Yarrow is an ancient and respected herb steeped in mythology and bursting with medicinal and magickal benefits. Keep reading to unlock her secrets and find out why she should absolutely be in your home apothecary.
In Mexico, yarrow is called “plumajillo” which means little feather. It’s named this because of its leaf texture and shape. Yarrow used to be called “herbal militaris” because it was used on battlefields to stop wounds from bleeding.
Yarrow received its Latin name Achillea from the legendary Greek hero Achilles.
According to the common legend, Achilles’s mother dipped him into the river Styx by the heel in an effort to make him invulnerable. Fighting many battles as a seemingly invincible warrior, Achilles used yarrow to treat the wounds of his fellow soldiers. He later died from a wound to his heel, as it was the one unprotected part of his anatomy.
Some say that Achilles learned about the properties of yarrow under the tutelage of his mentor, Chiron. We often refer to Chiron as “the wounded healer” and thus yarrow has earned a relationship with this archetype and is a valuable ally for those experiencing wounding of the soul.
Of course, yarrow lore is far more interesting than a single Greek story. Yarrow also has quite the reputation in Asia. It is said to grow around the grave of Confucius and it is said in China that yarrow brightens the eyes and promotes intelligence. In other Asian tradition, it is said that where yarrow grows, one need not fear wild beasts or poisonous plants.
During the middle ages in Europe, yarrow was purported to be able to assist in both summoning the devil and driving him away. It was used in complicated Christian exorcism rituals. Even the Neanderthals knew this plant, as evidenced when it was found in a 60,000 year old Neanderthal burial site. In the Victorian language of flowers, Yarrow can mean both war and healing.
Did you know that even the birds are into this amazing little flower? Yep. Some birds build their nests using yarrow. I wonder if they know that yarrow inhibits parasitic growth or if they just think it’s pretty.
Parts Used: aerial portions, including flower and leaves
Caution: Yarrow is toxic to horses, dogs and cats.
Other Names: allheal, angel flower, bad man’s plaything, bloodwort, cammock, carpenter’s weed, devil’s mustard, devil’s nettle, devil’s plaything, dog daisy, gordaldo, gordoloba, green arrow, herbe militaris, hierba de las cortadura, knight’s milfoil, milfoil, nosebleed plant, old man’s mustard, old man’s pepper, sanguinary, soldier’s woundwort, squirrel’s taile, stanchgrass, staunchweed, thousand weed, thousand-leaf, thousand-seal, woundwort, yarroway
Native to Europe, Asia, and North America, yarrow is found in temperate regions all over the world. A sun-loving plant, it will happily grow almost anywhere from wild natural areas to perfectly cultivated gardens. Wet and dry. Sea level to timberline. Yarrow doesn’t care. You can find it growing in open forests, grasslands, meadows, rocky hillsides, and disturbed areas like playgrounds and roadside throughout almost all of North America.
There is some concern over confusing yarrow with other toxic plants like Queen Anne’s Lace, Water Hemlock, and Hogweed, but I feel like once you’ve positively identified yarrow in the field, the differences are wildly apparent. If you are unsure though, double check your identification against a reputable field guide or with a knowledgeable forager.
Yarrow is a clump forming perrenial that spreads by rhizomes. Each small clump of erect-stemmed plants will reach between one and three feet tall and the entire plant is covered in tiny, silky white hairs. One of the common names of yarrow is thousand-leaf which is very easy to understand when you see it. Feathery, lance-shaped leaves, alternately arranged, aromatic, and finely dissected along the midrib, range in color from dark green to light grayish green and become smaller in size and shorter-stalked as they climb the stem. Small, strongly scented white to pale pink flowers appear from mid-spring to mid-autumn depending on your local climate. The densely arranged flowers are bone on stems that branch at the top to form flattened terminal clusters, or cymes. These flowers consist of outer ray flowers and inner disk flowers. If you look closely, the inner disk flowers can sometimes look like skulls…or at least that is what my little, witchy girls tell me. I just think they’re beautiful.
Growing yarrow in your witchy garden is always an excellent idea. Not only will you attract bees and have a steady supply of medicine, its very presence helps out all the other herbs around it. It increases the other herbs’ essential oil content as well as their growth and health in general. Yarrow comes in a variety of colors. White, Yellow, Pink, Red. They’re all beautiful. They’re not all medicinal. If you’re using yarrow for more than a pretty plant, you’ll want to stick to the white or palest yellow varieties.
