In this series, we'll explore the history, common usage, and modern applications of each plant based ingredient in the Cardiff line.
What is Yarrow?
Yarrow, or achillea millefolium, is a flowering plant in the Asteraceae family. Growing in mostly temperate locations like the Northern Hemisphere in Asia, Europe and North America, yarrow is actually considered a common weed found in meadows and fields.
A perennial plant, yarrow can produce just one or multiple stems anywhere from one half to three feet tall. Leaves evenly decorate primarily the middle and bottom parts of the plant’s stem, with the fullest feather-like or hairy leaves at the base. Yarrow’s flowers typically range from white to pink in color, attracting insect visitors with its pollination system.
Yarrow is also commonly referred to as bloodwort, woundwort, thousand-leaf, carpenter’s weed, devil’s nettle, etc. So as a plant group at large, what is yarrow used for exactly? Yarrow has been used for centuries in different traditional medicine practices. However, yarrow’s medicinal uses are commonly associated with treating inflammation, digestion issues and wounds.
Known for its signature clustered feathery leaves and flowers, yarrow has a rich history of uses. Sometimes called bloodwort, herbe militaris and soldier’s woundwort, yarrow was used heavily in the military for its topical healing properties.
Yarrow was used even earlier in times of battle. Its genus name, Achillea, actually refers to the warrior Achilles from Greek mythology, as he was rumored to have used the plant to treat his soldiers. Use of the plant may date back even further, with evidence of yarrow found in some Neanderthal graves in Spain.
Popular traditional yarrow medicinal uses beyond times of war included: herbal tea for digestion, topical treatments for skin irritation, and essential oils for anxiety. Yarrow is thought of as one of the sacred “life medicines” by those in the Navajo tribe and has been used by a variety of Native American tribes historically. Yarrow has traditionally been considered a lucky plant to those in the British Isles and China as well.
While yarrow was traditionally used for wound treatment in battle, now, yarrow uses are more centered around skin soothing and digestive health. Exhibiting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, yarrow is primarily used to aid in topical healing.
Yarrow can currently be found in a variety of products including:
- Skin ointments
- Healing salves
- Repairative creams
- Essential oil extracts
- Herbal tea
With many of its most popular uses being topical, yarrow’s benefits for skin are some of its most effective and appreciated. That being said, yarrow uses do vary. Multiple studies have especially confirmed yarrow’s ability to reduce skin inflammation, typically having a positive impact on the skin’s pH and moisture levels.
One study has noted yarrow leaf extract’s potential to increase fibroblasts, which help cells regenerate connective tissue and therefore speed up the recovery process. Another cited yarrow as helpful in treating episiotomy sites post-childbirth for similar reasons. Herbalists still think of yarrow as the “blood moving herb” as well, using it to stimulate blood flow.
Herbal medicine deems yarrow “amphoteric”, meaning it can sometimes work in strange ways to help the human body get back to its desired homeostasis. Fundamentally, yarrow’s medicinal uses have been shown to do just that and much more.