An amazing tea that can help with colds and flu, and also help you see in pure colour. Yarrow has an ancient history. The generic name comes from Achilles who, according to legend, saved the lives of his warriors by healing their wounds with yarrow leaves. Crushed and rolled in the hands the plant provides a temporary styptic to check blood flow. Millefolium means ‘thousand leaves’ which were reputed to help with binding a wound and helping a scab to form. One of this astringent herb’s ancient names is ‘Soldier’s Woundwort’, along with ‘Carpenter’s Weed’, ‘Staunchweed’ and others that show its popularity and prolonged use over many centuries.
The herb tea has also been used in the past for stimulating appetite, helping stomach cramps, flatulence, gastritis, enteritis, gallbladder and liver problems and internal haemorrhage – particularly of the lungs. It’s effect is described as ‘diaphoretic’, causing the dilation of surface capillaries and helping poor circulation. The promotion of sweating can be useful for fevers and colds. Yarrow mixed with Elderflower and Peppermint (sometimes Boneset) is an old remedy for colds. A decoction of yarrow has been used for all sorts of external wounds and sores from chapped skin or sore nipples. In China Yarrow is still considered to have sacred properties, readers of the I Ching will often use Yarrow stalks in their studies.
There is one danger to overuse of yarrow internally: prolonged use of this tea may render the skin sensitive to exposure to light. It is this ‘side effect’ that shows that Yarrow tea has some mild psychotropic effect. A couple of cups of this tea and you may notice a shift in the colour and intensity of light around you. For artists or photographers this photosensitiser can sometimes provide a useful shift in perception. However, another name attributed to Yarrow is ‘Devil’s Plaything’ – one suspects that this name was given to several herbs used by the witches or ‘Wise Women’ who were systematically exterminated in the middle-ages in Europe.
Yarrow leaves have also been used in tobacco or snuff mixtures and a decoction rubbed into the head is said to delay balding. To make Yarrow tea add two or three fresh or dried leaves per person to boiling water and leave to infuse for 5 minutes or so. Sweeten this with honey if you like. Some people like it with a slice of lemon to give this tisane a clean edge.