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Yarrow

Yarrow

Linda Hogan -Chickasaw
"Calling Myself Home"
There were old women who live on amber.
Their dark hands
laced the shells of turtles
together, pebbles inside
and they danced
with rattles strong on their legs.
There is a dry river
between the mandus.
its banks divide up our land.
Its bed was the road
I walked to return.
We are plodding creatures
like the turtle
Born of an old people.
We are nearly stone
turning slow as the earth.
Our mountains are underground
they are so old.
This land is the house we have always lived in.
The women,
their bones are holding up the earth.
The red tail of a hawk
cuts open the sky
and the sun
brings their faces back
with the new grass.
Dust from yarrow
is in the air,
the yellow sun.
Insects are clicking again.
I come back to say good-bye
to the turtle
to those bones
to the shells locked together
on his back,
gold atoms dancing underground.
http://www.snowwowl.com/histswritnawomen.html

Dear Friends-
Suzanne and I send our kind greetings with hopes that you may all be enjoying the company of family and friends as the Winter Soltice approaches.
Interspersed with the Aromatic Database Newsletters will be a number of other newsletters highlighting some special topic. Todays is on Achillea/Milfoil/Yarrow.
This wonderful plant is found growing wild extensively throughout the world and the cultivated varieties are great favorites in home gardens. Here on the Olympic Pensinsula the wild growing white flowered Achillea millifolium displays its great tenacity, power and vigor in that one can still find it sporadically blooming in the midst of December. This area was once solely populated by the Native American people and was an important part of their traditions as it was amongst many tribes throughout North America. A few of its key uses amongs the Native Americans are highlighted below.

History of Yarrow (information contained in this article regarding therapeutic use of the plant is for cultural interest only and is not intended as a recommendation for treatment of ailments and diseases)
The aroma of smoldering Yarrow or a decoction poured on hot stones was used by Native American Shaman to ward off evil spirits and revive those in comas. It is one of the plants used to protect one who was to walk on hot coals or otherwise be exposed to great heat. It seems it was used both internally and externally for such a purpose. Some tribes smoked the dried flower heads for ceremonial events

It was also used to quell the flow of blood for everything from deep gashes to arrow and/or spear wounds. The leaves were soaked in water and packed into the nostril(s) to stem the flow of nosebleeds. Yarrow leaves were boiled by both Native Americans and early settlers to create a wash for eyes irritated from dust, glare and snow blindness. The same wash was used as a fever wash and was applied to areas suffering painful, persistent itching such as from poison ivy or poison oak. A poultice of bruised Yarrow leaves was laid over or bound to the forehead to ease headache. The mashed leaves were also inserted into the outer ear to relieve earache pain. Native Americans also favored Yarrow baths for the treatment of arthritis.
http://www.ionxchange.com/species_pages/a/achillea_millifolia.html

Used sparringly as a potherb.
Known as the 'life medicine' to the Navaho, used as astringent, salve, and easer of toothaches. For earaches Indians poured into the ears an infusion made from the tops of yarrow.
The flowers produces a light green dye.
http://www.nativetech.org/plantgath/yarrow.htm
  
These quiet and unassuming members of the botanical community have a unique beauty and charm when we stop to admire their simple ways. One of the gifts which Yarrow possesses is its ethereal volatile oil distilled from its flowers.

The oil distilled from the wild growing white flowered variety of Achillea millifolium ranges in color from white to green to blue depending on the area in which it grows, the technique of distillation etc.
Recently I obtained a wonderful oil from organicall grown Bulgarian Yarrow/Milfoil which has a fine light blue color. It has a soft, sweet rounded herbaceous bouquet with delicate hay like notes. It has a wonderful depth to it. The soft sweetness draws one into its aromtic heart in a most charming way. Those interested in this lovely oil can find it under Yarrow on the web site.

Following is a bit more information on Yarrow which I hope all of you will enjoy.

"Forgive me," said the Harvester gently. "Just now I am collecting catnip for the infant and nervous people, hoarhound for colds and dyspepsia, boneset heads and flowers for the same purpose. There is a heavy head of white bloom with wonderful lacy leaves, called yarrow. I take the entire plant for a tonic and blessed thistle leaves and flowers for the same purpose."

