Materia Medica of Achillea millefolium
Spirit medicine and Science blended together perfectly.
Another one of my favorite herbs, you can quote me on these. I know I’m going to repeat myself and speak to my favorite herbs over and over again. Nearly every I work with in medicine, and talk about is one of my favorites. Though we have different relationships that put them on this list. Yarrow and I have a very special connection. Her spirit is strong and the science behind the constituents is just as intact. She has brought me through some of the hardest time of learning in my life. It is a lesson that many of us empathetic healers, artists, and creators have. And that being to protect our energetic boundaries.
A bit of astrology on me, I am a double Pisces with Scorpio as my rising sign. For those of you who know astrology, that creates an incredibly emotionally in touch human. The trickling streams that twist and curve through the mountains embodies Scorpio. They lead to the rivers of the lower elevations (Cancer) that then pour into the Ocean of Pisces. This visualization represents the emotional body and depth that each of the main water signs holds. Deep intuition, emotional fluidity, and boarder-less boundaries represent each of the water signs.
Finding the Perfect Herbalist Path
Where does all of this fit into my and Yarrow’s relationship? Because I am so intouch with my emotions I’ve had to work on them a lot through out my life. Not only mine, but I feel everything around me. I feel other people’s energies, and their intensity. I can sense animals, and plants in this way as well. Energy flows to me, through me and around. Picking up on it is quite easy and that leads to a massive drain.
I ran a private practice in Portland, OR for 5 years. Based around working with problematic skin conditions through nutrition, holistic skin care and herbalism. Each and every day, I would see clients, and take on everything that was brought to me. I also adored each and every one of these humans. I would take all of their energetic issues, at the time gladly, and feel the biggest urge to help them in any way I could. Above and beyond my work with their skin care and nutritional regimens. This would leave me absolutely drained at the end of a day, and by the end of 5 years in practice, at the verge of an emotional breakdown. I had to find another way.
I do assume that a lot of you reading this blog are empathetic as well. Most of us end up in the healing arts. The visual arts, and walking the nature patg. We are healers, teachers, and care givers because it is in our nature to do so. A huge gift in this life, but it can be incredibly draining and exhausting if no emotional boundaries exist. I found myself in a place that I didn’t feel I could help people in this way. But that helping others find vital health was indeed my path. This is what brought me to work with plants in the way I do now. This emotional drain lead me to closing my practice and diving into growing medicinal herbs, making medicine, and knowing every component I could about the plants found in our woodlands.
Achillea and Energetic Boundaries
Our beloved yarrow, Achillea millefolium was and has been a massive force of teaching me that emotional boundaries are OK. They are healthy and assist you to help others more. It is more than OK to have found this way to practice herbalism. All is perfectly well that I cannot be the one who will run a private practice in clinical herbalism. That I can indeed still help people without actually touching their physical or energetic bodies. Yarrow has shown me that I can provide another aspect of herbalism to my community. That walking the herbalist path is finding the way that each individual walks their plant path. The most important aspect is that we indeed walk it.
Yarrow – Appearance
Achillea is a prolific grower in Wyoming and the rocky mountain region. She grows in the conifer forests of high elevation. And she can be found growing down in the open sage land of the foot hills. She can have tons of water around her. But can also be happy to be a bit dry. This is glorious as I find her all over my harvest areas. I live up in the Bighorn Basin, just north and east of Yellowstone National Park. I find her on the farm that I live on. And in the mountains all over this beautiful state.
Our Native American tribes, specifically the Shoshone, in my region, have called her the Chipmunk Herb. Those of you who know her may be able tto recognize that nickname quite clearly. Yarrow has a sweet fuzzy, fern like leaf that emmerges in late spring. Whorls of these chipmunk tail like leaves can be spotted coming up from the ground. Achillea being a cheerful and adorable notion that Summer is here, and yarrow flowers are soon to be decorating the hillsides.
