Yarrow – Achilla millefolium

Wild Yarrow flowers
Wild Yarrow flowers

“An ounce of Yarrow sewed up in flannel

and placed under the pillow before going to bed,

having repeated the following words,

brought a vision of the future husband or wife:
‘Thou pretty herb of Venus’ tree,
Thy true name it is Yarrow;
Now who my bosom friend must be,
Pray tell thou me to-morrow.’”

Halliwell’s Popular Rhymes, etc.

This native of Europe and Asia is naturalized in North American and most other countries throughout the world. It can be found in meadows and pasture, and in late May and June along roadside throughout Maryland and Delaware. Yarrow has the ability to repel unwanted insects and has been burnt to repel mosquitoes. Placed in the garden it discourages beetles, ants and flies! If a handful is added to the compost it will speed up the breakdown of the plant material. In the garden it is a very good companion plant improving the health of all plants around it.

Driving down the road here in Delaware the edges of the road are often lined with Yarrow, sometimes thickly, sometimes sparingly. But regardless of how many plants you see, Yarrow is a frequent flower this time of year (June). This flower in the wild is white, but yellow and red varieties can be found at nurseries to plant in the home garden.

In Rome it was called Herba militaris and was used and highly valued for treating battle wounds. In Cherokee i ma dah (snakegrass) was used to treat fever, stop bleeding and as a poultice in compound with wintergreen or birch used to treat rheumatism. It was also used as an astringent and an anti-inflammatory, used also to treat gout and edema, and as an appetite stimulant.

Dye can be obtained from the flowers, both yellow and green. Birds, such as Starlings, use the plant in their nest to act as insecticides to keep their babies safe! A tea is made from the flowers and leaves are very aromatic.

In China, it is said that it grows around the grave of Confucius. Chinese proverbs claim that yarrow brightens the eyes and promotes intelligence. The most authentic way to cast the Yi Jing uses dried yarrow stalks. The stems are said to be good for divining the future.

2 responses to this post.

  1. I thought that you might enjoy this poem written by my fellow new Zealander & Herbalist, Carmel Hare.
    Carmel read this out at a Herb Federation of NZ conference some years ago.
    She is still a great inspiration to many…

    A Wild Weed Salad

    A wild weed salad for lunch today
    To tempt the tired taste buds, won’t you stay?
    Come wander down the hedgerows lush,
    The ritual gathering, quiet, no rush
    Pick tine leaves of dandelion
    And cleavers clinging from the vine
    Wild sorrel, sour to give an edge
    Shy chervil nestling ‘neath the hedge
    Fine fennel, pungent, tall and bold
    Calendulas, their petals gold
    Sow thistle stems and leaves to eat
    Wild mallow, rounded, green and sweet
    Relaxing, cooling lemon balm
    Blue borage flowers to add some charm
    Fat hen leaves, pointed, greenly splayed
    Wild onions, we’ll need the spade
    Some modest violets peeping through,
    A handful of their green leaves too
    Lush chickweed, tangy adding zest
    Fat juicy purslane leaves are best
    Rosettes of plantain, ribbed and green
    A wealth of herbage, strengths unseen
    A feast of goodness we’ll be fed
    With dressing ‘French’ and homemade bread.

    A poem by Carmel Hare (New Zealand Herbalist)


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