Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mama's Herb Cabinet: Yarrow

According to some herbalists, Yarrow is the one herb you should always have on hand. If your herb cupboard is bare, at least find some yarrow, in some form.

The plant is extremely versatile, and has been shown to have at least a minor effect on nearly every organ in the body. Historically and around the world, Yarrow was known as the Warrior's Herb, able to staunch bleeding in the heat of battle (aka, quickly) and fight off infection. The native Americans used this herb for everything from burns, to toothaches, bad moods, and the common cold. Chinese folklore holds that Yarrow represents the perfect balance of Yin and Yang, and used the herb for protection against evil.

Most notable, is Yarrow's ability to saturate the bloodstream. Interestingly, Chinese lore nailed it. Some have called this herb the great "Master of Blood", because once in the bloodstream, yarrow has the curious effect of doing whatever it needs to. Thin, coagulate, boost the immune, target disease, relax, tone...it balances. Yin and Yang. :)

A dissection of the plant's properties reveals how this flower works it's magic:

"The volatile oils work as antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and diuretic agents. The tannins are aggressive astringents. The alkaloids are both hypotensive and hypoglycemic. Yarrow even has coumarin in its cells which works as an anti-thrombotic to reduce high blood pressure. The bitter compounds that the tongue detects are due to flavonoids such as saponins and unpleasant tasting but powerful alkaloids like achilleine, trigonelline and betonicine. These are the secrets to yarrow's actions in the digestive system, tissues and the blood stream." Sue Sierralupe, Certified Master Herbalist, Yarrow: The Wound Healer

No wonder it's held in such esteem.

Traditionally in my home we have used Yarrow Tincture at the onset of any sickness, or if we knew we were about to be exposed. As long as we took our doses like we were supposed to, we stayed healthy. I remember the gleefully lofty looks reserved for the child who'd refused their tincture and was now suffering from a cold or such, and  was now restricted from all sorts of yummy things. Like sugar. And fun. They'd successfully avoided the miserably bitter dose, but we got to eat our dessert.

Out of curiosity, mainly (Since I don't need convincing-- I know it works!) I went searching for some actual scientific proof that Yarrow combats and prevents the many winter woes that plague us. I gave a little victory dance when I found this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21821943 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17704978.

For years, my mom has been telling us that Yarrow is specifically, and strongly effective against viruses. Most of my research was finding that yarrow is historically used externally for accelerated healing, and internally for minor colds and sinus problems -- yet I knew the herb was excellent in warding off, lessening, and curing tough colds, viruses, etc. The research posted in the links I provided above indicates that components of Yarrow will "prevent the growth and spread of malignant cells into surrounding tissues". Essentially, stop a sickness in it's tracks. And now, scientists are evaluating it's work against cancer.

I'm a little excited.

Here are some of the ways I've been successfully using yarrow with Erin, and Ben. I've used both the tincture and the tea with great results. It's kind of come down to what I can afford and have available at the time.

Yarrow Tincture/Glycerite

Enough yarrow plant (Flowers, stem and leaves. Fresh or dried) to fill a glass jar
Vodka, vinegar, or glycerin
Dark cupboard, or something to keep light from your jar

Lightly pack your container with yarrow. Completely cover with Vodka, vinegar or glycerin. Store in dark cupboard, or in the sun for 2-4 weeks. You may shake the jar occasionally, if you like. Be sure to either paint your jar or cover with something to keep sunlight from damaging your tincture if you are setting your container in the sun. strain, and store in a dark, cool place.

(Yarrow tincture can be purchased online or in some stores, but it's a little pricey.)

Yarrow Tea

2 Tbs Yarrow (dried or fresh)
2 cups boiling water

Pour boiling water over yarrow, and cover. Let steep for 5-10 minutes then strain. Drink hot, as needed.

Uses

Pick me up: My husband recently returned from a tiring trip. He came home exhausted, completely unprepared for the week ahead. I fixed him up some yarrow, and after a short nap he was refreshed, ready to tackle life again. In fact he stayed up way to late having fun, and was still chipper and positive the next morning.

Immune Booster: As soon as you realize you have been exposed to a sickness or feel like you might be having symptoms, begin taking yarrow internally. The number one rule with this herb is AGGRESSIVE treatment. Take it frequently, and consistently until the danger is past. If you ignore this rule, you will not get the benefits you are looking for.

Rash: After contracting a persistent rash from a neighbor child, Erin was fussy and uncomfortable. I was distressed, and about ready to go to a doctor when I was told that Yarrow is excellent for all kinds of rashes. Before each nap (Erin was taking 3-4 a day at that time) I stripped her down and spread Yarrow tincture over her rash. Amazingly, her rash disappeared  and did not come back. All the other treatments I had tried were either to messy to use consistently, or only temporarily useful.

Please take a moment to browse this site for some precautions regarding the medicinal use of this herb: http://www.umm.e du/altmed/articles/yarrow-000282.htm