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Yarrow Plant: A Resilient and Versatile Herbal Remedy

Did you know that the yarrow plant (Achillea millefolium) is a hardy perennial that can grow up to 3 feet tall and thrives in various regions across the United States? This resilient herb is not only visually stunning with its fern-like green foliage and vibrant flowers ranging from white to red, yellow, and gold, but it also boasts an impressive array of medicinal properties. Use this guide to learn how to cultivate yarrow to benefit both your health and your garden.

Yarrow plants

Why I Love Yarrow

I love using herb medicine at home (If you’re new to herbal remedies, I recommend checking out this post on how to start using medicinal herbs). I’ve been growing medicinal herbs in my cottage garden for years, creating many herbal remedies for my homemade first-aid kit.

Yarrow is one such plant that I’ll grow forever and is at the top of my list for one of the first medicinal herbs you should grow. It’s fantastic for its wound-healing abilities and is the main ingredient in my homemade antibiotic ointment. It’s also one of the herbs to use in an emergency until help arrives for its ability to stop bleeding.

If you want to grow a cottage garden filled with herbs, yarrow should definitely be on your list. Once you get it planted, check out these other medicinal herbs and their uses to fill your garden.

It’s important to note that I am not a certified medical practitioner. This post is not intended to diagnose or treat but is for informational purposes only. Please contact your healthcare professional before introducing new herbal and natural remedies into your wellness routine.

What Is the Yarrow Plant

The yarrow plant, scientifically known as Achillea millefolium, is also known as common yarrow or milfoil. It is a perennial herb native to temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia.

The yarrow plant has been used in traditional herbal medicine for centuries, with evidence of its use dating back to ancient Greek and Roman civilizations.

The plant’s scientific name, Achillea millefolium, is derived from the Greek hero Achilles, who is said to have used the plant to treat the wounds of his soldiers during the Trojan War. This long-standing history of medicinal use has contributed to the plant’s enduring reputation as a valuable herb.

Yarrow is a resilient perennial plant that also benefits the garden thanks to its deer-resistant qualities and low-maintenance nature. Its distinctive green foliage and fern-like leaves are complemented by clusters of small, daisy-like flowers that bloom in a range of colors that also attract beneficial pollinators.

Colorful yarrow flowers.

Varieties of Yarrow

If you are fortunate to live in an area where you can forage for wild herbs, you might just find yarrow growing wild right in your own backyard. Wild yarrow typically blooms in white and sometimes a pale pink color.

Don’t despair if wild yarrow is not readily available. Yarrow seeds are easy to find, and the plant is relatively easy to grow. While cultivated yarrow comes in a variety of colors that are visually appealing, it is generally recommended to plant the white or pale pink yarrow when used for medicinal purposes.

Does the Yarrow Plant Spread

As a rhizomatous perennial, the yarrow plant has a tendency to spread through its underground stems or rhizomes. This can lead to the plant becoming invasive in certain garden settings if not properly managed. The yarrow plant is also known to self-seed, further contributing to its ability to spread and potentially take over areas of your garden.

To maintain control over the yarrow plant’s growth, it’s important to be proactive in your garden management. Regular division of the plant’s clumps can help contain its spread, as can deadheading the flowers before they go to seed. Another management tool for yarrow is to consider growing in pots (and you can learn how to winterize your plants in pots here).

Dried yarrow bunch on a wooden counter.

Health Benefits of Yarrow Plant

The yarrow plant has a long history of use in herbal medicine and can even be used in herbal medicine for farm animals. Today, the plant continues to be valued for its remarkable health benefits, which include:

  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties – Yarrow’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a valuable ally in addressing a variety of inflammatory conditions. The plant’s active compounds, such as sesquiterpene lactones and flavonoids, have been shown to effectively reduce inflammation, making it a natural choice for managing conditions like arthritis, muscle soreness, and even certain skin irritations. (Source)
  • Wound Healing Abilities – The compound achillein in yarrow is known to help stop bleeding, making it a go-to choice for treating cuts, scrapes, and even more serious wounds. (Source)
  • Digestive Aid – The plant’s bitter compounds can stimulate the production of digestive juices, while its anti-spasmodic effects can help soothe the gastrointestinal tract, making it a valuable ally in addressing issues like bloating, indigestion, and even mild digestive disorders. (Source)
Yarrow growing in the garden with a sign.

How to Grow Yarrow

Cultivating yarrow in your garden is simple. However, to make sure your yarrow thrives, it’s essential to understand the plant’s ideal growing conditions and planting techniques.