Harvest flowers and leaves when in full bloom in the morning after the dew dries but before the Sun’s heat evaporates its essential oils. Cut the stem at the base, or really anywhere along the stem. The stem is as medicinal as the leaves and the flowers so you don’t need to waste any of the harvest.
Traditionally, you’re supposed to harvest yarrow on Midsummer’s day for magickal use. For the most potent medicine, harvest the aerial parts just before or as the flowers open and before the flowers have been pollinated.
The flowers can last a long time so be sure to choose specimens with yellow to orange-colored, pollen laden stamens in the center of the disk flowers. Of course, flowers past their prime can still make tasty medicine if you miss the window before pollination.
Because yarrow is a perennial that will continue to grow and provide medicine year after year, you don’t want to harvest the whole plant. Take only one or two stalks from each clump so the individual plants remain strong and healthy.
Actions and Properties
- appetite stimulant
- circulatory stimulant
Yarrow is rich in essential oil and tannins. Yarrow contains 0.3% to 1.4% volatile oils (azulenes, eugenol, caaryophyllene, humulene, limonene, sabinene, thujone, borneol, and camphor), resin, sesquiterpene lactones, 3-4% tannins, flavonoids (including luteolin, apigenin, kaempferol, rutin, and quercitrin), alkaloids (achilletin, betonicine, stachydrine, trigonelline), alkamides, asparagin, aconitic and isovalerianic acids, selenium, beta-cerotene, proteins, sugars, phenolic acids, and coumarins. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy effects may be associated with the constituent chamazulene. The alkaloid fraction of yarrow has shown evidence of hypotensive effects as well as antipyretic effects. Volatile oils in yarrow may have CNS depressent activity. The constituent Achilleine, an alkaloid, might decrease clotting time.
Organ System Affinity:
Yarrow seems to have a particularly strong relationship to five main organ systems.
Mucosa in the Respiratory System and Urinary Tract
Therapeutic and Holistic Uses
- gastric disorders
- bone problems
- acute stages of colds, influenza, and respiratory catarrhs
- hay fever
- chronic diarrhea
- intestinal hyper-permeability
- bleeding hemorrhoids
- uterine hemorrhage
- profuse protracted menstruation
- pelvic congestion
- bleeding piles
- inflammations of the skin
- circulation issues
- chronically cold feet
- venous stasis
- varicose veins
- hypertension (lowers blood pressure)
Sarah Corbett at Rowan and Sage gives an excellent example of how yarrow affects specific tissue states:
Heat/Excitation: Yarrow’s cooling qualities helps to tamp down the heat/excitation tissue state which we see most clearly as inflammation of tissues, swelling, redness, increase sensitivity, and literally heat emanating from the body. Sometimes this can be seen as a fever and Yarrow is especially helpful in fevers that are “trapped” within the body and needing to be released up and out. We also see the heat/excitation tissue state as high blood pressure, restlessness, and nervousness for which Yarrow can be a valuable ally (especially if rooted in the heart).
Cold/Depression: Wait, but if it helps with heat/excitation how can it help with cold/depression? Ah yes, the magic of Yarrow. Even though Yarrow is energetically cooling it’s still a stimulant. Cold/Depression can display as poor blood flow and cold hands and feet, constipation in the digestive system, etc and leads to a decrease in cellular function which can lead to inflammation which then creates an environment for infection. Yarrow really helps to stimulate the body to correct cold/depression, purify the blood from pathogens, open the channels of elimination, and increase circulation to bring the body back to balance.
Damp/Stagnation: Yarrow helps to drain stagnant fluids and stimulate them out of the body. It is also a helpful antiseptic aid in cases of “bad blood” syndrome found in the damp/stagnation tissue state or when infection is present. Perhaps the easiest way to think of Yarrow in relationship to this tissue state is in its application to heavy, delayed menstruation. Here we see dampness in the form of blood becoming stagnant and congealed in the uterus thus creating delayed menstruation and clotty, heavy periods. Yarrow not only helps to move this blood and create healthier menses, but it also works on elimination pathways responsible for this hormonal imbalance in the first place through its bitter and stimulating action on the liver. It does not, however, have much of direct relationship with the endocrine system.
