Last Updated on July 17, 2022
Do you know about the many wonderful benefits of yarrow? Yarrow is a fantastic medicinal plant that’s easy to grow and use in your herbal remedy arsenal. You may even have some yarrow posing as a weed in your yard this very minute. Find out the many yarrow uses worth knowing!
Why Get to Know Yarrow Uses & Yarrow Benefits
Even if you’ve never dabbled in herbal remedies, getting to know a few common and easy-to-use plants in your yard can help you get started with little stress or investment. Read on to learn about yarrow benefits and uses and why you want to get to know this helpful herbal remedy.
Yarrow has a long history of medicinal uses, for wound-healing, fever treatment, and pain relief. Greek soldiers carried yarrow to staunch wounds, a practice that continued at least until the American Civil War and that accounts for one of the names it’s known by, soldier’s woundwort. Yarrow’s botanical name, achillea, comes from the Greek warrior Achilles, whose soldiers reportedly used yarrow to treat battle wounds.
Hopefully you’re not planning to march into battle anytime soon, but you might still want to gather up some yarrow to make preparations you can use throughout the year for all kinds of other minor health issues that inevitably arise.
Of course, since I’m writing about it, you know growing and using yarrow has to be easy! We’re too busy for complicated, right?
Here’s the lowdown on using yarrow as a simple home remedy for a number of ailments.
Yarrow Benefits & Uses
Medicinally, yarrow can be used internally as well as externally. It’s often made into a tea to reduce fever, balance hormones, relieve menstrual cramps and improve digestion. Some people add yarrow to bath water to bring down fever. It can also be made into a poultice to help blood clot or alleviate swelling.
An infusion of yarrow may help you fight off colds and flu, and it can also be taken during illness to speed healing and lower fevers. It may also work as an herbal cough remedy and help alleviate allergy symptoms.
Why else do you want yarrow in your life? In the garden, it’s not only beautiful, it’s an eco-friendly choice as well. Very drought tolerant, your yarrow plants will require little water.
As a deep-rooted perennial herb, yarrow also helps to pull up nutrients, so mulching with yarrow or adding it to your compost can give your soil a little nutrient boost without requiring fertilizer.
And all those little flowers? Great for pollinators! All the beneficial insects they attract to your garden can help boost yields in your veggies patch as well. Yarrow is one of many zucchini companion plants to consider growing alongside zucchini plants for bigger harvests.
Yarrow comes in a number of beautiful colors, like reds and oranges, making them an especially lovely addition to any garden. (See note below about which are recommended to use medicinally.)
Yarrow is also a culinary herb that can take the place of tarragon in your cooking. Younger fresh leaves can be used much like spinach, while dried yarrow can be used to flavor dishes.
Forager Chef (and fellow Minnesotan) Alan Bergo has worked with yarrow in his kitchen a good deal. Check out his tips for cooking with yarrow.
Precautions Using Yarrow
Avoid yarrow if you’re on blood-thinning medication or take lithium. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take yarrow orally. Those taking acid reducers or blood pressure medication should also speak to their doctor about possible interactions. More from WebMD here.
If you have allergies to plants in the aster family (ragweed and daisies, for instance), it’s best to avoid yarrow. It is not recommended to take yarrow internally daily for more than two weeks.
How to Identify Yarrow Plants
One of yarrow’s many names, millefolium, references its abundant leaves. It has plentiful lacy, fernlike leaves and numerous tiny flowers that make it easy to spot.
It’s a common landscape plant and can be found in a variety of oranges, pinks, and reds, but you may also find the white variety growing wild or invading your yard. (As with many other useful and edible “weeds,” you should consider welcoming this interloper. I highly recommend dandelions and wild violets.)
Some sources suggest only the white and pink types are safe to use for food and medicinal preparations, while others favor wild white yarrow over colored cultivars as more potent medicinal plants.
As with all foraging, be sure to use a plant identification guide and harvest responsibly. If you’re new to yarrow, it may be confused with Queen Anne’s lace (an edible wild carrot) or the highly toxic and aptly-named poison hemlock.
Here are some of the best foraging books I’ve found.
Once you understand the differences among these plants, correctly identifying yarrow is not difficult. More on accurate plant identification here.
Harvesting, Preserving & Ways to Get Yarrow Benefits
♦ The simplest way to use yarrow is fresh. You can harvest the whole plant, or just pick some leaves and flowers. Herbalists recommend harvesting when flowers are in bloom for the best potency. Yarrow flowers are among the more than 150 flowers you can eat that may be growing near you.
Though I don’t love the flavor of yarrow tea on its own, I often add a few fresh yarrow leaves to the big pots of lemon balm tea I make. But if you’re treating a fever, a yarrow tea might be just the ticket, though it may require some sweetener. Lemon balm is also considered useful for colds and fever, so combining lemon balm and yarrow may make your tea taste better and add additional useful compounds.
To make yarrow tea: Use 3 tsp. fresh leaves or 1 tsp dry per cup of boiling water and steep at least ten minutes. Combine with mint and honey to make the flavor more palatable. Or add in elderflower for a traditional cold and flu remedy.
♦ Adding some yarrow leaves to the bath may help bring down a fever or alleviate sunburn. You can also steep a strong yarrow tea for a quick and easy after-sun spray.
You can also dry yarrow to use later as a tea, seasoning, or wound aid. Simply hang whole stems with leaves and flowers upside down in a dry place until completely dry, then store in an airtight container.
♦ If you’re up for investing a little more time and energy, you can make a tincture, which draws out more of the beneficial compounds than a tea or infusion. Here are instructions for a homemade yarrow tincture from Growing Up Herbal.
♦ Montana Homesteader reports that fresh poultices and a simple yarrow salve she makes also relieve itching from insects and itch-inducing plants.
If you’re as fascinated by plant medicine as I am, you should check out the fantastic herbal courses offered by The Herbal Academy. Here’s a list of the courses they’re currently enrolling.
Yarrow Uses: How to Make a Yarrow Poultice
Next time you’re out in the garden and cut yourself or get a bug bite, try a simple yarrow poultice. Pick a handful of yarrow leaves, and crush them to help release the compounds in yarrow that stop bleeding and itching. Chewing them up a little works particularly well and also helps you ingest some of the useful components of the plant.
You can also use yarrow leaves to stop nose bleeds — one of yarrow’s many names is nosebleed plant. Simply crush and roll up leaves and place in the affected nostril. Might look and feel a little strange, but it’s reported to do the trick.
Curious about other medicinal plants you can cultivate? Here’s what to know about starting a medicinal herb garden, with more than 45 herbs to consider. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly alternative to grass, consider the low-growing cultivar of yarrow called woolly yarrow, one of many ground cover herbs to consider for your edible and medicinal garden.
Have you used yarrow before? Will you try using yarrow this summer?
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Yarrow benefits and uses photo credits: fotoblend, laurenpayne, pixel2013, Martin Hetto, WikimediaImages
Disclaimer: Content on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide personalized medical advice. Please consult a licensed professional for personalized recommendations.
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.