What is Yarrow?
The scientific name of yarrow is Achillea millefolium. Yarrow is grown in downy perennial of pastures, roadsides and waste places, from June until November. It belongs to the family Asteraceae. Yarrow was also known as herbal militaris for its use in stopping the flow of blood from injuries. Yarrow is in myth and legend; it is a plant that many cultures of the world have used and revered. Achillea millefolium was named in honor of the Greek god Achilles; who according to legend, used this herb extensively for wound staunching on the battlefield.
Description of Yarrow
Yarrow carries numerous flower heads in 6-10cm flat-topped umbel like clusters to 50cm high. The untrained eye could initially mistake yarrow’s flowering structure for an umbel, and place yarrow in the carrot family. Each flower is comprised of a yellow-cream disc florets and pink-white ray florets. The leaves of this plant are very beautiful, millefolium which means thousand leaf, dark green and feathery, with numerous very fine slightly jumbled leaflets. Wispy, feathery foliage, which seemingly resembles the wild carrot. Yarrow’s leaves, with their thin and finely divided lobes, gave rise to its other common names; ‘milfoil’ and ‘thousand leaf’.
Benefits of yarrow
Yarrow is commonly used for diarrhea, gas, asthma, colds, runny nose, arthritis, wounds, skin healing, liver disorders, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
The volatile oil constituents, such as cineole, have anti septic qualities, while azulene, responsible for the blue colour of the essential oil, not only reduces inflammation, but stimulates the formulation of tissue for wound healing. The flowers taste bitter, and have a characteristic medicinal odour. Yarrow has creamy white ray-florets, delicately framing the orange-tinted, central disk-florets, but pink strains of yarrow will frequently be seen. Five or six florets are typically found in each individual flower head.
Be careful when taking Yarrow it can be dangerous, ensure you consult your doctor before use.
Harvest and Growth
Leaves: Spring – when young.
Flowers: From July – September, just when opening
New growth will re-emerge from its creeping and steadily spreading rhizomes in early Spring (march). The root system means we usually find the plant growing as dense mats. The basal leaves are sometimes quite large and sprawling, always on long leafstalk, and initially grow in a rosette. When coming into flower, the stem leaves become shorter, sessile, and alternately spaced.
The flowers start blooming from June, with furrowed, flowering stems, typically reaching heights of 60-70cm. If you look closely from below, you will see numerous flower stalks clustered together high up on the stem, you will also see how they do not all originate from a central point on the stem, as per umbelliferous plants.
Yarrow grows in a range of habitats, throughout Britain and Ireland, except for areas which are permanently waterlogged, or on soils that are strongly acidic. It populates waysides, pastures, grassy places, hedgerows, and waste-ground, in town or country, throughout the land. It is a lover of temperate climates, you can almost always easily find yarrow in Britain, even at altitudes of up to around 1100 metres. While on the coast, look in fields by the dunes and stabilised shingle. It thrives in harsh conditions without losing a fresh look of vitality. This becomes especially noticeable during droughts, when its dark green foliage stands out from brown and withered neighboring plants.
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