Discovering Herbs: Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
One of the amazing things about herbs is the diverse range of actions they have been seen to have. It seems astounding that just one herb can have a beneficial effect on a whole range of conditions, but here we look at Yarrow, which is one of these multi-skilled herbs.
In today’s society we always seem to be searching for the magic bullet, or the specific chemical to cure our illness. Herbs are not like this as they have a diverse chemistry, which is reflected in their general action and their ability to affect so many different systems in the body.
Yarrow, a herb which grows freely by the roadside, is almost a complete medicine chest. It has a strong action on the gut where it acts as a digestive bitter and can help even the most troublesome tum! To put it politely, Yarrow helps with digestion from entrance to exit, being medicinally effective throughout, helping with everything from indigestion or food intolerances to irritable bowel syndrome.
Traditionally, Yarrow would rarely be used on its own, often being found in combination with other herbs. It mixes well with herbs such as Dandelion and Centaury as both herbs are bitter tonics that enhance liver function and bile production thus complementing Yarrow’s action on the gut. A mix containing all these herbs could help with everything from wind and bloating to stomach cramps.
In addition, Yarrow also tones the blood vessels. Used externally, its astringent properties will aid the healing of wounds, and it has been used to treat haemorrhoids and varicose veins. It has also been used in the treatment of heavy and painful periods, which is thought to be due to the herb’s steroidal sapponin content, which could have a balancing action on female hormones.
So next time you spot some Yarrow growing happily by the roadside you can smile to yourself and think what a clever little herb it is, and it isn’t just women who can multi-task.