Monday, 3 August 2009

Where to start? Yarrow I think.

I have SO much to catch up on over this summer without broadband, it will be almost impossible. So posts for the next few weeks will probably be very random. I will begin with the most recent photograph i took, which is the one of Yarrow growing beside the River Dart in Postbridge yesterday afternoon. Sadly we only had a couple of hours on the moor, on our way home between the New Forest and following a family get together.

Yaarrow grows in poorish soil and is often found on dry verges. I remember it well along the edge of the wild half of our garden in Southampton when I was growing up, with Toadflax for company. Of course it has a cultivated version in various hues to grow in the garden. Its country names were Devil's Nettle and Devil's Plaything, following a connection with a witch's incantations and trial in the 17th century. Some folk made it into Snuff, hence it's other name of Old Man's Pepper.

The Latin name of Achillea stems from it being used to treat the Greek warrior Achilles, as it is famus for its wound healing and blood-staunching properties. He in turn used it to heal the wounds of his compatriots. Country names suggesting this are Soldier's Woundwort, Herbe Militaris, Bloodwort, Sanguinary and Staunchweed. It was also used for promotion of sweating as it is a strong febrifuge. Gypsies would stuff the leaves up the noses of any feverish animals to promote a nosebleed and lessening of fever. Presumably one nostril would be left clear for them to breath! It was also used to treat earache, a wad of the soft leaves crushed and warmed being placed against the affected ear.

There were many superstitions abut the Yarrow including the one that yarrow could provide a glimpse of a future sweetheart. This involved sewing some yarrow in a scrap of cloth and putting it under your pillow, when of course you would dream of the man you would marry . . .

Many thanks to Pamela Michael's "A Country Harvest" and Juliette de Bairacli Levy's "The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable."


  1. Yarrow is familiar from childhood on, growing on roadsides and in clumps at the edge of pastures. I didn't know the other folk names. I had several handsome patches of the deep gold garden cultivar and had raised from seed some of the newer colorful hybrids. I like the astringent smell of the foliage. Yarrow does grow among the roadside weeds in Wyoming---rather stunted by drought. The deer don't seem to care for it.

  2. I love yarrow especially the pink version and know it as a healing herb. Glad your posts are back again.