Yarrow is a powerful edible and medicinal herb commonly found in the United States and temperate climates all over the world. It’s most often found in gardens, meadows, fields, forest edges, and disturbed areas.
Yarrow (Archillea millefolium) can be found year-round in temperate climates. The white, flower bunches can be found late spring or summer depending on the climate, but you can still find this plant easily when not in bloom. It’s a perennial plant in the Asteraceae family. The leaves are little bit like carrot, except more finely toothed and more delicate, soft to the touch. When crushed, it gives off a pleasant aroma. The entire plant can be eaten and used to flavor food and also used medicinally.
Warning: Yarrow should not be used by pregnant women internally. It can increase the risk of miscarriage. Externally should not cause any harm.
Leaves: The leaves are little bit like carrot, except more finely toothed and more delicate, soft like a feather. When crushed, it gives off a pleasant aroma. The entire plant can be eaten and used to flavor food and also used medicinally.
Flower: Normally white, though cultivated varieties can have orange, pink, or red flowers. Tiny flowers in wide, almost flat bunches. Great flower for pollinators.
Stems: Tiny hairs on the stem. Indented.
Smell: When I first started learning about yarrow, I would depend heavily on the smell to verify it. The smell is very sweet and pleasing. Most people say it’s a bit like pine needles.
Yarrow is most potent when harvest fresh, but can be dried as well. Just tie a bundle of yarrow together and hang it up in your house.
Spring is the best time for harvesting for medicinal purposes because of the new growth. In warm climates, year round harvesting is fine.
If you aren’t harvesting in your own yard or a friends’ yard, remember to make sure you’re allowed to harvest there. Many parks don’t allow any harvesting of wild plants at all. Also, since this plant is very low to the ground, washing it is a must.
The flowers of elderberry look very similar to yarrow and are also blooming at exactly the same time, at least where I live in Virginia. Elderberry is a shrub though that can grow to be much taller, has very different leaves, and it won’t have the pine smell when crushed.
Here’s more about Elderberry: How to Forage for Elderberry
Queen Anne’s Lace
Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) is an edible look alike to yarrow. It is also called wild carrot. The flowers a somewhat similar to yarrow, but have a black dot in the center normally and a carrot smell.
Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) is highly toxic and looks slightly similar. After experience, however, you won’t confuse these two plants. In the beginning, be sure to smell yarrow to memorize the smell. Also, remember that a poison hemlock stem is covered in reddish or purple spots and 3 to 4 times larger than yarrow and much wider with multiple branches as well. .
Edible Uses of Yarrow
Yarrow can have a bitter flavor, but the young leaves will be less so.
You can chop it finely and add it to a salad with mostly chickweed for a delicious salad.
Medicinal Uses of Yarrow
Yarrow is antiseptic, astringent, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory, which makes is valuable for many conditions. It’s great in an herbal salve for minor cuts and scrapes.
One of the most valuable uses is that it can help blood coagulate when used as a poultice or ground into a styptic powder from the dried leaves. Historians say this was used during the Civil War to stop bleeding on the battlefield.
Yarrow tea or a yarrow bath can help lower your temperature when you have a fever.
Yarrow can be beneficial for the reproductive system by improving circulation and balancing a woman’s monthly cycle and regulating menstruation.
It can help the digestive system as well.
Yarrow tea can be used to fight urinary tract infections since it is a strong diuretic.
Strong yarrow tea is bitter but you can may a yarrow tincture instead.
Here’s a neat, microwavable teapot you can use to speed up your homemade brews: