A flowering plant in the Asteraceae family, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) can be found just about everywhere in North America as well as in Europe, Asia, New Zealand, and Australia.
This is a plant with a ton of benefits. Not only does it have medicinal properties, but it can be used in many different kitchen recipes – and even fed to livestock!
It is a plant of many names, including nosebleed plant, gordaldo, old man’s pepper, sanguinary, devil’s nettle, milfoil, soldier’s woundwort, thousand-seal, thousand-leaf, and many more. This perennial has so many benefits to consider!
No matter what you call it, yarrow has a ton of benefits. You can grow it in your own backyard – or even easier, forage for it whenever you find it growing in the wild! Fortunately, it’s a pretty easy plant to find.
Ready to learn more? Here are 14 reasons why you need yarrow in your life – and where to find it.
Are you thinking about growing yarrow in the garden – or trying to find some by foraging around your neighborhood? That’s a smart choice. Here are some more reasons to consider giving it a try today.
Growing Yarrow is Easy As Can Be
You can always grow your own yarrow, too. Doing so is easy and will add both ornamental and functional value to your garden.
If you grow your own yarrow, you will likely be growing a more “refined” cultivar such as:
- Red Beauty
- Red Velvet
- Cerise Queen
- Sonoma Coast
- Island Pink
- Galaxy series
These plants, for the most part, have been designed to serve as drought-tolerant lawn replacements, many of which have improved qualities like more vibrant colors (you can often find yarrow in shades of pink, red, and other colors besides just white).
Most varieties of yarrow grow best in zones 3 to 7. They prefer full sun and moist, fertile soil – but these hardy plants can grow just about anywhere. In fact, once established, they can become mildly invasive!
To prevent it taking over your yard, but to make sure you have enough to actually use, try planting it in a plastic kiddie pool with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage.
Harvesting Yarrow Can Be Done All Season
You can harvest the flowers when they are blooming, usually from June to September. If you live in a warmer climate, you may be able to harvest yarrow all year long!
To harvest, I simply cut the flower about 1 inch from the soil, with the leaves and all. Wash carefully and hang upside down to dry for 2-5 days. Once it’s completely dry, the uses for yarrow are nearly endless. I use it in a flu tea, a healing balm, and tincture form.
There Are So Many Great Yarrow Recipes!
This is great when you are feeling under the weather, but you need to use it as soon as you recognize symptoms to get the most benefit. It can help settle an upset stomach and supports your immune system in speeding healing.
Here are the ingredients:
- 3 parts red raspberry leaf
- 1 part nettle
- 1 part alfalfa
- 1 part mint
- 1/4 part yarrow
Mix the herbs together and store in an airtight jar. Use 2 T. per quart of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. Drain and sweeten as desired, preferably with raw honey. Drink hourly at onset of symptoms to help assist the body in healing..
Easy to make, and with the alcohol, it has a very long shelf life. I use it more often externally than internally, due to its ease of overuse. You CAN use it internally, but only for short periods of time.
You will need:
- 1/4 cup dried yarrow flowers
- 2 cups vodka
Pour vodka over flowers and allow to steep for 3-5 weeks. Strain herbs and compost. Soak a gauze pad in tincture and place directly on veins to help assist in shrinking. 3-5 drops of tincture can be used for indigestion, but only for SHORT periods of time.
Just one note about this tincture. Use it in moderation. Overuse may put a strain on your liver, or may cause sensitivity to sunlight in some individuals. It is NOT for use by pregnant women. You can also make a safe liniment for varicose veins. Get the recipe from Nerdy Farm Wife.
It Has Lots of Medicinal Benefits
Yarrow is an important medicinal plant with different pharmaceutical uses.
It has been used for centuries to treat various diseases including malaria, hepatitis and jaundice, and is commonly prescribed to treat liver disorders.
It is also used as an anti-inflammatory agent, and is a hepatoprotective herb.(Hepatoprotection or anti hepatotoxicity anti hepatotoxicity is the ability to prevent damage to the liver. This damage is known as hepatotoxicity.)
Considered safe for supplemental use, it has antihepatotoxic effects also and has been prescribed as an astringent agent.
