The combination of blazing sunshine and intense rain has encouraged an abundance of vibrant yarrow in the Wairarapa. So I thought I’d take the hint from mother nature and make January the month of yarrow!
How to recognise Yarrow
Yarrow or Achillea millefolium is known by many and is a particular favourite of mine. She’s a useful herbal ally to know. As with many botanical names, the clue is in the name.
Named for the Greek warrior Achilles who was said to use it on his soldiers to staunch their bleeding wounds. Achillea millefolium was once known as Herba militaris (the herb of the soldier) in honour of this very important action.
The second part of its name, millefolium, literally means a million leaves. And it is the fine, feathery, fern-like leaves which alternate along the stem that make yarrow so distinctive.
Massey University provides a very useful description of this plant.
It’s often found as a low lying plant embedded in your lawn (look for those distinctive leaves). If left to her own devices, she will lift up her head and grow to 20 – 120cm in height. So please do leave a patch unmowed in the corner of your lawn. This is when she forms the distinctive head of individual flowers. Rather cleverly, she reproduces via the rhizome within the ground as well as by pollination. A variety of butterflies, wasps, flies and bees use this plant as sources of nectar and pollen.
The whole plant can be used, the leaves and flowers are more commonly used. I’ll be talking more about the traditional and scientific uses in later posts.
This herb is a member of the daisy or asteraceae family so can trigger allergies in people who are sensitive to this family. Also, take care when taking this herb internally, particularly if pregnant, as yarrow is an emmenagogue. Emmenagogues can increase blood flow to the pelvic area.