As I walk to class in the morning, my attention is drawn to the sweet smelling white flowers around the PICA buildings. Boasting large flower heads on long straight stems, yarrow is such a lovely sight to see! It grows prolifically not only in PICA, but in every habitat in California. My first exposure to yarrow was two years ago when I drank yarrow tea. It was not pleasant. I had forgettably over-steeped my yarrow tea which resulted in a strong, bitter taste. After that incident, I make sure to steep my yarrow tea for a short time. When prepared properly, yarrow tea can be pleasant to drink! Its taste is slightly bitter and pungent with floral notes.
and Bloodwort. In Colorado and New Mexico, it is known as plumajillo (Spanish for ‘little
feather’) for its leaf shape and texture. Its botanical name, Achillea, is a reference to its use on the battlefield by the Greek hero, Achilles, who was reportedly rendered nearly invincible by being dipped into a solution made from yarrow. Its species name, millefolium, literally means ‘a thousand leaves.’
Yarrow’s medicinal actions are multi-faceted. Western herbalist, Matthew Wood, calls yarrow the ‘indispensable blood remedy’ as it is known to reduce internal and external bleeding. Used topically as a poultice, its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties can keep a wound clean to prevent infection and reduce swelling. Yarrow is a wonderful medicinal herb to use while on a hike! You can rub the leaves on your temple to subside a headache, chew the bitter leaves to help alleviate a toothache, or rub the leaves on your skin as a natural insect repellant. When taken internally as a tea or tincture, yarrow can treat colds and fevers and is also a good digestive remedy due to its bitter compounds.
Yarrow is not only valuable for its medicinal qualities, but is also a beneficial plant to grow in the garden. It is a hardy perennial that likes to grow in well-drained soil with full sun. It can be propagated from clippings, root divisions, and seed. As a companion plant, it repels insects
while attracting, beneficial predatory ones. In biodynamic farming, it is often used as a compost activator with other herbs such as valerian, stinging nettle, chamomile, and dandelion to speed decomposition.
With spring upon us, it is time to garden, grow, and gather some yarrow! When harvesting, remember to leave some for the bees!
Christine Olanio is a transfer student living in PICA and majoring in Environmental Studies. She is teaching an ESLP class in the Spring about personal sustainability.