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How To Identify and Use Yarrow

Yarrow is one of my favorite herbs! Today I’d like to show you a quick video so you can see it actually growing in the wild. Hopefully, this will help you learn to identify it a bit better. Maybe you’ll recognize it on your next walk! I’m also going to give you some great information on the herb yarrow, its history, what it can be used for, and how to actually use it!

Wild vs. Hybrid Yarrow

Yarrow is officially known as Achillea millefolium, and it’s a plant that’s part of the daisy family. In the wild, you’ll find the majority of yarrow flowers to be white or pale yellow, and wild yarrow is most commonly used for its medicinal properties. You can find brighter colored yarrow flowers growing in gardens, but these are hybrid varieties of yarrow and aren’t as commonly used for their therapeutic properties.

It grows anywhere from 1-3 feet tall, usually in dry ground, and blooms late spring through fall.

Check out this video of the boys and I locating a large patch of yarrow growing on the side of our little road!

Legend of Yarrow

There’s a legend that goes along with yarrow that has to do with how it got its genus name – Achillea millefolium.

Legend says that Achilles used yarrow in the battle of Troy to stop the bleeding of his soldier’s wounds by applying poultices of yarrow.

The Energetics of Yarrow

When it comes to using yarrow, you can use the whole plant. Flowers, leaves, roots, all of it!

One of the first things we have to look at is the energetics of the plant. The energetics are the actions that the plant has on the body. The energetics of yarrow are aromatic and bitter as well as cooling and drying.

When using yarrow for its bitter energetic it can be used as a digestive aid. Bitters cause the release of saliva, enzymes, and gastric juices to help you properly break down your food.

If you’re using yarrow for its drying properties, you’ll most likely use the crushed leaves as a poultice on a bleeding wound as yarrow has been used for ages to stop bleeding. You can also use yarrow root to help with toothaches as it acts to draw out the infection and toxins that may be causing the toothache. These drying properties are related to yarrow’s astringent-like action which causes the tissues to tighten up, thus, helping stop bleeding and toothaches! Pretty neat huh?

Yarrow is also used at the first signs of colds, flu, and fevers due to its warming energetics. The warming that results from yarrow helps to stimulate the immune system to fight whatever the body is facing as well as allowing the body to gently heat up to the point that it starts to sweat. In this way, yarrow acts as a diaphoretic as it helps to open the skin’s pores in order to help cool the body.

How To Use Yarrow

Before I go into specific ways to use yarrow for some of the things I mentioned above, first let me talk about the forms of yarrow you may need. Most times, when you order yarrow online, you’ll get dried yarrow tops. That mean’s flowers, stems, and leaves. From here, you can place these dried tops into a coffee grinder and powder them if you need a bit of powdered yarrow one day. You don’t have to buy dried yarrow AND powdered yarrow. You may also want to order a small amount of yarrow root, just to have it on hand in case you need it.

Now if you feel up to it and you can recognize yarrow in the wild, you can always harvest your own yarrow to dry and store!

Dried Yarrow

When it comes to actually putting your yarrow to use, here’s how to do it.

For colds, flu, and fevers, you can use fresh or dried yarrow as a tea to drink frequently throughout the day. Remember, yarrow is bitter, so unless you’re using it as an herbal bitter, you’ll need to add in some other good-tasting herb to mask that flavor. Peppermint is a great option!

If you want to use yarrow as a nice immune booster, mild liver cleanser, or digestive aid, you can take your fresh or dried yarrow and make a tincture with it to take daily.

If your little one gets a cut of some sort that’s bleeding quite a bit you can use yarrow to slow the bleeding. Simply take some of your dried yarrow, put it in your coffee grinder, quickly grind it into powder, and put the powder down into the cut. This helps to tighten the tissues (remember that astringent effect) and stop the bleeding. When the bleeding has stopped you can always rinse the wound out to try to get a closer look at it. 

Need yarrow for a toothache? Take a piece of yarrow root and soak it in a few drops of water to re-hydrate it. Place the root next to the tooth that is hurting along the gum line and replace it every hour or so to see if this helps.

Like I said before, yarrow is one of my favorite herbs. I wouldn’t want to be caught without it!

If you would rather buy yarrow online instead of finding it on your own in the wild, you can get it here or here — two of my favorite places to buy herbs online!!

On a side note, if you’re into beautiful, old-time music, check out this song Dowie Dens of Yarrow by Karine Polwart on YouTube. It’s a Scottish ballad, it’s about yarrow, and it’s tragically romantic!

Have you used yarrow with your children? What’s the most common way you use it?

41 thoughts on “How To Identify and Use Yarrow”

  1. i absolutely love everything you post. i will certainly search our property for yarrow and order some if i cant locate it. thanks for sharing!

  2. I know this is old, hopefully you will get this. I saw a blog saying that yarrow is not hollow. Is this true? I have a plant that does not fit any of the look-alikes; it looks like yarrow. However, its stem is slightly hollow. Please let me know what you think. Thanks!

    1. Humm… I’ll have to check some fresh yarrow, but my dried yarrow’s stem is slightly hollow. I can’t really say for sure. You could email me a photo of it, and I could try to help you identify it that way.

      1. Awesome, I’ll try to do that later this week. I am pretty sure it is yarrow. Trying to harvest it along with the St. Johns Wort before mowing up the yard.

  3. I bought a plant last year and it did not survive up here…I will be looking for some seeds to start my own..I must have this herb available. Thank you for your wonderful post Meagan!

    1. I’ve never tried growing it directly from seed Monica. I transplanted some I found down the road up to my house. I just pulled it up by the roots and replanted it in an herb bed. It’s doing great. I don’t think yarrow is that hard to grow. Good luck!!

        1. I researched the red yarrows and called red velvet… Useage same as the white , pink yarrows.. Just hope it will take this time… Also a perennial…should come up every year once planted…

  4. Megan,

    Did I read that Yarrow is a stimulant like coffee? And to be careful and to use only as medicine??? I have been doing a lot of reading lately lol – Thanks, A

    1. I can’t find any info like that Andrea, but if you do, send it my way… I’d love to take a look at it. I’ve never heard of anyone using yarrow as a beverage because it is BITTER!! I’ve only heard of it used as a medicine. Let me know if you find anything though!

      1. A cup of tea made with dried yarrow flowers and a few chopped mint leaves, steeped about half an hour, with a bit of sweetener added (I used 2 drops of stevia) is delicious. I’ve made it with a bit of fresh lemon juice also. Lovely!

  5. Hi Meagan
    Just love everything you post. You are my go-to site!
    I have a bottle of Yarrow Extract that I bought from MRH. I know I can use the drops in liquid for colds, fevers but also wondering if it would be good for open cuts? I’m building a first aid kit for an upcoming camping trip. If someone gets cut, could I just put a couple drops of the extract in the wound or does it need to be powder form?
    Thank you!

    1. It would make a great wound wash Kim (just put some drops in water and clean the wound with it), but I’m not sure about putting the extract (tincture) directly in a wound due to the alcohol. You definitely could… it would help to disinfect the wound, but it would probably burn like crazy. I’m not sure if it would stop bleeding with a tincture… I’ve never tried it, and I’ve never heard of it used that way… only the powder. You could pack a little baggie of the powder though. It would be small and not take up too much space. Good luck on your camping trip… sounds fun!

  6. Curious, would yarrow work well infused in oil or as a salve? It is easier to carry or keep close by if I can make a salve/balm I can carry with me. Also, question. I have a yellow plant that looks the same as white yarrow but has bright yellow heads that are a bit larger. The leaves are the same as yarrow. I’ve read a bit about yellow yarrow however I can’t find any healing properties and whether in fact the plant i have is yellow yarrow thanks so much! Great post

    1. Yes you can infuse yarrow into an oil and then make it into a salve. Yarrow is used in a lot of salves as it’s so versatile. As far as the yellow plant goes, it could be a hybrid version of yarrow, but I can’t say for sure since I can’t see it.

  7. You mention in your wonderful article that yarrow tightens tissues. If I made an infused oil then a salve out of it do you think it could help to tighten flabby skin? Or on wrinkles? Maybe also in a bath to tighten skin? Rosemary Gladstar the herbalist also says it’s great as a tea for menstrual cramps.

    1. I’m not sure how well it would tighten flabby skin. I think I’d focus more on essential oils in a lotion for that… dry skin brushing too. It could help with wrinkles, but again, I’d focus on some good carrier oils and essential oils and make a great face serum for wrinkles. You could always infuse yarrow into the carrier oils of course. I would say it would be helpful in a bath or tea, but if you drink it as a tea you’ll want to add in some flavorful herbs to mask its flavor. It is bitter!

  8. Ive heard that it is possible to smoke yarrow…
    if it is, is it safe, how do u prepare it, what are the effects….

    *This is information i need for school, but i dont find information of it*

    1. You can smoke a lot of herbs for medicinal benefit, Jordy. As far as safety goes, smoking anything isn’t great for your lungs. The smoke is irritating and the particles that you inhale can be damaging. However, it’s been a very effective way to use herbs for centuries so I don’t write it off. It’s just that I think there are better herbal preparations that can be used these days. Also, you have to be careful and look into the safety of the actual herb you’re using. Yarrow is a fairly safe plant in general, but it’s always worth looking into more. When preparing herbs for smoking, there are many different ways. It’s basically like tobacco being smoked in a pipe, but you can also smoke them in hookah’s and make smudge sticks or incense with them. Again, these are all things to look into and consider. As far as effects, you’ll need to look into the individual herb and the properties it’s known for. Knowing the chemicals found in the plant is helpful too. I’m sure there are other herbalists who use herbs this way more than I do so keep searching, and I’m sure you’ll find someone who can help you more. Best of luck on your project!

  9. I have used dried, smashed yarrow for bleeds with great success. Also, I make a glycerite tincture that I use for my kids at first sign of illness. I make it with yarrow, elder flower, and catnip. My kids love it!!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Christy! Yarrow is such a valuable herb, and I’m so grateful to have it growing abundantly in my area. It has so many uses. Thanks for sharing how you use it with me!

  10. Hi, I would like to ask you one question. Can I smoke the dried leaves and stems of a yarrow plant? First I though that these yarrow plants were water hemlock, now I regret my decision instantly. I truly appreciate nature 🙂

    1. Yes, Hun. You can smoke dried yarrow. That’s very common, but you’re right. You want to make absolutely sure it’s yarrow that you’ve harvested first because it does have some poisonous look-a-likes. I’ll be writing a post about it soon so keep an eye out for that.

  11. Hello! I saw on your post the people typically used wild yarrow as opposed to garden varieties for medicinal purposes. I already dried and jarred the bright yellow yarrow from my garden before reading this post. Is that safe to use? Will it be effective? Thanks!

    1. I’m sorry Laura. I actually don’t know much at all about the different varieties of yarrow. I only know about and use the common wild version Achillea millefolium. As far as medicinal properties go, I suppose it would depend on the species of yarrow and what constituents that species has. Perhaps you could Google it? Hope that helps a bit!

  12. Future HErbalist

    Thanks for this, Megan! This really helped. I’m just a kid who hopes to be an herbalist when I grow up, but I’m always stopping to lok at plants, and lately I’ve found lots of yarrow.

    1. Good for you! I hope you enjoy all that you’re learning, and that God uses you in a mighty way! Just a word of caution before you start gathering any yarrow that you’re seeing. Yarrow is easily mixed up with Queen Anne’s Lace and poison hemlock even looks similar to it so be 100% sure you have true yarrow before you start gathering and using it. Queen Anne’s Lace is non-toxic, but hemlock can kill you. A good field guide that features plants from your area is a great way to help you positively identify plants in the wild, and if you can find someone in your area that knows what they look like, they can show you how to positively ID them as well. Best of luck!!

    1. Yes, yarrow is a great antimicrobial herb and when drank cooled, has an affinity for the urinary tract which can make it helpful for bladder infections. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Many of the colored yarrows are hybrids. The white yarrow is Achillea millefolium, and that’s the variety that is most used in herbalism.

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