June Blooms: Yarrow
June blooms are a joyful extension of color on the headlands as spring’s flush of wildflowers succumb to summer’s tawny dry days. Yarrow is one such flower growing out of a basal rosette of feathery leaves, hidden in the ever-taller grasses. Achillea millefolium, is in the sunflower family and found wild throughout the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The name millefolium describes its “thousand leaves”, while yarrow’s head is comprised of tiny white to pink flowers that clump umbrella-like on its sturdy stalk. The auspicious name Achillea refers to the legendary warrior Achilles who used yarrow as a field dressing for his soldiers’ wounds in the Trojan War. Also called milfoil, this plant has long been a favorite backyard medicine for nosebleeds by rolling the fresh leaves and packing then up one’s nose. If you use power tools, garden tools and kitchen knives, yarrow is ready first-aid to help quell bleeding and begin to reduce swelling until you get further treatment. The fresh flower heads and upper leaves can be cleaned and crushed to make a paste and wrapped tight on a washed gash for accelerated healing.
Yarrow stands knee high on its strong stalk which was traditionally used (forty-nine of them) to consult the ancient I Ching Chinese oracle, instead of a set of three coins commonly used today. The plant’s sturdiness is a signature for the strengthening effect yarrow tea or tincture has on blood vessels and moving circulation to places that aren’t getting it. Indeed, it is used to treat Raynaud’s syndrome, blood clots, varicose veins, bleeding hemorrhoids, colitis and high blood pressure. Yarrow is a famous fever herb, specific for when skin feels hot and dry, because it will promote perspiration that moves heat out of the body.
Our coastal yarrow is especially aromatic in volatile oils that stimulate secretions of the respiratory and digestive tract. To that end, the flower-tops an be used in steams and nasal washes for clearing sinus passages and opening the lungs. These same oils help move congestion from the liver so yarrow is often included in teas and cordials to calm indigestion. Finally, yarrow flower essence has been used for decades as a powerful remedy for emotional and energetic protection – something you might feel as you walk past its bright glow.