The Harvester-Gene Porter-Stratton

Description
A native perennial upright, aromatic herb, with tough, erect, furrowed woody stems up to 50cm high, growing from a creeping rhizome. The finely-divided alternate leaves are 5-12cm long, bi- and tri-pinnate, accounting for its Latin name meaning 'thousand-leaf'. The composite flowers are arranged in dense flat-topped terminal corymbs, white to pink, each flower being about 4-6mm in diameter and with a characteristic odour. It is common in pastures, grassy banks, hedgerows and waste places in dry sunny positions throughout most of Europe,

Yarrow grows from 10 to 20 inches high, a single stem, fibrous and rough, the leaves alternate, 3 to 4 inches long and 1 inch broad, larger and rosette at the base, clasping the stem, bipinnatifid, the segments very finely cut, fern-like, dark-green, giving the leaves a feathery appearance. The flowers are several bunches of flat-topped panicles consisting of numerous small, white flower heads. Each tiny flower resembling a daisy. The whole plant is more or less hairy, with white, silky appressed hairs. Flowers bloom from May to August.
Varieties: A tomentosa, A. filipendulina, A decolorans. The white blooming A. millefolium is the most cultivated for medicinal use.
http://houseofstrauss.co.uk/modules/wfsection/article.php?articleid=338

THAT day was composed of dawn, from one end to the other. All nature seemed to be having a holiday, and to be laughing. The flower-beds of Saint-Cloud perfumed the air; the breath of the Seine rustled the leaves vaguely; the branches gesticulated in the wind, bees pillaged the jasmines; a whole bohemia of butterflies swooped down upon the yarrow, the clover, and the sterile oats; in the august park of the King of France there was a pack of vagabonds, the birds.
Les Miserables--Victor Hugo

Origin of the name Achilliea/Yarrow
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium Linnaeus) was used from the time of the ancient Greeks to treat wounds especially those received in battle. The modern common name comes from the Middle English name, yarowe. This name derived from the Old English gearwe and the Old High German garwa. The closely related Anglo-Saxon name was gearuwe meaning healer.

Linnaeus based his scientific classification for yarrow, Achillea millefolium (Species Plantarum, 1753), on two older common names. Millefolium, muriophullon, and myllophullon were Greek and Roman names (4) meaning "thousand-leaved" or "many-leaved" (9), referring to the finely divided leaves of this plant; `milfoil,' a name used occasionally even today, is a direct descendant. Achillea we have already seen, in the person of the mighty Achilles. Though possibly less romantic, the generic name also may refer to Achillo, an ancient Greek doctor who used the plant to cure a wounded warrior (10). Many common names for yarrow refer to its fine foliage: milfoil, thousand seal (10), thousand leaf (6), and thousand weed (12). My favorite, though, is the whimsical Latin supercilium veneris (4), meaning "eyebrow of Venus" (14).
"Yarrow" comes from `garawa,' the Old High German name for this plant; further back than this, the word's origin is unknown (11). In the hands of the Anglo-Saxons, the word became `gearwe,' and was used as a synonym for "mirifillo" in literature of 725 A.D. (11). By 1503, the word "yarrow" was used as it is now (11). This root also has given us such obvious derivations as yarroway (12) and yarra grass (6)YARROW AS A SOLDIER Martial names for A. millefolia were common in the first century: stratiotice ["of a soldier" (9)] and herba militaris ["soldier's herb" (9)] (4). Greek and Roman soldiers carried the plant with them as part of their supplies (7). The Gauls of the time called it beliucandas (4) and carried it away as booty when they invaded the Roman Empire (7). In this way, yarrow and its reputation reached all comers of Europe. By the eighth century, yarrow was being used in Britain (7). The knights of the Middle Ages knew yarrow as staunchgrass, bloodwort, knight's milfoil, or sanguinary (10); and during the American Civil War, it was called soldier's woundwort (2). That the plant could be useful to those in civilian occupations is reflected by the more placid name carpenter's grass; presumably yarrow served as a relief for the usual chisel and cutter wounds sustained by woodworkers (6).
http://www.wssa.net/photo&info/larrymitich_info/yarrow.html

 There a magic drink they gave him,
Made of Nahma-wusk, the spearmint,
And Wabeno-wusk, the yarrow,
Roots of power, and herbs of healing;
Beat their drums, and shook their rattles;
Chanted singly and in chorus,
Mystic songs like these, they chanted.
Song of Hiawatha-H. D. Longfellow

 

 

A LOW stone wall bordered the lane on either side. There were clumps of tansy and yarrow with straggling bushes of meadow-sweet and hardback clustering closely around the loosely piled rocks. Plenty of poison ivy vines clambered over them too. The lane was narrow and grassy; even the deep wheel-ruts through the center were overgrown with grass. And everything was dusty; there had been a little drought lately; the leaves were powdered thick with dust.
A Wandering Samaritan-Mary Wilkins

 

With what doubting eyes, oh sparrow,
Thou regardest me,
Underneath yon spray of yarrow,
Dipping cautiously.

