Herb – Yarrow
Continuing the series with a wonderful “old standby” herb, but again one I feel is underused in animal herbalism – yarrow! This is a common “weed” that grows everywhere, so one virtue is availability, for sure. An important herb in human herbal medicine, I make much use of it with dogs and cats as well. The type I use is the wild variety, not the multi-coloured ornamental type – in a pinch you can purchase it online from any good supplier like Mountainrose or Frontier herbs. But once you have learned to recognize yarrow, and find an appropriate source to wildcraft from (in other words away from industrial areas, railroad tracks, anywhere sprayed with herbicide) you will find yourself using it on a regular basis. So what to do with the incredibly versatile yarrow? Read on.
Common name: Yarrow
Parts used: aerial parts, flower and leaf
Forms: Tincture of fresh or dried flower; water infusion of dried flower; also oil infusion/salve and compress or poultice
Clinical Actions: diaphoretic, hypotensive, astringent, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, antispasmodic, antimicrobial, bitter tonic
Primary Uses– Internal: fever, flu, colds, urinary tract infection, hypotensive (lowers blood pressure) useful for uterine hemorrhage, diarrhea, dysentery , colitis and in formula to help expel intestinal parasites,styptic
External: anti-infective/antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, insect repellant – use for cuts and wounds (flush with strong infusion, or add tincture to water and compress) to staunch bleeding (powder, poultice) or to flush wounds (diluted tincture or tea)
Cautions and Contraindications: Yarrow is overwhelmingly safe, but may cause allergic reaction in those sensitive to Asteraceae family plants. Test with one or two drops first.
I use yarrow in a number of ways, but the most common external use is probably as an anti-infective agent, so I might use a compress made with strong infusion, topically, in an infected bite, scratch or other wound, or better yet preventively, before infection sets in. Tincture added to spray bottle can help repel insects, or infuse in apple cider vinegar for 6 weeks to make a potent spray. Yarrow is always in my traveling first aid kit, both the dried herb and a tincture. Dried herb (whole or powdered) is an effective styptic for bleeding (one older name for yarrow is Soldier’s woundwort, and it takes it’s botanical name from the Greek hero Achilles, hence the Achillea). Think about yarrow with any kind of skin inflammation or infection, including hot spots.
Internally, yarrow is often a part of formulations I make for dogs with some form of internal bleeding. Yarrow is an important vascular tonic and dilator, which means, basically, that it can both strengthen blood vessels and increase circulation to the extremities. Yarrow is useful for bladder infections and as part of any formula for respiratory conditions such as kennel cough. There is promising research with regard to potential anti tumour activity as well.
Inexpensive, accessible and very effective medicine for a wide range of uses. A full monograph with the Practial Herbalism course. 🙂