Family: Asteraceae (Aster)
Scientific Name: Achillea millefolium
Perennial herb introduced with genotypes that are both native and introduced. Common in disturbed areas and open forests in the US, spread across all Northern continents.
Watch for: Lance-shaped leaves finely divided, resembling a fern. White flowers have four petals, forming a dome shape in a cluster at the top of the stem. Entire plant is 8-16″ high.
Other names: Milfoil, Thousandleaf, Old-man’s Pepper, Soldier’s Wound-wort, Bloodwart.
History: Yarrow has been a popular medicine plant in Europe and North America throughout the ages. In Europe it was used for hemorrhoids, dysentery, hemotysis, toothache, and for wounds. It is still commonly used in Austria, Poland, Switzerland, and Hungary. In North America, the Chippewa use the leafs in a steam inhalant for headaches. The Cherokee drink a tea from Yarrow to reduce a fever and to aid in a good night’s sleep. Soldiers and warriors used it to close up wounds, giving it the names Bloodwart and Soldier’s Wound-wort. The chemical compound achilleine acts a a hemostatic property, but also has a counteracting substance called coumarin that promotes bleeding.
Tidbits: Yarrow can be a substitute for hops in beer, which is just the case in Sweden. The Starling, a bird introduced to the US from Europe, uses Yarrow to line it’s nests. In China, Yarrow is historically known to brighten the eyes and promote intelligence, exemplified by the legend that it grows around the final resting place of Confucius. When out for a bike ride or jog, Yarrow can be a trail-side antidote to scrapes and cuts when crunched up and placed over a bleeding knee or elbow. An excess of Yarrow on a wound encourages bleeding rather than inhibits it. Use caution as some allergies to Yarrow have been recorded.
Gardens/Cultivation: Yarrow in the wild is a weedy species that does well in undeveloped soils with quick drainage. Cultivars are hardy additions to flower gardens that do well in full sun, are drought-resistant and are bred in a variety of colors. Examples of cultivars include Wooly Yarrow, Hello Yellow (pictured), Cerise Queen Achillea (pictured pink), and Moonshine Yarrow.
Kindsher, Kelly. Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie: An Ethnobotanical Guide.
University Press of Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas, 1992.