To the Shoshone, yarrow is a prime astringent. They used her to stop bleeding, and she is very good at that indeed. Clues to her tightening tissues are there when you look at her flower head. These were the clues that native peoples used before modern science. You can easily see how tightly woven her flower buds are. It’s like a mat, woven to appear the threads are one entity. When you turn the yarrow flower head over, is when she reveals her secret. Many small stems from her main stalk lead to smaller stems that hold each individual flower. Her umbell flower head is stitched together, showing her ability to bring tissues bodily tissues together as one.
This word, astringent can be a confusing one. We are mostly familiar with tannins from Wine, or an under ripe Banana. Tannins, and astringency, are flavors that make you pucker as your mouth tissues tighten and feel dry. But astringent herbs are not drying per-sea. They are components of plants that tighten tissues. This truly is an absorbent effect to cell membranes where they appear to be loosing water. And yes, if used at inapropriate times, or in excess can dry a person out.
When astringents are applied correctly, like times of profuse bleeding, chronic diarreah, drippy orafices of the body. Astringents are very nourishing, strengthening and tonifying to our systems. They stop bleeding, relieve diarrhea and overly productive mucous membranes. This action will stop the threat of dehydration in the body, and help to strengthen these weak tissues.
Bodily Benefits of Astringency
Yarrow is also incredibly powerful to calming overly productive menstruation. My meaning of this is that your cycle may be producing heavy blood flow. And or may last too long. A word of caution is that this issue is something that I would like to see you working with a very well trained herbalist or naturopath. When working with your menstrual cycle you c an easily throw yourself too far on the other side of an issue. I have seen yarrow completely stop a menstural cycle. Even to the point of when I’ve harvested her, she has started or stopped my own cycle. Granted I again I’m very sensitive energetically especially to plants. But she has this power.
I’ve worked with lots of people who have used her when their own menses. Who feel they are over productive or that they have bled for too long. Again, to stress that if someone is chronically bleeding too much yarrow would be a great option. BUT please work with a competent herbalist in person for working with cycle flow.
Astringent herbs are ones who strengthen tissues that are too loose. And help to balance the over production of mucous membranes. This in a sense creates a tonic effect to these tissues. helping them to come back to a state of homeostasis where they are producing enough, and not too much. Creating a relaxing effect for a membrane that may be over worked. Or in-fact working a tissue that is under productive. Astringents and other herbal actions create very interesting dynamics. I recommend looking up Jim McDonald’s article on herbal actions. He discusses in great detail the back-and-forth healing modalities of these dynamic herbs.
Blood Flow in Wounds
So that’s a little bit of science, and here is some that crosses the threshold of folk herbalism. I also use a powder of yarrow flower and the leaf together and keep it in my backpack. This is easy to make and an excellent addition to Herbal First Aid Kits. Since I am in the backcountry a lot. Yarrow comes in great use, when dry as well as fresh. With her astringency and slightly antimicrobial effects. She is safe and effective to pack wounds with the poweder or fresh herb. If you or your hiking partner find yourselves in a situation where one of you is bleeding profusely from a wound. Go to your jar of Yarrow powder and pack it into the wound. You can wrap that up with gauze, and the bleeding will cease.
With a little help from our nervine friends, like Poplar Buds, or Pedicularis, or some Arnica. You should be able to address the pain, and walk out of your emergency situation. I have read of a man who cut himself severly with a chain saw. He was alone in the forest gathering wood for his stove. And he found himself in a solo survival situation. He had read of yarrow being effective in stopping blood flow. Happened to have some near by, and packed his wound with the leaves. He wrapped his leg in his shrit, and was able to WALK out of the situation to get to the Emergency Room.
These stories are amazing to me. Lots of times, they come from people who just read a tid-bit, have no formal training in herbalism. And are able to relieve themselves from sometimes deadly situations with a little help from our herbal friends. For the sake of preparedness. The yarrow flower and leaf powder is simple to make. Strip the leaves and the flower head after you have dried a bundle. Discard the main flower stalk, and put the leaves and flower head into your coffee grinder. I have one dedicated to herbs and the other for coffee.. Save a skin care jar, or the like, and put the powder into it. Keep it in your First Aid Kit in your backpack, and go to it when needed.
