You’re probably familiar with this cheerful little wildflower, which grows wild all around the country. Whether it blooms bright white or pink, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a powerhouse of potential in any garden. In fact, this helpful little herb has been an essential addition to every garden for centuries.
Today, yarrow can make your garden into a beautiful refuge, a medicinal wonderland, or a fairy-friendly little nook. Do you need a reason to invite it into your yard? Well, let me introduce you to my favorite flower.
1. Pollinator Paradise
Yarrow isn’t just my favorite flower: it’s very popular in the beehive as well. Pollinators love this herb for all of its tiny, clustered blossoms. Additionally, little bees and eager hummingbirds can flit from flower to flower easily. While they’re in the garden, they can just as easily skip over to your squash plants and continue pollinating.
As an added bonus, it works well to attract braconid (parasitic) wasps, alongside Queen Anne’s Lace. They’ll help reduce predatory caterpillars and slugs! Growing this herb really is a great way to make your garden a haven for helpful insects and birds.
2. Earth Medicine
Yarrow is well known as an herbal remedy, but did you know it can heal the soil as well? Because it can grow well even in poor soil, this plant is a great “green manure” species to get your garden soil in shape. It adds vital nutrients into the soil and activates the nutrients you’ve added in. After a year of growing yarrow, your garden will be ready to nourish needier plants with ease.
3. Essential Oil Booster
Yarrow is known to increase the essential oil production of neighboring plants. Since a plant’s essential oils =are the primary source of its medicinal value, yarrow makes your healing herbs perform better. Planting yarrow in with mint, bee balm, oregano, and other herbs produces an ideal medicinal garden.
Increasing neighboring plants’ essential oils can also help deter pests. Remember that invasive insects are repulsed by the essential oils of oregano, garlic, and chamomile. As a result, making those oils stronger will make your repelling plants more effective.
4. Careless Beauty
One great thing about yarrow is that it thrives on neglect. Once your plants are established, these lovely perennials will come back year after year. They’ll also spread in a graceful, non-invasive way. Yarrow doesn’t crowd out an area, like comfrey or mint will. Instead, yarrow travels like a cheerful fairy: popping up here and there but never overwhelming the space.
If you like a less manicured look to your garden, yarrow can help keep yardwork to a minimum. Additionally, if you like spending time shaping and pruning, use it as a filler flower between the roses and peonies.
5. Setting Boundaries
Some plants are flashy and full of scent. They’re beautiful: they know it, and they need you to know it too. But yarrow doesn’t need you—it just likes to help out. Maybe that’s why arrow has been used for years to set boundaries and heal heartache.
When someone is demanding too much of your, or you need to move forward after a deep sorrow, wear a sprig of yarrow. Every now and then, inhale the flower’s gentle, calming scent. You’ll realize that, just as yarrow is stronger than it looks, so are you.
6. Safe Space
Folklore says that “where yarrow grows, there’s no need to fear wild animals or poisonous plants”. While I don’t know how true the lore is, I can say for sure that my own land is full of wild yarrow and surprisingly lacking in poison ivy and harmful plants.
We have coyotes, wild cats, and bears, but never have any trouble with them. So, if you’re looking for land to thrive in, find a place full of free-growing yarrow.
7. Witch Repellent
That’s right: yarrow can keep you safe from witches and spells! Again, this is pure folklore, but if you’re worried about your new boyfriend’s ex or that neighbor with too many cats, plant some yarrow. Hang it over the door or over your baby’s cradle to drive away witches and devils.
Of course, witches can use it as well to guard and protect themselves, as it’s willing to drive away unfriendly intrusions from any door. Pregnant women used to wear a blossom of this herb on their right side to protect the baby from harm and ensure an easy birth.
Another name for yarrow is bloodwort or woundwort, which makes yarrow’s most popular medicinal use clear. Bloodwort stops bleeding. Folklore says that Achilles himself was taught by the wise centaur, Charon, to use yarrow on the wounds of his soldiers.
Yarrow’s Latin name, Achillea millefolium, reminds us of this connection. From ancient times through the middle age’s soldiers carried yarrow into battle to staunch wounds. In fact, another common name for it is “soldier’s woundwort” because of this connection.
