.
Harvesting Methods: Gather the recently flowered stalks and bundle them, facing the same direction, with an elastic band 1-2 inches from the cut end. The bundles can be hung out of sunlight in a well ventilated area and, once dried, the leaves and flowers can be placed in sealed glass jars for later use. The roots should be washed after harvesting and dried in bundles or in half-box cardboard flats. Once dried, the flowers and leaves last for 18-24 months and the roots last several years.
Medicinal Uses: Where to start! Yarrow is one of my favourite plants because of its wide-ranging use. It’s simplest use is its benefit for acute fevers. Drunk as a tea or in tincture form, Yarrow stimulates sweating and moderately lowers core body temperature. Normally I don’t encourage the suppression of fevers because they are the body’s natural defence against pathogens, but if the fever becomes too high or occurs in children I would recommend this use. Like Cranesbill, Yarrow is an excellent hemostatic, can be used to treat bleeding ulcers, hemorrhoids, nosebleeds and heavy menses. Yarrow is also a strong anti-inflammatory and can be used topically as a poultice for muscle and joint inflammation and internally for gastrointestinal infections, chronic cystitis and urethritis. Yarrow is most known as a woman’s medicine. It has a long history of use for menstrual problems like a long menstrual flow with chronic dull pain by tonifying the uterus and promoting a more regular menstrual flow.
Preparation: Visit the ‘Medicine Making’ page for more details
Tinctures can be made from the fresh plant in flower (as a 1:2 ratio) and the dried plant in flower (1:5 ratio) in 50% alcohol. You can take 10 to 40 drops in warm water, up to 5x/day for either form.
As a tea, you can enjoy 1 tbsp of the leaves and flowers per cup of hot water up to 2-4ounces 4x/day.
A poultice of the fresh or moistened dry plant can be used topically for muscle and joint pain and varicose veins.
A tea of an ounce of herb steeped in 2 quarts of water can be added to a soothing bath to relieve joint inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis.
You can also eat the roots as a snack. Fill a small jar with root sections, pour 2 or 3 tbsp of corn whiskey or rum over them, shake them up and cap well. This will make the roots softer and easy to chew.
Cautions: Yarrow should not be used during pregnancy. Speak with your healthcare provider to ensure that yarrow is safe for you.