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Yarrow - What Is Yarrow




© Cliff1066

Latin Name:

Achillea millefolium

Common Name:

Yarrow, Milfoil


Yarrow is an easily grown herb, often found in wild areas, especially areas that have gone back to wild. More than likely, you have yarrow trying to grow in your lawn right now. The feathery leaf is hard to pick out from grass, when it has been mowed to the same height.

Yarrow is tolerant of sunny to lightly shaded areas, making it perfect for nearly any landscape. Although tolerant, yarrow does like fairly rich, moist soil to grow its best. I have seen it growing prolifically through a devastating drought in Montana, and peeking through the other weeds in Central New York, as the rainy season washed out nearly every other bloom - so in my opinion, yarrow is pretty forgiving.

Sow the seeds in spring or autumn, although I rarely handle the seeds. In early spring, as soon as the tiny fern-like leaves are visible, I gently dig up a large shovel of dirt around the tiny seedlings, and transplant them without disturbing the roots. This has never failed to work for me.


Since the leaf and flower are the desired plant parts, it stands to reason that they would be harvested as soon as they were able. When harvesting, bring a sharp pair of shears and snip off the flower heads. You will be essentially deadheading, and the plant will produce more flowers. In this manner, one could effectively harvest from a smaller area of yarrow and end up collecting a large amount of herb.

The leaves are also useful, and dry very well. Gather both leaves and flowers in late summer. Simple strip them from the stem as you harvest the flowers. I prefer to leave at least 1/2 the stem untouched, and it continues to grow. One thing of note about yarrow, is the flowers need to be newly opened when harvested, or they will go to seed as they are dried. This is another reason why it is a good idea to observe the herb growth during the year, so you can know just when it blooms and harvest that day or the next. Unlike other flowers, yarrow flowers may look fresh, but once harvested and drying, continue to go to seed.


To store yarrow properly, it must be dried carefully to avoid mildew. As with most herbs, the entire aerial plant (excluding the roots) can be cut and bundled, before hanging upside down to dry. This is an easy way to get a large quantity of plant material. You can also pick flowers and leaves directly off the stems, and lay them out to dry. My favorite method is still to harvest the flowers individually and have a newspaper in

The dried material is lightweight, so drafts should be avoided. Yarrow also seems to fade quickly if left in sunlight, so be certain to keep it in a dark container or in an out of the way place.

All About Yarrow:

Growing yarrow is more than medicinal. The plant itself can be grown near other plants to increase their resistance to disease, and improve their flavor or fragrance. Yarrow is also surprisingly effective at increasing the breakdown of compost; I have seen a ratio of 1 small leaf to an entire wheelbarrow of raw material! While this may or may not be the case, after harvesting and cleaning the entire plant, be sure to throw any damaged leaves and the unused stems, into the compost. Yarrow is also a useful natural fertilizer for the garden.

Medicinally, yarrow is a must have herb. It is bitter and astringent, making it a natural helper for digestive problems. Yarrow is one of my go to herbs to help break a high fever. I do have to combine it with other, better tasting herbs for my children, although my teens and the adults in the home grow to enjoy the pungent taste. Keep powdered yarrow in a small container, to sprinkle on a wound to stop bleeding. Not to take the place of medical care in the case of severe injury of course, yarrow is definitely useful as a home remedy for those little cuts and scrapes we deal with occasionally.

Use a decoction of yarrow for a soothing skin wash. It is also good to use as a mouthwash to soothe inflamed gum tissue. Don't forget its deer and mosquito repellent properties as well!

Yarrow has been cultivated in the nursery industry for a stunning landscape perennial. Available in a wide range of colors, it may or may not hold any of the medicinal properties, but still contains the hardiness and ease of cultivation, that wild yarrow does.

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