Damp/Relaxation: This tissue state is similar to damp/stagnation but different in that rather than water being stuck in the tissues, they are leaking out of the tissues. We can see this as lower body edema, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, etc. There is a lack of tone present and because of this laxity, vital liquids are just flowing out of where they are supposed to be. As an astringent, Yarrow really shines with this tissue state, helping to correct the imbalance by tonifying the tissues effected.
Uses (Methods of Administration)
Fresh and Dried Herb, Gargle, Skin Soak, Douche, Poultice, Tincture, Infused Oil, Tea, Decoction, Extract, Essential Oil, Powder
A poultice of yarrow leaves is an effective remedy for speeding the healing of cuts and abrasions. In a pinch, chew the leaves in the field to make the simplest of poultices.
Yarrow leaf and flower tincture strengthens and firms your energetic boundaries. Take small doses of yarrow tincture if you feel overwhelmed when entering a room full of people. Small doses of the tincture has been known to open the senses to enhance visual acuity and auditory perception. Yarrow tincture can also initiate a delayed or sluggish menses, particularly when clotting is present.
Apply yarrow infused oil to improperly healed bruises to clear stagnant blood.
Yarrow essential oil is steam distilled from the flowers and leaves. The scent is sharp, fresh, green, slightly camphorous, sweet herbaceous, and the oil is a blue to blue green color due to the azulene content (up to 51%). The essential oil also contains camphor, sabinene, 1,8-cineole, ß-pinene, camphene, and borneol, along with several other constituents. Recommendations for oil use include as a treatment for acne, eczema, and wounds, as a skin tonic, for stress-related conditions, hypertension, and insomnia, as well as digestion, circulation, and colds and flu.
Scott Kloos in Pacific Northwest Medicinal Plants advises that a tea of the aromatic flowers or the leaf and flower tincture in hot water, alone or combined in equal proportions with elderflower and field mint leaf, promotes sweating to drive out infection. He further directs that at the onset of a cold or flu to make a quart of yarrow flower tea. Drink 3-4 fluid ounces, and pour the rest into a steaming bath. After bathing, bundle yourself up in a sleeping bag or a heavy blanket and allow your body to sweat out the infection.
Externally, a decoction is used to treat slow-healing wounds, skin rashes, and eczema.
Rosemary Gladstar gives an excellent recipe for Styptic Powder in her book Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. You’ll always want to have a small amount of powdered yarrow available for nosebleeds and those nasty cuts that never seem to stop bleeding.
To make the powder: Gather fresh yarrow leaves and flowers and dry them. Alternately, you can purchase already dried yarrow. Finely powder the dried herb, and store the powder in a jar or tin.
To use: Sprinkle a small amount of the styptic powder directly on an open wound to slow the bleeding. To stop a nosebleed, sprinkle a small amount of powder n the inside of the nostril that’s bleeding. The powder will usually slow or stop the flow of blood within minutes.
You can also take powdered yarrow internally to help stop the flow of blood. Stir ¼ to ½ teaspoon of the powdered yarrow (or yarrow tincture if you have it handy) into a small amount of water and drink it down.
I wish I had known about yarrow when my son suffered from horrendous nosebleeds that went on forever. Live and learn, right? Thankfully my daughters can still benefit from this new knowledge, and we keep a bit of powdered yarrow around all winter long when the dry air and cold temperatures seem to trigger nosebleeds the most. Want to know the easiest way to powder herbs? A small coffee grinder!
Tea: Standard infusion, 2-4g herb, steeped for 10-15 minutes, up to 3 times per day or hourly during fevers. Alternately, 30 g of dried herb or 60 g of fresh herb may be infused in 500 mL of water for five to ten minutes. Three cups a day is a standard dose for chronic conditions and one cup every two hours for acute conditions.
Tincture: 1:5 ratio and 1:4 ratio, 2-5 ml, up to 3 times a day; 1:3 ratio, 2-4ml up to 3 times per day; 1:2 ratio, 15-45 drops up to 5 times per day; take 1-5 drops as needed or a bath of the flower tea for energetic protection.