BITTERS are Better
Yup. Surprise, surprise here, right?! Yarrow is also a prime bitter herb. Continuing my path of Bitters are Better! Yarrow is very bitter to the taste receptors. A strong tea of the fresh or dried herb will encourage healthy digestion. Along with her astringency yarrow will calm diarrhea, and encourage a healthy production of enzymes, acids and assimilation of nutrients. When working with diarrhea, be sure to let it happen for a couple of days or so. There is usually a pathogen that the body is working on eliminating. B UT we do not want this issue to go on. Diarrhea can be incredibly dehydrating, and taxing on the gut’s immune and microbiome health.
Yarrow will help to dry up excess diarrhea, and her astringency will tighten the mucous membrane tissues of the gut. Remeber the key component of drinking lots of water in cases of acute diarrhea. If you are working on a situation of Chronic diarreah, tea is incredibly healing. However, I would rather you be drinking an enormous amount of water. Then applying the tea as an enima straight to the colon. This will be working on the injury site, and help to regain a balanced gut.
Yarrow, being incredibly bitter and astringent to diarrhea, she isn’t lovely to the palate. BUT is a great remedy for kids who are having cases of diarrhea. Simply make the tea, and mash up some Raspberries with Maple syrup. Add the RICH Yarrow tea to this paste and you won’t have an issue with your child eating it right up.
Spirit Medicine with Yarrow
The energetic properties of yarrow are a particular interest of mine. Mainly because she has helped me through many phases of my life. Some that have been incredibly a traumatic. Yarrow taught me how to protect my energy field. Yes from clients I was working with in private practice. But also from relationships in my personal life. Before the end of this phase, I seemed to justify incredibly toxic behavior towards me because of love. Yarrow saved me from a time when I was burnt down to embers. Resulting from a relationship that almost removed my existence from this planet.
I didn’t know that I could recover from this time. So I did what my green heart knew to do. I dove fully and completely into my herbal practice, study and work. During this time of recovery that took me months, I looked deeply into the shadows of my soul. I sifted through my issues, and came through stronger than I was before. I was empowered and couldn’t be stopped by external forces any more. Diving into my practice with meditation and the forest was what saved my life. Yarrow was one of the main herbs that I worked with during this time.
She inspired me to make a medicine pouch. I wove a this necklace and I would carry rose quartz, thuja, and a big umbel of yarrow. Earlier here, I talked about those tightly woven floral buds that yarrow houses. Her sweet white buds that are so tiny and so tightly woven together. This what she teaches you to do with your energy field. Yarrow is incredibly powerful to weaving your energy field so that it is protected. But not too tight as to cut you off completely from others. Just so that you are protected and know how to protect yourself. She helps you to recognize those who deserve your energy and love. And to sift through those to keep at arms distance or further from your life.
Yarrow teaches and an empathetic person to know these things. But still have healthy energetic boundaires that keep you compassionate and able to give. But will indeed keep your spirit protected. This is so you are not giving your entire being away to someone who doesn’t deserve any of it! And to be aware of those who might want to suck the light out of you.
She teaches you these things while also telling you that it is OK to create and stand by your boundaries. I feel that a lot of empaths feel guilty when they say No. When they keep someone at a distance. Always wanting to help everyone at every time. Yarrow shows you that you don’t have to do this. And you will indeed still be able to when the time and person is right. With these boundaries in-tact you will still be compassionate and empathetic. It will still be an ability to be sweet, and mindful, welcoming and supportive. You in your essence will not change.
Yarrow is the Spiritual Lifesaver
With these boundaries you will be able to stay vital yourself. This will be sure that you CAN help others to heal. In my life this realization, and education from Yarrow has been a huge gift. Before when I worked with people I would be exhausted and no sleep would rest me. Now I am able to give what I can and am able. Be a healer and stay vital for my personal life too. Yarrow has saved my spiritual body. She saved my heart and yarrow can give this gift to you as well.