Legend has it that Yarrow, or Achillea millefolium, was once used by Achilles himself whence upon his heel was badly injured in battle. Though the stories may have changed or been added onto over time, the use and power in the yarrow plant remains undeniable. Yarrow can be used for an incredibly wide range of afflictions and ailments, including aiding in internal and external bleeding, inflammation, menstrual problems, toothache and especially fevers. Due to the current global climate and the fears over getting ill, plants like yarrow can be a useful ally in our herbal cabinet.
If you love to travel, as I do, you may find that plants in different regions look and sometimes feel and taste different depending on where they come from; kind of like grapes & wine. Beginning at the start of summer, around June/early-July make your way to the coast of Washington to find coastal varieties of Yarrow in flower. You’ll notice that these yarrow plants are a little more succulent and sturdier; perfect for standing up to the wind conditions on our Pacific Northwest beaches. If you then head East, near the end of July, you can find Yarrow growing in the cities and along roads, wherever it can get the chance; here the yarrow has more abundant but delicate leaves and sometimes smaller flowers. Heading further East in August, you may find yourself traveling into the mountains where the yarrow might be greener and slower to flower at higher elevations. If you then head over the mountains and go south into Oregon, the yarrow becomes lighter and almost furry as if wearing a light winter coat. As strange as this yarrow seems, trust me it is worth it as this yarrow has incredibly, almost intoxicating, fragrant flowers.
One of the greatest attributes of yarrow is that in the Pacific Northwest, this native plant volunteers itself readily and is probably already growing in your back yard! Check out some plant identification books (like Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackinnon) and some helpful plant medicine books by Michael Moore (like Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West and Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West), and you’ll be on your way to finding or using our herbal ally, yarrow, in no time at all.
Peace, love, and plants from Bastyr Alum,