You can use this wonderful herb today! Apply a bruised yarrow leaf to any cut to slow or stop the bleeding almost instantly. You can even stick a few bruised leaves up your nose to stop a nosebleed!
9. Colds & Flus
Take a cup of yarrow tea—made from the plant’s flowers, leaves, and stems—at the first sign of illness. Yarrow is a great healing herb for colds and flus, and especially for reducing fevers. Whether you take an infused bath or sip some soothing tea, this is the ideal herb for breaking a fever.
It works by opening up your pores and encouraging your body to sweat out the fever. Since yarrow is safe for both children and adults, it’s an essential ally in your herbal apothecary!
Yarrow’s ability to encourage sweating, along with its ability to act as a blood purifier and essential oil booster, means that it’s also a fantastic herb in detoxification. While many detoxifying herbs like dandelion and milk thistle cause toxins to move out of your body, yarrow gives those toxins an extra way out.
Adding yarrow to your detox tea not only boosts the other herbs, it helps your body kick those toxins out quickly. Mix up an oxymel with yarrow, milk thistle, dandelion root, and ashwaghanda to drive away winter sluggishness.
11. Hay Fever Helper
If you have seasonal allergies, yarrow is one of your most potent allies. Drink an infusion of fresh flowers to calm that sinus irritation, or soak in a hot blossom bath to fight off the worst seasonal episodes. Or, make an infused syrup of raw, local honey and yarrow flowers to take daily during the worst of the summer catarrh.
Yarrow is safe to take every day, unless you’re pregnant. Best of all, during the hay fever season, consistent yarrow tonics will calm inflammation and sooth sinuses.
12. Asthmatic’s Friend
Strew fresh leaves and flowers in a wide bowl of boiling water and inhale the stream to sooth mild asthma attacks. Yarrow is an anti-inflammatory herb, and it calms the respiratory inflammation that leads to asthma attacks. Just lean over the bowl and breathe deeply and calmly to allow the yarrow steam to permeate your lung with its soothing essential oils.
You can also add yarrow to a salve of thyme, eucalyptus, mint, and hyssop for a breathe-easy rub. Apply it to your chest or back and let the lung-soothing herbs open up your airways.
13. Wildflower Bitters
Yarrow flowers are fantastic addition to digestive bitters. In fact, old-school herbalists add them to after dinner tonics to encourage bile flow, healthy digestion, and as a diuretic. Because yarrow stimulates healthy circulation it’s a great tonic to take after heavy meals.
These bitters help to drive away the sluggishness and exhaustion that tend to plague us after a big supper. A yarrow, dandelion, and burdock digestive tonic is essential for getting through the holiday season comfortably. Just add a few drops to a small cup of water and sip after eating that last slice of pumpkin pie.
14. Massage Oil
Steeping yarrow’s leaves and flowers in castor oil or sweet almond oil for a few weeks will make a comforting massage rub for inflamed joints and muscle aches. Since yarrow reduces inflammation and stimulates circulation, its massage oil is great for both tired, arthritic joints and overworked muscles. I like to use it on my hands and feet in the winter to boost blood flow and keep my fingers warm.
15. Promote Healthy Hair & Skin
If your hair is thinning, or you’re struggling with excess oil in your hair, a yarrow rinse offers a great, balancing effect. This herb can help your hair grow thicker and stronger. Try combining it with castor oil for a deep conditioning hair growth treatment.
You can also use yarrow tea as an astringent to tone your skin. Or, drop a small amount of tincture on acne to clear up your face quickly. Its gentle approach is great for aging and sensitive skin as well as normal skin.
Aptly Named “Allheal”
For millennia, yarrow has been one of the best-known, and best-loved healing herbs. Whether you’re growing it to improve your soil, your health, or your view, yarrow really does heal all.
The rose may be the queen of the garden, but this is the garden’s beloved fairy-child. Let this friendly, gently wildflower bring bees and good luck to your garden, as well as gentle remedies to your home. Within a year or two, you’ll find a dozen more uses for this delightful flower.
Like gardeners and herbalists for generations before you, you’ll fall in love with this delicate, irrepressible little plant.