A Writers Guide to Yarrow

yarrow

yarrow

This is an herbaceous plant that grows up to 3 feet in height. Leaves are long, bipinnate or tripinnate, almost feathery, and arranged in a spiral on the stems. Clusters of 15 to 40 tiny disk flowers are surrounded by three to eight white ray flowers, which in turn, are arranged in a flat-topped inflorescence (cluster of flowers arranged on a stem). This is a complex flower!

At higher elevations the white ray flower are pink to lilac. Hybrid flowers are yellow, orange, and red.

Particulars

Botanical Name: Achillea millefolium

Common/Folk Names: Bloodwort (not to be confused with Sanguinaria, also known as bloodwort), Carpenter’s Weed, Devil’s Nettle, Field Hop, Gordaldo, Herbal Militaris, Knight’s Milfoil, Milfoil, Nosebleed Plant, Old Man’s Pepper, Plumajillo (Spanish for ‘little feather’), Sanguinary, Soldier’s Woundwort, Staunchweed, Thousand-leaf, Thousand-seal, Yarrow, Yarroway, and Yerw.

Life Cycle: perennial
Habitat: everywhere, weed like growth in grasses, meadows, pastures, and by the roadside; native to Eurasia, and found widely from the UK to China. In North America, both native and introduced genotypes, and both diploid and polyploid plants are found
Blooms: June to September

Smell: mild, sweet, similar to that of rosemary and oregano; leaves have a peppery scent
Taste: bitter

yarrow leaves

yarrow leaves

Notes

  • Yarrow’s essential oil contains chemicals called proazulenes that make it a dark blue. This essential oil kills the larvae of the Aedes albopictus mosquito (aka the tiger or forest mosquito).
  • Yarrow in the garden repels some pest insects while attracting good ones.
  • It’s used to combat soil erosion due to its drought resistance.
  • People who are allergic to ragweed are often allergic to yarrow.

History

  • Yarrow pollen was found in a 60,000-year-old Neanderthal grave in Shanidar Cave, Iraq.
  • Druids used it to predict the weather. Though I couldn’t find out how, I did find folklore that states when yarrow blooms abundantly, winter will be good.
  • Yarrow ointment has been used to stop bleeding, as a diaphoretic, astringent, tonic, stimulant, and mild aromatic.
  • Yarrow tea is used to alleviate colds and fevers.
  • It has been used to stop a nose bleed as well as to start a nose bleeds (to alleviate headaches).
  • Yarrow has been used as snuff.
  • In the 17th century, it was added to salads and soups.
  • The flowers have been used instead of hops to brew beer. Linnaeus believed beer made this way was more intoxicating.
red yarrow

red yarrow

Lore

  • In Greek mythology, yarrow grew from the rust that Achilles scraped from his spear. It was used to stanch bleeding wounds of his soldiers.
  • In China, it was believed that yarrow brightened the eyes and promoted intelligence.
  • The Chinese use it for divination called I-Ching.
  • The Saxons wore yarrow amulets to protect against blindness, robbers, and dogs.
  • During the middle ages, yarrow was believed to assist in both summoning the devil and driving him away.
  • Hanging a posy of yarrow over the bed on the wedding night or adding yarrow to the bridal bouquet will ensure lasting love (or at least for seven years).
  • Hanging yarrow over a cradle will keep a baby safe from witches.
  • Yarrow strewn across a threshold will keep out evil.
  • Carry some in your pocket will lessen fears and bolster courage.
  • Yarrow tea or incense will increase psychic powers.
  • The incense will also invite love and peace as well as cleanse you aura.
  • The tea will also relieve melancholy.
  • Rubbing yarrow on your eyelids will enhance psychic abilities.
  • Scattering yarrow around your property or wearing it in amulet will provide protection.
  • Placing some under your pillow will bring dreams of your future husband.
  • Used in magic spells for divination, to breaks curses, increase psychic power, and stimulates courage.

In the Language of Flowers, it means: everlasting love | war | good health

This is a reference for fiction writers and should not be taken as medical or spiritual advice.

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20 Comments

Add a Comment
  1. If it kills mosquitoes, I'm all for it.

    1. That and the citronella plant needs to be everywhere! 😂

  2. I'm pretty sure it grows wild in the woods behind my house. And I am allergic to ragweed, so that probably doesn't help the sinus infections. 😉

    1. Oh no. 🙁 As an allergy sufferer, I feel for you.

  3. I think that flower grew around my grandparents' cabin in Oregon.

    I don't think I've ever seen it in tea form though.

  4. I love this plant. It thrives in full sun and part shade around my garden and takes little water. I had no idea it has been around since Neanderthals. That only adds to my interest in the flower.

  5. I had no idea it had such benefits and history. It comes in such pretty varieties and colors. Like Alex said, if it takes care of mosquitoes, I'm all for it. 🙂

  6. It is a beautiful plant and does seem to do well in places where other plants don't.

  7. I knew nothing about yarrow, but seems it has been believed to be pretty powerful in the past. I might give the tea a go!

  8. I'm not sure I've ever seen it in person.

    1. Me either even though it's supposed to be everywhere.

  9. I might need to get some of that incense to promote peace in my life.

    I love the thought of using it to predict the weather. I might have to use that in a story.

  10. So… what you're saying… is that I need to get some? You had me at psychic abilities.

    1. It does seem like a handy plant to have around. 😉

  11. Yarrow grew everywhere in our area except at our house when we lived in New Mexico. I tried and tried with no success. I love it. Cool to learn more about it!

  12. So yeah, I'm totally allergic to it, but it would make a nice addition to my yard with a lake only a street over. No one likes mosquitoes.

  13. Whoa, been around for over 60,000 years. Makes you wonder about the history of many such plants. Such a pretty plant. I'm glad it's survived so long!

  14. Sounds like an interesting sort of herb, and tea– I'm a tea fiend, in case you didn't know 🙂

  15. Yarrow in the garden repels some pest insects while
    attracting good ones.

    That sounds good. I had read that basil keeps
    mosquitoes away, but I really don't know if
    it's true or not?

    1. I've heard that about basil too, but I've never tested it out.

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