Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Yarrow maybe a familiar plant to everyone at least it was for me and never knew it. Now I catch myself looking everywhere for it. I don't have to look real hard. It grows everywhere; in the grass, the meadows, pastures and by the roadside.
     Yarrow is a mingle of the Anglo-Saxon name for the plant, gearwe and the Dutch yerw. It's botanical name is Achillea millefdium. One legend says that Achilles learned how to use the plant from Chiron, his centaur teacher. Achilles would use yarrow to stanched the bleeding of  the wounds of his soldiers. It was thought that the Ancients called the herb, Herba Militias, 'the military herb.' The Highlanders still make an ointment from it for applying to wounds.
     The herb flowers from June to Sept. The flowers are white or pale lilac and look like minute daisies. The stem is angular and rough. The whole plant is more or less hairy with white, silky appeased hairs. The leaves alternate 3 to 4 inches long and 1 inch broad, clasping the stem at the base. The segments are very finely cut which gives the leaves a feathery appearance.
     Yarrow was known by many many names: Milfoil, Old Man's Pepper, Soldiers' Woundwort, Knights' Milfoil, Thousand Weed, Nose Bleed, Carpenters' Weed, Bloodwort, Staunchweed, Devil's Nettle, Devil's Plaything, Yarroway.
     In the Orkneys a tea was made from it it where it is called Milfoil. It is used for dispelling melancholy. Another tea is also made from yarrow for severe colds.
     Of all of the many herbs that we know, yarrow was dedicated to the Evil One and was used for divination in spells therefore becoming known as the Devil's Nettle and Devil's Plaything.
     It gain it's name for Nose Bleed because it was used to stop bleeding of the nose but on the other side of the fence if the leaves are rolled up and applied to the nose it could cause the nose to bleed to relieve headaches. In some eastern countries it is called Yarroway where it is used as a divination tool with it's leaf. The inside of the nose would be tickled while the following lines are spoken.
          "Yarroway, Yarroway bear a white blow"
           If my love love me, my nose will bleed now"

     If someone wanted a vision of their future husband or wife then they could take an ounce of yarrow, sew it up in a flannel and place it under the pillow before going to bed then they would dream about their future spouse.
     It was also used as snuff because of it's foliage and strong smell thus given the herb another name, Old Man's Pepper.
     Yarrow was and is mostly known for it's healing properties for wounds. It was a favorite herb of the Anglo-Saxons. They used it to heal burns and the bites of poisonous snakes and insects.
     Fresh yarrow leaves were chewed to relieve toothaches.

     In the Americas, the Native Americans used it as a medicinal plant as well.
     The Delaware and Algonquin tribes made a tea from yarrow and used it for treating liver and kidney disorders.
     The Lenape Indians pounded yarrow roots with a stone and the boiled them with water to make a remedy for excessive menstrual flow.
     The Ute had a name for it which meant 'wound medicine.'
     The Piate made a yarrow tea to cure a variety of stomach disorders.

     The Pennsylvania Dutch called yarrow Schoof Ribba. They would prepare a 'sweating tonic' from the whole plant to reduce fever and a tea made with the leaves to have a beneficial effect on the liver and gall bladder.
     Horses would be feed yarrow to cure them of any intestinal worms.

     Just as much as there are medicinal uses for the yarrow there are magic uses for the herb as well.  The plant was used to give protection against the same spells that it was used as an ingredient of.
     Yarrow was strewn across the threshold of a house to keep out evil influences. It was worn to guard someone against evil spells. Country people would tied sprigs to a baby's cradle to protect the infant from witches who might want to steal away the baby's soul.
     To ease childbirth, the yarrow was given to a woman in labor. She would hold it pressed to her right side but the herb had to be taken away as soon as the child was born. To be used in this way, the herb had to be collected on Midsummer Eve ( June 21st ).
     Yarrow was also used in exorcism rituals. An Anglo-Saxon charm for a person possessed by the devil in which 13 specific herbs was needed; one being the yarrow. The herbs were made into a drink which would cause the 'victim' to vomit out the evil. Seven masses were sung over it then garlic and holy water was added. Then the drink was to be drunk out of a church bell. I bet that was a chore in itself.  Through-out the term of the possession, the mixture would be added to everything that he/she would eat or drink.
     Even traditional weddings included the herb. Yarrow was frequently placed into wedding bouquets and garlands. It was said yarrow guarantee true love between the couple for seven years.
     The herb even had a beauty secret. If the juice was rubbed in the hair it made the hair curly.
     If the person who gathered yarrow dreamed of it that night then they would soon hear of good news.
     Take a yarrow leaf and hold against the eye would give someone the 'second sight.'

     The Chinese saw the yarrow for it's many uses as well. They used it for improving respiration, skin and for muscle tone. They believed if yarrow was taken for a long time it would increase intelligence. In Chinese the yarrow is called shih. Yarrow was said to grow in exceptional amounts at the grave of Confucius. Chinese legend says that 100 yarrow stalks grew from a single root but when the plant grew to 1000 years old then 300 stalks would grow from the root. Wolves, tigers and poisonous plants was thought to never be found near yarrow.

    I have many times saw that white flower on side of the road and just thought is was an ordinary weed. Through this research I have learned a lot about that small white daisy looking plant. I enjoyed doing the research for this posting.

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