“These are edible too,” I say, moving forward and touching the feathery leaf of a paprika colored flower, “It’s called Yarrow – I’ve heard of people using the petals like a natural type of confetti in birthday cake and such. It’s a really impressive plant, actually, it can be dried and grou-,” the woman I’m walking around cuts me off, “How do you know all of this stuff about all of these random plants?” I smile, “It’s all very interesting to me. This one can stop bleeding!” She shifts her head, “Seems hokey.” My lips tighten, “Hokey, maybe, but having an understanding about how to use plants is how humans have survived this long. Believe it or not, use of this plant for soldier’s injuries was documented in the civil war. It’s as real as pills,” I point across the table to the tall, beautiful foxglove flowers, “That one was used to develop medication for heart failure. To know about plants, is to know about humans. They are an integral part of our history.”
At minimum, cursory knowledge of useful plant life is necessary. Whether you are a day hiker, or you subscribe to the paranoia (reasonable or not) of SHTF prep, being able to identify a few plants one can use for food or medicine will probably come in handy someday – it could even save your life.
Call preppers crazy, but being prepared for the worst possible scenario is pretty damn smart, I envy those with the drive to be completely prepared. Maybe I’ll get there someday. But I don’t really want that kind of paranoia to run my life. There needs to be a balance in this arena, and that is what I’m striving for.
With an increasingly unstable political environment, I’ve been a bit more mindful of what I would need to know and do to protect myself and those I am responsible for in any event that might leave law lawless and society in a dangerous scramble.
Obviously that kind of preparation includes accumulating a ton of gear, food, and knowledge. The least expensive and simplest to acquire, and the most important of the three, is knowledge. This is the one I encourage everyone to develop. So what if you never need to use what you’ve learned? You’ve still done yourself (and your brain) a service! Accumulating knowledge is what I do best, and now I’m here to share it.
Today, I’m going to touch on one of the most useful plants I know of. With a myriad of applications, Achillea (better known as Yarrow) is a real badass.
As far as I’ m concerned, Achillea is a more appealing name than Yarrow, but Yarrow is the known moniker, and is the name I’ll be using throughout this article. Yarrow was first used as the common name for Achillea Millefolium, but tends to be a catchall name for all Achillea plants. Achillea is a genus within the wide-spread Astarcea family that contains other flowering plants such as daisies and sunflowers.
These plants have charming foliage; its leaves frilly and fern like. They can grow to about three feet tall, with broad flat clusters of tiny flowers that come most often in white and yellow, but can range orange, red, pink and purple. These plants are great for pollinators, and are home or food source to a vast number of beneficial insects.
Yarrow is incredibly hardy and very, very drought tolerant. It is native here in north America, as well as Europe and certain areas in Asia. It can be found up to 11,500 ft, it really is all over the place if you look. I really recommend adding it to your garden or landscape for any one of the following reasons!
What is Yarrow good for?
Yarrow plays a good many roles. It has practical ‘medicinal’ uses, edible uses, and is a super hero helper in the garden. Growing it has a great cost to benefit ratio, so if you have any land to shepherd, I really recommend planting it to reap these rewards.
Yarrow is one of the most incredible plants for use in healing. The foliage, roots and flowers may be dried and crushed to make a styptic powder – that’s right; this plant can help stop bleeding from a wound. Its antiseptic properties make it an incredible option to pack cuts with. The plant (Achillea) is actually named for Achilles himself, whose soldiers were said to treat their wounds with yarrow. Fresh leaves may even be crushed and used for this purpose.
A poultice may be made with the foliage to treat all kinds of injuries – bruises, scrapes, rashes, burns, stings and bug bites etc. It is an anodyne, meaning literally ‘without pain’, and is known to decrease pain associated with these wounds. It is commonly used for nosebleeds. Packing a wound with any substance with color may cause permanent discoloration in the resulting scar – but I’ll take a green scar any day over a persistently bleeding wound!
Making a tea of the flowers and leaves (both of which are edible, as well as the roots) can also stem internal bleeding. This plant regulates blood flow like you wouldn’t believe, and will promote and regulate proper circulation, and even regulate digestion. Anybody have ulcers? Try some Yarrow tea.
Drinking the tea is also good when ill. It is a diaphoretic (promotes sweating) very effectively, and can help push through the fever process. It is also a known diuretic, and can ease rough menstruation, or help with urinary tract and bladder infections. For these reasons it is not recommended for use during pregnancy. Use caution when breastfeeding. Very persistent use of yarrow tea for sweating has been reported to cause temporary light sensitivity.
The deep roots of Yarrow are busy, productive things. They mine nutrients and minerals from deep in the ground and store them within. They pull up all manner of things. Phosphorous, copper, and potassium are easily stored in the plant, meaning chopped yarrow make a great addition to your compost pile. Alternatively, one may dry the pieces and use it as a mulch!
When cover crops are needed to protect soil and retain moisture, yarrow is a winner. The plant can tolerate fairly aggressive mowing to prevent flowering stalks from forming, leaving behind the feathery foliage to spread its protective fingers over sensitive soil or young plants and trees that need babysitters.
Yarrow attracts pollinators and beneficial insects to your garden. This helps to maintain a naturally pest-free growing area, giving your others plants a protective boost. The benefit to our precious honeybees is a huge plus!
Yarrow pulls poisons from the soil just as readily as it does beneficial nutrients. It is well known for its ability to pull lead out of contaminated soil. As we know, humans tend to leave a whole lot of heavy metals and detrimental waste literally everywhere. Lead based paint saw widespread use, and as it degrades with age and weathering, it leaches into the soil.
Planting yarrow for environmental remediation is a fairly common practice. If soil is tested to have high levels of lead, one may plant yarrow and allow it to clean the soil. At the end of the season, the plants must be pulled up and discarded. This may be repeated until the soil is clean. Like I said before guys, plants are magic.
Yarrow, or Achillea, is an ancient edible plant with an incredible range of uses. It can stop bleeding, treat fever and infection, enrich soil, and fight for the environment. It is a hardy, drought tolerant flower that is easy to care for and provides huge benefits to insect and human life alike. Knowing this herb and its uses comes in handy during everyday life, and could easily be used in emergency and survival situations. It can be foraged in most areas, even at high altitudes.
There are a great number of herbs and plant life to know!
I’m always excited to learn more! Comment below and let me know if you have any experience with Yarrow, or if you’d like to learn about another magical plant in the future!
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Now, for the disclaimer – I am not a vet, adventure guide, personal trainer, doctor, nutritionist, or medical authority, this is meant to be only a source of information and inspiration, implementing these techniques into your daily life is something you do of your own free will and at your own risk.
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