It is also prescribed in hemorrhoids, headache, bleeding disorders, bruises, cough, influenza, pneumonia, kidney stones, high blood pressure, menstrual disorders, fever, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteoarthritis, hemorrhagic disorders, chicken pox, cystitis, diabetes mellitus, indigestion, dyspepsia, eczema, psoriasis and boils.
So, it’s easy to see why you need to have this important herb in your natural “medicine” cabinet.
Yarrow is a Food Species for Animals
Yarrow is a food species for many types of birds, insects, and animals. It is a valuable companion plant, attracting all kinds of beneficial insects while also repelling more dangerous pests.
It Can Combat Soil Erosion
In some places, yarrow is used to combat soil erosion. Yarrow has super strong, vigorous rhizomes, which can be helpful if you are in need of soil stabilization. It can be grown on banks and slopes, making it helpful to keep soil in place so it doesn’t wash away.
That said, yarrow grows aggressively, so if you aren’t sure whether you want it around for the long-term, you may want to be cautious about where you plant it. It can be tough to get rid of!
Can Be Used as Livestock Feed
It is used as food not just for us (it is delicious as a tea and herbal tincture) but also as livestock feed. One word of caution – if you feed yarrow to your cows, you’ll likely find that the milk has an off flavor. It shouldn’t be fed to horses, either, as it can be toxic to them.
In addition to feeding yarrow to livestock (domestic sheep and goats get the most forage value from arrow), it can also be eaten by wildlife like sage grouse, bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope. Therefore, by growing it, you are also doing your part to support local wildlife!
Yarrow is Great for Disturbed Sites
If you recently had a construction project on your farm or otherwise want to reclaim vegetation on distributed sites, yarrow is an excellent choice. It can add species diversity in native seed mixtures while also helping to improve places like roadsides, rangelands, parks, and more.
It Attracts Pollinators
When grown in your garden or backyard, yarrow is great at attracting pollinators. It is easy to care for and provides a natural, attractive appeal to your garden while also bringing in hordes of bees, butterflies, and other pieces.
If you grow a vegetable garden (or really, a garden of any kind), you can’t go wrong by keeping some yarrow nearby.
It Can Relieve a Toothache
We already touched on many of Yarrow’s medicinal benefits above. However, it’s important to note that it can also be used to relieve a sore mouth. Just chew on a few leaves, and you should find that your toothache goes away quickly due to yarrow’s analgesic properties.
It Mines Nutrients
If you’re growing a garden, you may find that the soil has plenty of nutrients – but they’re deep underground where your plants can’t easily reach them. Using a plant that mines nutrients, like yarrow, is a smart choice.
It will help draw up all kinds of vital nutrients, including potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and more to the surface of the soil, making these key nutrients more accessible for other plants. Yarrow can also be used as a mulch.
Some studies even suggest that yarrow has the ability to mine copper from the subsoil, which is an important micronutrient for plant growth. It’s also helpful when amending acidic soils.
Yarrow can even help clean up lead-contaminated soil because lead concentrates in the plants, you can dig up the yarrow at the end of the season and discard it if lead poisoning is a concern.
It Can Be Used as a Fertilizer
You can even use yarrow to make a natural fertilizer tea. This tea can be applied as a soil conditioner to improve the quality of your soil before you plant. How cool is that?
It is Great For Xeriscaping
If you live in an area that’s prone to drought, you may be interested in learning how xeriscaping can help you make the most of your landscape.
Yarrow is one plant that’s excellent for xeriscaping, which involves using hardscaping elements or alternative plants (rather than lawn grass) to grow a gorgeous landscape.
Yarrow is Great for Flower Arrangements
Move over, baby’s breath. Yarrow is a superior choice when it comes to cut flowers for vases and bouquets. There are so many different lovely varieties that you’re sure to find one that you fall in love with.
Yarrow: The All Purpose Edible Herb!
Although I didn’t go into too much detail in this article about growing yarrow, you should have all the information you need to successfully forage for this wild herb in your own backyard.
As for growing it goes, the less fuss, the better. This is truly a “plant and forget” kind of herb – so you can focus more on foraging for it and less on growing it. It can take care of itself!
Now that you know why you need yarrow, the only thing left is the how – so start growing it today!
Do you use yarrow? What are your favorite uses for it? Be sure to pin this for later!
last update: November 19th 2021 by Rebekah Pierce
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.