Fear me not, oh little sparrow,
Bathe and never fear,
For to me both pool and yarrow
And thyself are dear.
Archibald Lampman-A Re-Assurance

Yarrow in Lore and Legend(information contained in this article regarding therapeutic use of the plant is for cultural interest only and is not intended as a recommendation for treatment of ailments and diseases)

Perhaps because of its pungent (and to many unpleasant) odor, Yarrow was said to be one of the devil's herbs and was probably called Devil's Plaything and Devil's Nettle for this reason. In any event, it has been long associated with magic and witchcraft. As is so often the case, however, the plant could actually be employed to give protection against the very same spells that it was an ingredient of.

Yarrow was strewn across the threshold of a house to keep out evil influences and was worn to guard against evil spells. Country people tied sprigs of it to a baby's cradle to protect the infant from witches who might try to steal away its soul, which they believed to be a real possibility in cases where there had been a delay in baptizing the infant.

A strange Anglo-Saxon charm "for a fiend-sick man or demonic, when a devil possesses the man or controls him from within with disease" is recorded in one of the tenth-century leechbooks. The charm proceeds to describe the thirteen herbs needed, one of which was Yarrow, to be made into a "spew drink" (to cause vomiting-that is, the "vomiting out" of the evil) to be drunk from a church bell. Seven Masses were then sung over it, and garlic (an ancient protector against evil spirits) and holy water were added.

Linnaeus tended to retain names in general use, especially those names from Greek and Roman mythology. The generic name, Achillea, was in wide use by herbalists well before Linnaeus. Yarrow was believed the same as the legendary herb used by Achilles' soldiers during the Trojan War.
At one point, the war was going badly for the Greeks. Eurypylus, carrying a message to Achilles, was shot by an arrow. Patroclus found him and Eurypylus begged:
"There is no more hope for the Greeks. They will fall among the ships....But save me. Take me to the ship, cut this arrow out of my leg, wash the blood from it...and put the right things on it—the plants they say you have learned about from Achilles who learned about them from Cheiron, the best of the Centaurs....
"...Patroclus took a knife and cut the sharp arrowhead from his leg and washed the black blood away....Then he crushed a bitter root...and put it on the wound. The root took away all the pain. The blood stopped and the wound dried." (Homer, The Iliad, xi, 800 BCE, trans. I.A. Richards).
http://www.killerplants.com/whats-in-a-name/20020802.asp

Not only was this mixture to be drunk from a church bell-and one wonders exactly how this was accomplished-but the brew was to be added to everything the sick man ate or drank. Psalms 119, 67, and 69 were sung over it, it was drunk out the church bell, and the Mass priest afterward said a benediction over the sick man. This was a complicated ritual, and from it one may infer that demonic possession was believed a reality and received serious attention. One wonders how frequently this procedure, with its peculiar combination of pagan and Christian elements, was resorted to.

Yarrow was a plant of Venus (this was odd, because most devil's herbs were plants of Saturn) and, as such, was frequently consulted where love matters were concerned. One famous love charm required that a handful of Yarrow be sewn into a flannel square and put under the pillow, and the following rhyme said aloud:

Thou pretty herb of Venus' tree,
Thy true name is Yarrow.
Now who my bosom fried must be,
Pray tell though me tomorrow.
One's future husband or wife would appear that night in a dream.

Another love divination was based on Yarrow's well-known ability to cause nosebleed. A Yarrow leaf was inserted in the nostril and gently rotated while the following was recited.

Yarroway, Yarroway, bear a white blow [flower].
If my love loves me, my nose will bleed now.
If my love do not love me, it won't bleed a drop,
If my love loves me, 'twill bleed every drop.

Another charm recited to ensure the appearance of a future husband or lover in a dream was common in the south of England. A girl picked a sprig of Yarrow from the grave of a man who had died young, reciting:

Yarrow, sweet Yarrow, the first I have found,
In the name of Jesus Christ, I pluck it from the ground.
As Jesus loved sweet Mary and took her for his dear,
So in a dream this night,
I hope my true love will appear.

