Yarrow (Achillea millifolium) contains within itself a medicine chest of value, and has been long associated with the ‘Wounded Healer’ archetype. Stories of Yarrow’s virtues can be found in Greek mythology with its ties to the great healer and oracle Chiron, and to the hero Achilles. (The latter from whom Yarrow gets its botanical name Achillea.) Yarrow teaches us about our wounds as a right of passage, about the transformation of suffering into wisdom. When we surrender to our own suffering and trust our healing process, and let that healing change us, we can be blessed with the discovery of a deep purpose and meaning, the birth of a truer self, and a gift to help others. The wounded healer embodies a deep compassion for others, having suffered deeply themselves.
Yarrow is the champion of all wound healing herbs. It is a powerful astringent, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and pain reliever all in one. It is the one herb the ancient warriors chose to take into battle to heal their wounds. I’ve heard of the entire plant being used for this purpose, but more commonly the dried leaves are ground and made into a fine ’wound powder’ that can staunch bleeding and prevent infection.
Yarrow can be taken internally for fevers, colds, and flus. It also helps to tone the digestive system, relieve gas and bloating, and digestive upset. It is useful to help ease menstrual cramps and heavy bleeding, or to bring on menstruation for cases of stuck menses or amenorrhea. It’s gentle nervine action makes it a useful herb for tension and anxiety. Also useful as a cardiovascular herb, it helps to lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels, and helps to improve tissue tone and function.
Yarrow is a wildflower native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere including North America, Asia, and Europe, and is one of the most adaptable herbs in the apothecary garden. In its wild habitat it can be found pretty much anywhere. I’ve seen it along shady and moist forest edges, dry sunny meadows, and all the way up in the alpine where it stays very tiny and is potently aromatic.