Topically: 5-10% infusion for poultices or semi solid preparations
People who have allergies to other plants in the Asteraceae family may be sensitive to Yarrow. It is also contraindicated during pregnancy but no restrictions during lactation are suggested. Long-term use of Yarrow internally and externally can result in photosensitivity. It can also cause a rash similar to poison ivy when handling, though the rash does go away quickly (in my experience) and can be helped by a salve of yarrow and calendula. Generally speaking, Yarrow isn’t an herb for extensive long-term use, especially if not part of a formula.
Yarrow should be avoided by those taking anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs. There is moderate evidence for interaction between Yarrow and barbiturates and Lithium. Yarrow is considered generally safe and the research on its interactions with drugs is minimal. When in doubt, check with your doctor.
Associations and Correspondences
Deities : Aphrodite, Hermes, the Horned God
Ruling Element: Water
Astrological/Zodiac Correspondence: Aries
Planetary Ruler: Venus
Crystals: Clear quartz, tigers eye, lapis lazuli
Tarot: The High Priest
(illustration by Rachel Oakes)
- Dream work
- Protection – particularly from negativity and negative influences
- Use in prophetic magick, particularly relating to love
- Helps to remove energetic blocks
- Use yarrow to set magickal boundaries.
- Carry a charm with yarrow in it to ensure happy relationships both romantically and in terms of friendship.
- Place yarrow over doorways to protect from negative energies.
- For powerful protection, pick yarrow flowers and charge them in the sun. Once charged, take the flowers and sprinkle them outside all the way around your home. This will keep any negative influences and energies away from your home.
- Yarrow can be used very effectively to banish bad habits in this way as well.
- Brew a yarrow tea to increase your clairvoyant powers.
- Wash down a room or Ouija board with yarrow to attract friendly spirits.
- Wash crystals and crystal balls with a yarrow rinse to bring about clarity of vision.
- Add it to spells to attract friends into your life.
- Yarrow has weak romantic properties making it the perfect courting ingredient when you just want to get to know someone before getting serious.
Purchase yarrow and other useful herbs in the Apothecary.
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Please note that I am a not medical professional and everything written here is a product of my own research. Don’t take any advice given here over that of a trained doctor. If you ingest any herbs, always make sure that you’re 100% sure that they’re safe. If you’re pregnant or giving to a child, always consult a doctor before ingesting herbs and plant you aren’t familiar with. Magickal instruction and spells are for personal entertainment purposes only. The desired result/outcome cannot be guaranteed as a result of using any magickal item, and should not be used as a replacement for medical/professional assistance.
– Graham, A. (2018) She is of the Woods. Meeting Yarrow in the Wild! YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN9IVUczVeA
– Corbett, S. (2019) Yarrow: A Monograph. http://www.rowanandsage.com/blog/2019/12/6/plant-profile- yarrow
– Black, D. (2019) Yarrow. http://www.witchipedia.com/book-of-shadows/herblore/yarrow
– Pollux, A. (unknown publication date) The Incredible Magickal Properties of Yarrow. http://www.wiccanow.com/magickal-properties-of-yarrow
– Rosean, L. (2005) The Encyclopedia of Magickal Ingredients. New York. Paraview
– Foster, S. And Johnson, R. (2006) National Geographic Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine. Washington DC. National Geographic Society
– Ritchason, J. (1995) The Little Herb Encyclopedia. Utah. Woodland Health Books
– Buhner, S. (1999) Herbal Antibiotics. Massachusetts. Storey Publishing
– St. Ours, M. (2018) The Simple Guide to Natural Health. Massachusetts. Adams Media
– Nock, J. (2019) The Modern Witchcraft Guide to Magickal Herbs. Massachusetts. Adams Media
– Gladstar, R. (2012) Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. Massachusetts. Storey Publishing
– Kloos, S. (2017) Pacific Northwest Medicinal Plants. Oregon. Timber Press
– Wood, M. Achillea millefolium. Yarrow. http://www.matthewwoodherbs.com/Yarrow.html
– Glen, L. (2020) Herbclip News. Yarrow. ww.herbalgram.org/resources/herbclip/herbclip-news/2020/yarrow/
– Notes from my studies at Vintage Remedies: School of Natural Health.
– Additional information collected from various sources including personal experience and synthesized in my personal materia medica.