Yarrow is one of my favorite first-aid herbs. It’s also a good herb to plant right now if you live in the California Bay Area, like we do. Mine isn’t flowering yet so you’ll have to make do with leaf pictures.
Yarrow also grows wild around here, like it does in many places so for those of you who don’t enjoy gardening, you can probably locate and harvest it to use as I describe. It’s also a common ornamental used in landscaping since it’s very low maintenance, lovely to look at, and very attractive to butterflies and other beneficial garden bugs. The varieties of yarrow you can buy in the nurseries around here are usually larger and more colorful than the wild kind. It comes in a number of colors from yellow to pink to purple. If you want to grow the smaller, white blossomed yarrow in your garden, you’ll probably need to start it from seed. Yarrow likes well-drained soil with full sun and little soil amendment. Rich soil will grow much larger, more showy yarrow plants but they won’t be as strong medicinally so it’s best not to pamper them too much. Just a little water in the summer and the occasional compost and straw mulch will keep them plenty happy.
I used to only use wild yarrow when I first started working with this herb. But then when Aaron planted the yellow blooming variety right outside our front door, I found myself using it more and more as a quick leaf poultice for bleeding cuts and scrapes. It worked so well that I stopped harvesting wild yarrow for this purpose. Then I began drying the blooming stalks for use in teas for fevers and the flu and tincturing it to use as a bitter for digestive issues. Again, I found that it worked just as well as the wild variety. So now, other than the occasional leaf picked and chewed along hiking trails and an annual wild fresh plant tincture for use in menstrual issues and blood stagnation (I do prefer the wild variety for these purposes), I use the yarrow in our garden.
In the next couple posts I’ll talk more about some of garden-grown yarrow’s simple uses.