Yarrow is my favorite, most used, and greatly loved medicinal herb. It is easily identifiable by its flat white flower cap and feathery leaves and grows pretty much coast to coast – in your yard if you’re lucky, or in the wild where it can be found in places as diverse as roadsides, the shores of lakes and rivers, or mountain meadows. I first found Yarrow in the Sangre de Christo mountains of New Mexico where it grew abundantly on sunny meadows and along forest roads, flowering from late spring to fall. After five years the last of this batch of tincture was nearly gone.
Oh no! I didn’t know where to find it here.
The ingredients were gathered on a magical spring day several years ago when I was invited to join a group of women herbalists who met up to share our knowledge (or lack thereof) in the village of Llano, NM. We wandered over farm and fields, along dirt roads and narrow mountain paths where I gathered yarrow and wild rose blossoms and combined them in this tincture. It has become my favorite go-to remedy for stomach upset, nervous tension,cuts, scrapes, bug bites and more. I’m not sure how much of its efficacy is due to the actual ingredients and how much from the day itself, but the two together make good medicine!
I’ve been in NJ for almost a year and I’d kept any eye out on my daily walks along the river and in parks but never saw yarrow at all until a week or so ago when I veered off the sidewalk (ie: was pulled by my dogs) and noticed a little patch near a telephone pole on the roadside just two blocks from home. A week later it was knee high and flowering profusely. Yayyyyy! I picked a couple handsful and headed home to make tincture – and this is how you do it:
First identify the plant:
Feathery dark green leaves starting from different places along the stem – check.
Stem long and straight (dried and used by the Chinese as divination sticks for I Ching readings, btw) – check.
Flat heads of white or pink flowers – check check!
You’re ready to go. Rinse and allow to dry on a towel. At this point you probably should also hang some upside down and allow to dry in a cool, dark place for use as tea later, but if you’re making tincture you will chop it up and pack loosely into a glass jar.
Cover with 80-100 proof vodka or grain neutral spirits such as Everclear. Let it rest in a cool, dark place and shake occasionally. After four or more weeks it is ready to strain out the plant matter and pour the liquid into amber or blue bottles with medicine droppers (or just in a small jar, preferably with dark glass). it’s totally ok to wait longer than 4 weeks.
Label it. I label with the date and also note what it is preserved in and where I harvested the plant.
Uses of Yarrow are many and various and I can’t begin to cover it all in this post, but:
– fresh plant matter chopped (or in an emergency chewed) and applied to a wound will help stop bleeding, or relieve the sting of an insect bite or toothache
– dried herb used in or as a tea is helpful in relieving indigestion or slow digestion, is an aide to liver health, reduces fever in colds or flu – due to its astringent and toning properties it may also be helpful in colitis or diverticulitis, in a bath for skin rashes, in a tea to balance menstrual flow and cycles
– the same tea, cooled and applied externally is disinfectant/antibacterial, can be used as an astringent or toner for oily skin, applied with cotton pads to relieve hemorrhoids, and is said to help hair grow when used as a hair rinse
– tincture can be diluted and used in much the same way as tea, or directly applied to bug bites to relieve itch or sting
– added to a salve will aid healing, as an ingredient in lotion is helpful in reducing varicose veins
…and this is just a beginning
*****Yarrow should not be used when pregnant or nursing, before surgery (as it may affect clotting), or if allergic to ragweed*****