Yarrow, 2021, 6 X 8″, Evening light, Gouache, Walnut Ink

One of the few plants in the series that was an intentional planting for both its beauty and medicinal uses, it holds a place of pride in my garden. The broken stem that was most likely a test nibble by a passing deer and caught my eye while taking an evening garden stroll. It was after dinner, but before Lucy’s bedtime needed to get underway. I grabbed my painting kit and set up right as the light started to make its decent in the west.

10% of all print sales are donated to Story County Conservation, Iowa Arboretum, and Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

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About Yarrow

Achillea millefolium, commonly known as yarrow or common yarrow, is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae.

Other Common Names

Yarrow or Achillea millefolium can be referred to as common yarrow, gordaldo, nosebleed plant, old man’s pepper, devil’s nettle, sanguinary, milfoil, soldier’s woundwort, thousand- leaf, and thousand-seal.

Native Origin

The common yarrow or Achillea millefolium is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in Asia, Europe, and North America.

Folk Lore
  • “Yarrow has been long recognized as a protective, healing plant.
  • In China, yarrow sticks were used to reawaken the spiritual forces of the mind when divining with the I-Ching. The plant was thought to balance yin and yang forces and to make possible the meeting of heaven and earth.

When the Greek hero Achilles was born, his mother held him by the heel and dipped him in a vat of yarrow tea to protect him from harm. He eventually died by a wound on the ankle where the yarrow had not touched. Throughout the Trojan wars, Achilles used yarrow to staunch bleeding of his soldiers. Yarrow was revered as a sacred and magical herb during the middle ages but much of its knowledge was lost during the burning times.

Native American traditions around yarrow mirror ancient Asian and European uses, as well as modern therapeutics. References could take up at least 10 pages. Many Native People in the Pacific Northwest used dried yarrow and yarrow tea to keep away flies and mosquitoes. Twana elder Bruce Miller said the plant was boiled to purify an area where sick people lay. It was also drunk as a tea to induce sweating during flu-like symptoms, to purify the blood, and to ease bloody diarrhea. The Teton Dakota People call yarrow “medicine for the wounded.”  “Warrior plant” is another common name among native communities across the United States and Canada.”

Source: “Yarrow.” Wild Foods and Medicines, 9 Dec. 2019, wildfoodsandmedicines.com/yarrow/.

Traditional Uses

Infusions of yarrow have served as cosmetic cleansers and medicines. Yarrow has been used therapeutically as a “strengthening bitter tonic” and astringent. Chewing fresh leaves has been suggested to relieve toothaches. Yarrow oil has been used in shampoos for a topical “healing” effect. Yarrow has been used to induce sweating and to stop wound bleeding. It also has been reported to reduce heavy menstrual bleeding and pain. It has been used to relieve GI ailments, for cerebral and coronary thromboses, to lower high blood pressure, to improve circulation, and to tone varicose veins. It has antimicrobial actions, is a natural source for food flavoring, and is used in alcoholic beverages and bitters.”

Source: “Yarrow Uses, Benefits & Side Effects – Drugs.com Herbal Database.” Drugs.com, http://www.drugs.com/npc/yarrow.html.

Conservation Status

Not Extinct.

The plant commonly flowers from May to July. Common yarrow is frequently found in the mildly disturbed soil of grasslands and open forests. Active growth occurs in the spring.

10% of all print sales are donated to Story County Conservation, Iowa Arboretum, and Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

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Learn more about the entire Backyard Botanical Collection by visiting the collection’s gallery page. Visit the online gallery to see originals and prints available.

Thank you for visiting and spending time learning about the botanicals in my backyard. May this bring you a deeper understanding and joy in your own ecology.

Kristin M Roach

Published by kristinMroach

Hi! I am an artist, author, and owner of a modern apothecary called Little Woods in Ames, Iowa.