She then took the plant home and put it under her pillow. This charm is an odd one, to say the least. It might even be considered blasphemous. After all, Jesus did not take anyone "for his dear," much less someone named "sweet Mary"! The Virgin and numerous saints were frequently begged to intercede for or otherwise come to the aid of lovers, but as far as I know, few love charms invoke the name of Jesus. I do not know the history of this particular invocation, or how ancient it is, but a possible explanation is that the charm is indeed a very old one, and the names of Jesus and Mary were substituted (as was the case with many other charms) at a later date, to replace the names of pagan gods and goddesses.

Yarrow was frequently included in wedding bouquets and garlands, where its presence was said to guarantee true love between the married pair for seven years!

There were other beliefs associated with Yarrow. The juice, if rubbed into the hair, made it curly. To dream of it after gathering the plant for medicine meant the dreamer would hear good news. In the Orkney Islands of Scotland, Yarrow tea was a cure for melancholy, while in the Hebrides, a leaf of Yarrow held against the eyes gave "second sight."

Yarrow was considered a beneficial medicinal herb among the Chinese. It was believed to be useful in improving respiration, skin, and muscle tone and if taken for a long while was thought to increase intelligence. It is called shih in Chinese and is said to grow in exceptionally plentiful amounts at the grave of Confucius. According to a Chinese legend, one hundred Yarrow stalks grew from a single root. When the plant was a thousand years old, three hundred stalks would grow from the root. Such was the power of this plant that wolves, tigers, and poisonous plants would never be found near it.

Yarrow has special significance to the consulters of the I Ching. Stalks from a closely related species (Achillea sibirica) are the source of the famous "stalks of divination" to be used in consulting this oracle. These stalks were sold in parcels of sixty-four, and their length was very important. For the Son of Heaven (the emperor) the stalk were nine feet long; for feudal princes, seven feet; for high dignitaries and government officials, five feet long; and for graduates (probably of the mandarinate), three feet.
http://www.ashtreepublishing.com/Book_City_Herbal_Yarrow.htm

BLUE-EYED grass in the meadow
     And yarrow-blooms on the hill,
Cattails that rustle and whisper,
     And winds that are never still;
Blue-eyed grass in the meadow,
     A linnet's nest near by,
Blackbirds caroling clearly
     Somewhere between earth and sky;
Blue-eyed grass in the meadow,
     And the laden bee's low hum,
Milkweeds all by the roadside,
     To tell us summer is come.

     Mary Austin.

.

Achillea millefolium

Compositae
Names: Milfoil
Habitat: Native to Eurasia and naturalized in North America, found intemperate zones.
Collection: The whole of the plant above ground should be gathered when in flower between June and September.
Part Used: Aerial parts.
Constituents:
• Volatile oil, containing [[alpha]]- and [[beta]]-pinenes, borneol, bornyl acetate, camphor, caryophyllene, eugenol, farnesene, myrcene, sabinene, salicylic acid, terpineol, thujone and many others, and including the sesquiterpene lactones. Many samples contain high concentrations of azulenes, up to about 50%, including chamazulene and guajazulene.
• Sesquiterpene lactones; achillin, achillicin, hydroxyachillin, balchanolide, leucodin, millifin, millifolide and many others.
• Alkaloids and bases; betonicine (= achilleine), stachydrine, achiceine, moschatine, trigonelline and others.
• Miscellaneous; acetylenes, aldehydes, cyclitols, plant acids etc.

Latin Binomial: Achillea millefolium
Plant Family: Asteraceae {Compositae}
Parts used: Flowering Tops
Hydrosol extracted: Steam Distillation using a copper still.

Yarrow grows all over the U.S. in field and roadsides. An American ditch weed, brought over from Europe. The photography are mostly white in dense, flat, small flower clusters growing above the fern and feather like leaves. Its Latin name millefolium translates to “thousand leaves”. Achillea for the Greek God Achilles, a hero who used Yarrow to treat the wounds of his soldier during the Trojan war.
When distilled a beautiful pale blue hydrosol is supplied the azulene very noticeable. .


The scent of Yarrow Hydrosol is unusual. If you aren’t crazy for the scent mix it with other hydrosols or add a drop or two of a pleasing essential oil. Add the unique scent of yarrow to an aromatic misting blend.
Yarrow has a long history of meta-physical purposes. Used in the ‘I Ching’ 5000 years ago. The ancient Greeks used Achillea millefolium for divination and spells. Used in Witchcraft through out history. In the middle ages yarrow was called Devils Nettle and Devils plaything used to “give the sight”, women sewed Yarrow into their pillows to see their future husbands. Also used by Achilles in the Trojan war to heal his soldiers by crushing the Yarrow leaves and placing it on their wound to stop bleeding.