Discover more from Love Off Grid
Yarrow: First Aid from the Field
Using Medicines From Your Own Backyard
First of all, a disclaimer: I’m not a medical doctor. If I were, I wouldn’t be giving you practical and useful advice, especially for free. That said, I want to introduce you to a common plant - a “weed” some would say - that is probably growing somewhere near you right now: Yarrow.
Yarrow seems to grow just about everywhere; in fact, the harsher the environment, the better. It’s resilient, plentiful, and extremely taken for granted. Recently, I started learning about this miracle plant’s many uses as I’ve been gathering it, storing it away and preserving it in my treasure chest of natural remedies.
Yarrow, formally known as Achillea millefolium, is also commonly known as nosebleed plant and soldier’s woundwort. These last two titles should be a clue as to its use as a blood medicine.
Yarrow blooms in full or partial sun from May until July and can be identified by its pinnate (meaning feather-shaped) leaves and cluster flowers. The bipinnate or tripinnate leaves are very soft and grow anywhere from 2” - 8” long.
Yarrow flowers grow in clusters of white, yellow, pink or red and are very long-lasting. While the other flowers come and go, our hills and fields remain adorned with these white clusters well into early fall. I’ve read that yarrow can grow up to 3’ tall, but most of our plants are about 1-2 feet tall.
Down to the practical: Medicinally, yarrow stops bleeding by contracting the blood vessels and encouraging blood clotting. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that promote quick healing, so much so that you need to carefully clean wounds before applying it or any dirt or bacteria could become trapped inside the wound. It’s a speed healer and works to close wounds, therefore yarrow is not beneficial for deep puncture wounds that need to heal from the inside out.
That said, it’s perfect for surface cuts, bruises, nosebleeds, sprains and even hemorrhoids, since its also an anti-inflammatory. It has anti-fungal properties and reduces fevers, as well. Yep, miracle plant.
Important note: Since Yarrow is such an effective blood coagulant, it should not be used by pregnant women. Likewise, it should be avoided by anyone allergic to flowers in the Aster/Daisy family.
Last month I dried some yarrow leaves to make into a powder. I simply picked them, hung them on the porch and waited for the sun to do its job.
Once the leaves felt “crunchy”, I stripped them into a bowl and then crushed them by hand. Finally, I put the crushed leaves into my nut grinder and grated them into a fine powder.
Yarrow powder can be applied directly to a wound to stop bleeding almost instantaneously. The powder can also be used to infuse a tea to ease menstrual cramps and bleeding; the tea also helps to tone uterine muscles after childbirth.
In the event of fever, drinking yarrow tea induces perspiration, thereby opening pores and reducing fevers naturally.
1 teaspoon yarrow to 1 cup boiling water. Steep, strain and drink.
While I was at it, I also gathered enough yarrow leaves to make a tincture which can be added to tea or taken directly as drops.
Yarrow tincture can be used for all the above indications (fevers, menstrual issues, wounds) as well as treating nosebleeds.
Yarrow tincture is pretty simple to make. Fill a jar with yarrow leaves then top the jar with an 80-proof or higher food-grade alcohol (the cheap stuff is fine).
Screw the lid on and let it sit in a cool, dark place for 6-8 weeks.
During that time, keep the jar topped off with alcohol so no exposed leaves oxidize. After the 6-8 weeks have elapsed, it’s ready to use. Just strain it, discard the leaves, and store the tincture in a cool, dark place. Use as needed.
Fortunately, I haven’t had any real wounds to speak of lately, but I did get a very tough plant splinter in my thumb a few weeks ago while we were out swimming. My thumb started to itch and swell a bit so I chewed a nearby yarrow leaf (because it’s everywhere!) and held it to my thumb. After a few short minutes, the swelling was gone along with the itching, which reminds me to mention…
You can use raw yarrow directly by chewing the root or leaves and applying it to an injury or inflammation (think toothache or insect bite/sting). This method really comes in handy when you’re out and about in nature this time of year… just look around and find the cures that God has already provided us naturally, practically, and completely free.