When thinking about what herbs are deeply powerful and supportive of almost every part of the body, Yarrow comes to mind quickly. This herb has seemingly endless medicinal uses and also has long been associated with mysticism, divination and the occult. It's a good remedy for colds and flus, digestive complaints of various kinds, menstrual issues, wounds, bites, stings and many more maladies.
Yarrow Key Information
Common Name: Yarrow
Latin Name: Achillea millefolium
Plant description: Aromatic perennial, grows up to 3 ft. Has alternate leaves that are finely pinnate, like ferns. White and pink ray flowers grow in flat-topped heads. Forms large mats of interconnected roots and leaves.
Parts used: whole plant, predominantly aerial parts (flowers highest in aromatics, foliage higher in tannins, roots have complex resins that are aromatic)
How to harvest: harvest aerial parts in early Summer or Fall when the plant is in flower (make sure you have permission from the plant and landowner and are sure the plants aren’t sprayed with any chemicals)
Yarrow's Herbal Actions
Diaphoretic (one of the best, very smart, knows when to cool and when to heat)
What Can I Use Yarrow For?
Perhaps one of the most well-known uses of Yarrow is for colds and flus. It is a superior diaphoretic that tunes into your body, helping raise and lower your temperature as a fever progresses. It is great mixed with other herbs for a holistic cold and flu remedy. The combinations are endless, but Mint, Elderflower and Yarrow make a delightful pairing.
Just be careful because Yarrow is very bitter and astringent and can quickly make a delicious infusion taste like some serious medicine if you add too much.
To that end, Achillea millefolium’s bitter and carminative properties make it an excellent digestive aid. It can be good for general digestive support, but is also a powerful ally for recovering from Gastroenteritis, diarrhea, or any intestinal issue with lingering irritability (it’s a great anti-inflammatory herb). Yarrow is even antimicrobial against Shigella, and is good combined with Echinacea to fight off that nasty infection.
Yarrow is also an excellent blood tonic that can be used for blood purification. It improves venous circulation and also lowers high blood pressure. This is because Yarrow dilates blood vessels, working like conventional ACE inhibitors. Achillea millefolium also tones blood vessels and can help heal varicose veins, especially when applied topically.
This herb is also a superb menstrual aid. It helps to regulate your cycle and can ease period pain. As an emmenagogue, it can stimulate menstrual bleeding and help you keep things moving along. However, it also has strong styptic qualities and can actually slow and stop heavy menstrual bleeding, especially when taken cold (think tincture form).
Yarrow is a great addition to any Moontime tea. Some other herbs you could consider adding are:
This plant is infinitely useful. Yarrow is also a urinary antiseptic, making it supportive for chronic Cystitis and Urethritis. It also has anti-allergenic properties that aid with Hay Fever and other types of allergic reactions. You can chew on the root for toothaches and gum problems as well.
Achillea millefolium is an outstanding herb applied topically for skin and musculoskeletal issues of all kinds. It is a superior hemostatic that can stop bleeding when applied to open wounds, while also stimulating healing. It also helps heal burns, bruises, sores, sprains and swellings. If you can identify Yarrow properly and know you’re in a place where it’s ethical to harvest, it is a great herb to pick and chew into a poultice for a quick backcountry herbal remedy. The tea can also be used to wash sore eyes, insect stings and snakebites.
Yarrow’s anti-inflammatory qualities make it excellent for muscle and joint pains, including arthritis. You can steep it into a bath (or a foot bath) and soak your achy joints to get some soothing relief.
How to Use Yarrow Medicinally
Yarrow can be taken as medicine in many different ways, but one particularly pleasurable way to engage with Achillea millefolium is with an herbal bath:
Steep an ounce of Yarrow in 2 quarts of boiling water for at least 10 minutes (longer is better as more medicine will be extracted, experiment with the length of steeping time that works well for you)
Add herbal infusion to bathwater and enjoy!
You can also make Yarrow as a standard tea. Use a dosage of 1-2 teaspoons per 8 ounces of water, starting low and listening to your body if you choose to increase your dosage. Steep for 10-15 minutes, strain, and drink warm for the diaphoretic effect, or cold if you’re trying to utilize Yarrow’s styptic qualities. This is very different than a bath, you don't want to oversteep Yarrow or put too much because it gets very bitter quite quickly!
Yarrow can also be tinctured. This would be a great addition to any first aid kit as it cleans wounds and stops bleeding, as well as fights infections and helps almost every system of the body. It has been used on many battlefields for this same reason.