Planting Yarrow

  • Sun – Yarrow thrives in full sun conditions, so be sure to plant it in an area that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Soil – The yarrow plant prefers well-draining, nutrient-rich soil with a pH ranging from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. Homesteading Hack: You can test your soil’s pH before planting for the best results. If needed, amend the soil with organic matter, such as compost, to improve its fertility and drainage. 
  • Seeds – To plant yarrow seeds, simply scatter them on the surface of the soil and lightly press them in. Yarrow seeds shouldn’t be planted too deep, as they need light to germinate. After sowing, water the area gently to ensure the seeds make good contact with the soil.
  • Seedlings – You can alternately start your seeds indoors and learn when to pot up seedlings before planting them in the ground. If starting yarrow seeds indoors, sow them in seed trays or containers several weeks before the last expected frost date in your area. Once the seedlings have developed a few sets of true leaves, they can be transplanted into the garden, taking care to harden them off gradually to acclimate them to the outdoor conditions. 
  • Companion Planting – Yarrow will deter pests and attract pollinators; making it a good companion plant when you grow basil, oregano, and thyme.

Caring for Your Yarrow Plant

Caring for the yarrow plant is relatively straightforward, as it is a low-maintenance and drought-tolerant perennial. Here are some key tips for ensuring the health and longevity of your yarrow plants:

  • Watering – Yarrow is a drought-tolerant plant, so it doesn’t require frequent watering. Water your plants only when the soil is dry to the touch, typically every 7-10 days. Homesteading Hack: You can check out our garden watering strategies for more tips on properly watering a garden.
  • Deadheading – Regular deadheading, or the removal of spent flowers, will encourage the yarrow plant to produce more blooms throughout the growing season.
  • Dividing – Every 2-3 years, you can divide your yarrow plants to rejuvenate them and prevent overcrowding.
  • Pests and Diseases – Yarrow is generally resistant to pests, but it can be susceptible to powdery mildew. Keep an eye out for any signs of disease and treat accordingly.
Fresh picked yarrow on a wooden counter.

Harvesting and Storing Yarrow

Proper harvesting and storage of the yarrow plant (Achillea millefolium) are essential to preserve its medicinal properties for use in herbal remedies, essential oils, and culinary applications. Here’s a guide on when to harvest your yarrow and how to properly dry and preserve this versatile herb:

  • Timing – The best time to harvest yarrow is during the plant’s flowering season, typically in the late spring or early summer. This is when the plant’s medicinal properties are at their peak, and the essential oils that give yarrow its distinctive aroma are most concentrated. Aim to harvest the flowers and upper leaves, cutting the stems just above the ground level.
  • Preserving – After harvesting, it’s important to properly dry and preserve your yarrow to maintain its medicinal properties and essential oils. (You can also freeze-dry your herbs if you have a freeze dryer.)
  • Storing – Once the yarrow is fully dried, you can store the leaves and flowers in airtight containers, such as glass jars or resealable bags. Keep the containers in a cool, dark place to protect the essential oils and medicinal properties of the yarrow. Properly stored, dried yarrow can be used for a variety of herbal remedies and culinary purposes throughout the year.
Jars of dried herbs on a counter.

Using Herbal Medicine

The yarrow plant is a true botanical treasure, and exploring the medicinal uses of the yarrow plant offers a wealth of opportunities for natural health and wellness.

If you’d like to learn more about using herbal medicine, the Herbal Medicine Cabinet: Colds and Flu class is designed to equip you with the knowledge you need to confidently use simple herbs to safely, naturally and effectively treat you and your family.

With a recent update to include flu and flu-like viruses, you will have answers to questions like…

  • Which herbs are you supposed to use for various illnesses?
  • Where do you find the best quality herbal medicines?
  • Are all herbs safe to treat your family with?
  • And so much more!

Sign up for instant access, and get started on your natural wellness journey today!

FAQ

What is the yarrow plant?

The yarrow plant, scientifically known as Achillea millefolium, is a perennial herb native to temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. It has a long history of use in herbal medicine, with roots tracing back to ancient Greek and Roman civilizations.

What are the health benefits of the yarrow plant?

The yarrow plant has a long history of use in herbal medicine, with its medicinal properties recognized by ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Today, the plant continues to be valued for its remarkable health benefits, which include anti-inflammatory properties, wound healing abilities, and digestive aid.

How can I use the yarrow plant?

The yarrow plant is a remarkably versatile herb with a wide range of uses. From culinary applications, such as using the leaves in teas or as a seasoning, to remedies, including herbal tinctures, salves, and compresses, the yarrow plant offers a wealth of opportunities for those interested in natural health and wellness.

Does the yarrow plant spread?

One of the key considerations when growing the yarrow plant is its tendency to spread. The yarrow plant is a rhizomatous perennial, meaning it can spread via underground stems or rhizomes. This can result in the plant spreading and potentially becoming invasive in certain garden settings, so it’s important to be mindful of its growth and take steps to contain it if necessary.

Two girls in a cottage garden holding a butterfly.
A man and wife smiling.

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