Yarrow: A 60,000 Year History
November 07, 2017
Have you spent time in the great outdoors during the warmer part of the year? If so, chances are you have admired the many flower buds and aroma of yarrow. As both an herb and common weed, yarrow is native to the Northern hemisphere. This herb grows freely in grasslands and open meadows, and prefers well-drained soil, with plenty of sunlight. This perennial plant has very small, feather-like leaves, and of course, its most unique feature - an umbrella-shaped flower top. These small clusters of yellow and white flowers allow for yarrow to be easily identified, blooming from June to September.
All parts of the yarrow herb can be used in some fashion - the flower is higher in aromatic oils, and the leaves are higher in tannins. However, you will find that the flower is the most commonly used part, and should be harvested when fully bloomed in the summer. Yarrow’s leaves can be harvested any time of year but are most potent in spring and early summer, while the root is is best harvested in fall.
The medicinal and culinary use of yarrow dates back thousands of years. Fossilized yarrow pollen has been discovered in Iraq at Neanderthal burial caves from 60,000 years ago. A gift from Mother Earth herself, that delivered natural remedies for centuries to come.
One of our favorite facts about yarrow is its historical roots in Ancient Greece. In Greek mythology, it is said that when Achilles was born, his mother dipped him in yarrow tea, holding him by the ankle. When he died, as the hero of the Trojan war, it was a wound on the ankle that took his life, the only place the yarrow bath had not touched. This led to the Greek name for yarrow, Achillea millefolium - get it? Throughout the Trojan war, and wars to come, yarrow was used to stop bleeding from the wounds of soldiers. Yarrow leaves have been used in many battlefields to treat injured soldiers, which led to the commonly used nicknames, “soldier’s woundwort” or “warrior plant”.
In ancient China, yarrow was used to reawaken the spiritual forces of the mind and was thought to balance yin and yang energies, bringing together heaven and earth. The Chinese used yarrow stems as a divination tool during the I-Ching dynasty. In North America, the Native Americans used this herb to relieve both pain and inflammation from tooth, head, and earaches. Native Americans also had remedies with yarrow to reduce fever and promote healthy sleep habits. Tribes used dried yarrow and yarrow tea to ward off flies and mosquitoes. In ritual settings, the plant was boiled to purify an area where sick people lay, cleansing it of any illness. The Teton Dakota People called yarrow “medicine for the wounded”, another nickname that brings light to its incredible properties.
When we hear ‘warrior’ or ‘war’, those tend to be masculine terms, however, yarrow is feminine in nature and is quite commonly found in natural women’s health products. After labor, women may find that a sitz bath can bring relief of discomfort, and ease bleeding. One of the most commonly found herbs in sitz bath concentrates or sprays is yarrow, which helps tone blood vessels and dilates capillaries. Motherlove’s Sitz Bath Soak is an essential item to have on hand after labor and childbirth. The combination of herbs we use soothes the discomfort of sore perineal muscles. For mothers who do not have the option of taking a sitz bath, Motherlove's Sitz Bath Spray can deliver similar soothing effects packaged in a convenient spray bottle and is perfect for on the go.
The properties in yarrow that make our sitz bath soothing, carry over into Motherlove’s Rhoid Balm as well. Hemorrhoids are anything but comfortable, and mothers have found that having the effects of yarrow in our balm, can help sooth that discomfort and reduce bleeding.