Yarrow belongs to the Aster, or Sunflower, family - one that many people are allergic to. If you sneeze while blowing Dandelions, (another Asteraceae relative) you may also be allergic to Yarrow. As such, Yarrow can cause contact dermatitis for some individuals. Large doses over an extended period of time could be potentially toxic, engage with this plant with reverence and respect. If you’re wildcrafting, it’s important to know that some strains contain the toxic compound Thujone, so always be careful you know exactly what you’re collecting.
The Magic of Yarrow
Yarrow is a deeply mystical and magical plant. Even its taxonomical Latin name is mythical. Achillea millefolium is a reference to the Greek hero Achilles, who was nearly invincible after being blessed in the waters of the River Styx as a child. However, he was held by his heel when dipped in the river, leaving this part exposed (Achilles' heel anyone?). This ultimately proved to be his downfall in the Trojan War when Paris killed him with an arrow guided by Apollo, hitting his heel directly.
Many astrologers would tell you that bitter and astringent Yarrow is a Saturnian herb that is great for setting boundaries. While this is true, assigning one planet to one plant diminishes the complexity of this incredible being.
Correspondences are a useful tool in magic, as they help our minds associate similar things together, forming strong connections and building up our subconscious wisdom of the way all things are interrelated. You can easily look up long lists of astrological and magical correspondences for plants, stars, stones and much more. However, we are all capable of seeing the similarities between different things and do not necessarily need an external source to tell us how the world around us interconnects.
Correspondences take on much more meaning and significance when we form them ourselves based on the relationships we have with the more-than-human world.
Plants are their own beings with rich complex dynamics, and they can vary greatly based on the land from which they are growing. I like to sit with my Yarrow plant, drink some Yarrow tea, and ask them to tell me what they want to share. I get strong Virgo energy from Yarrow, it is a plant that likes to be of service, every part of it is useful, and it can be processed in a million different ways. Yarrow also has lunar energy as a being that is so helpful for those of us who menstruate. And I've heard other astrologers associate Achillea millefolium with Venus, it is a plant that shows its love for us in a multiplicity of ways. Correspondences can take on whatever meaning makes the most sense for you.
Much of my understanding of how to expand how I work with correspondences and engage in relational magic comes from the amazing musings and teachings of Diana Rose Harper.
You may have your own way of interacting with plants, but the important thing is to have a two-way relationship that is based on reciprocity rather than extraction. This takes conscious practice as many of us have been deeply socialized in modern cultures that are much more focused on what we can take than what we have to offer.
When engaging in reciprocity, gratitude is a good place to start. This beautiful article by Robin Wall Kimmerer is great for better understanding how we can give back to the Earth who is so generous with us. She says, "Gratitude is founded on the deep knowing that our very existence relies on the gifts of beings who can in fact photosynthesize. Gratitude propels the recognition of the personhood of all beings and challenges the fallacy of human exceptionalism—the idea that we are somehow better, more deserving of the wealth and services of the Earth than other species."
Herbal Apprentice Program
If you're interested in learning how to work with herbs to be a healed healer, Artemisia Academy has an incredible Herbal Apprentice Program. I recently completed it and had my mind blown open learning about Yarrow and many other herbs. You also get to learn how to make medicine, work with clients, develop your plant identification skills and form intuitive and reciprocal relationships with the plants we work with.
The information I shared in this post comes from my own relationship with Yarrow, Artemisia Academy’s classes, the wise reflections of Diana Rose Harper, Michael Tierra's Planetary Herbology, A Peterson Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs, Michael Moore's Western Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West, and Andrew Chevallier’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine.
About the Author
Alicia Cielle Heiser is an Astrologer, Herbalist and student at Artemisia Academy. Her work centers on facilitating a greater understanding of the cyclical nature of the world and the ways that we as humans fit within the greater whole. She is writing a series of materia medica blog posts for Artemisia to make the wisdom and knowledge of herbal medicine more available to more people. Alicia also offers herbal astrology readings and you can find her at www.aliciacielle.com.
Disclaimer: Information presented on this webpage is for educational purposes only, and does not include the diagnosis and treatment of disease nor replace the advice of a licensed physician. Please refer to a licensed health professional for any illness or persistent symptoms before using herbal remedies.
Herbs can sometimes cause discomfort or side effects, and may interact adversely with pharmaceutical medications. Do not use herbs internally without the approval of a doctor or medical professional if you are currently on medications or have a history of medical conditions.