Yarrow – Achillea Millefolium: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Woundwort of Wild Plants

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In Chippewa, a’djidamo’wano meaning ajidamoo (squirrel or red squirrel) and wano (tail), yarrow is a “wounderful” edible and medicinal herb. A yarrow salve for healing cuts and scrapes was my first ever herbal medicine maker’s recipe!

Yarrow is another European import. It’s most descriptive folk name is woundwort. It’s not the only “woundwort”, so cheers for Latin names. On the same note, it’s been called goldenrod, among other confuddling names that typically refer to an entirely different plant. To add more confusion, it’s one of the many herbs called allheal. And this is why I have the Latin name in the title of every post. /wink

Yarrow - Achillea Millefolium
Yarrow – Achillea Millefolium

Like dandelion, one folk use of yarrow is as an infusion to increase psychic powers. And like the dandelion entry, I’m including this tidbit for fun. Some have claimed it can cure baldness too.

Edible Uses of Yarrow

The fresh leaves add a bitter but peppery touch to salads. These young leaves may also be dried and used for tea.

The eastern cottontail, white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, and a multitude of insects are just some of our local wild plant munchers.

Rich in Potassium

Medicinal Uses of Yarrow

Yarrow is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive
  • Cardiovascular
  • Integumentary
  • Urinary

Medicinal tags include Anti-inflammatory, Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Astringent, Carminative, Cholagogue, Diaphoretic, and Styptic. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes as a bitter digestive aid, and as a hot tea to treat a fever – attested to by herbalist legend Rosemary Gladstar. In most cases yarrow should only be taken temporarily (see Warnings below).

To make the tea Euell Gibbons in Stalking the Healthful Herbs suggests pouring 1 pint of boiling water over 1 oz of dried yarrow leaves, then adding 1 Tsp honey and 3 drops Tobasco sauce (sub fire cider perhaps?) He suggests having the feverish person bundle up under a blanket to keep the heat in and the sweat on. Using yarrow for a bath soak is a similar route, but I’d skip the Tobasco.

And of course, as “woundwort” makes obvious, the juice or decoction of the leaves and flowers are oft used in salves for healing wounds and sores. Even the whole plant is ground to a pulp for this, by some methods. It’s wise to leave the rhizomes in the ground, however, as that is how yarrow spreads and it’ll retain the ability to grow new shoots.

Alternative Uses of “Woundwort”

Gardeners take note – yarrow is a good additive to compost and a useful companion plant in the vegetable garden to fight pests like aphids. Is one of your hobbies flower arranging? The dried flowers are pretty for bouquets too.

Growing Achillea Millefolium

Yarrow is a toughie like dandelion but will do best in well-drained soil and full sun. This is an unusual entry in that it’s tagged Native in Ontario and Naturalized in Ontario. There is a native yarrow, and an introduced yarrow, and much disagreement as to whether much of a difference should be made of them.

A word of caution if you want to grow wilder yarrow – there are many ornamental versions sold by nurseries. On the flip side, you could load your butterfly garden will a variety of colored yarrows including yellows and pinks. But they likely won’t be as nutritious to the pollinators, or as medicinal to humans.


Long term usage can dry up vaginal secretions. (Don’t take yarrow for more than a few weeks in that case!)

Avoid ingesting during pregnancy.

It’s a diuretic.

Some people are allergic.

It may cause skin irritation and extended use may increase the skin’s photosensitivity.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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wiki/Achillea millefolium

Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use

Native Plants, Native Healing: Traditional Muskagee Way

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

The Good Living Guide to Natural and Herbal Remedies: Simple Salves, Teas, Tinctures, and More

Stalking the Healthful Herbs (Field Guide Edition)

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine

Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants

Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants

Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses

How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts (Native American)

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Llewellyn’s Sourcebook Series) (Cunningham’s Encyclopedia Series)

Forest Plants of Central Ontario

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