Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Acquainting Myself With Yarrow

I'm folding the ladder to shuffle to a new place in the yard, from which to reach for enticing plums. OUCH!!! I pinch my finger in the metal supports as they accordion closed.

Yuck. First something like a blood blister appears, then blood begins to ooze. I don't have plantain in my yard. Maybe it's a good time to make friends with Yarrow -- Achillea millefolium -- a plant I encountered in abundance on our camping trip in the Sierras last week, and which I'm studying in Herbalist 101.

Though I'd been more familiar with Yarrow's use to promote a sweat to encourage colds and fevers to move out of one's body, I'd recently discovered that among its many uses is to staunch internal and external bloodflow (in fact, some alternate names for Yarrow are, significantly, Blood Wort, Staunch Weed, and Nosebleed -- I love that one!) Yarrow also has anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties -- nice for just cleaning a wound.

Okay! So how might I use Yarrow on my little wound? If it was growing in my yard, I'd probably pick some, chew it up, and place it against my skin, just as I do with Plantain ("nature's bandage"). Instead, I decide to brew a tea from the dried herbs I have in my pantry.

First, I sniff the dried flowers. Intriguing! Reminds me a little of Alfredo Sauce. A strange association! I brew a strong tea. In 10 minutes I swab my wound with the tea. Boy, that sure cleaned it up -- and look, Ma, no more flowing blood! Did it really act that fast, or had the bleeding stopped or nearly stopped already? I could cut myself again to find out, but that seems rather a grim action to take in the name of science!

Now, I drink. Well, it's rather nice, in a bitter, dandelionish way. The inside of my mouth begins to go dry. Okay, so it has astringent properties. I'm still a bit mixed up about plant energetics, but I am so reminded of dandelion root, I might venture to guess that Yarrow is "cooling". Except that Yarrow is used to promote sweats. That suggests "warming" at the very least. Well, I'm still mixed up for sure here! And what about the feel ... hm. (sip, swallow) Not downward or "sinking". If anything it's "outward" and upward. Floating energy?

Okay, enough fussing on semantics. I pick up my newest favorite book, The Book Of Herbal Wisdom by Matthew Wood. I lose myself in his discourse on Yarrow. Holeee!!!! What an incredible herb! Definitely good for treating deep wounds, it seems, and blood blisters. Not only that, but there is some great information about using Yarrow sitz baths for curing uterine fibroids and Yarrow tea for easing excessive menstrual flow. These aren't problems I have, but two women close to me do. I'll have to pass on the information to them, and see what they think (checking in with them too to see that they aren't allergic to members of the daisy family!). My heart quickens just a bit. I feel like this time I really have information regarding a particular herb
that feels right for their issues, quietly potent, and harmonious with each of them in different ways. Is there something else I should consider here?

My experience of Yarrow: This lovely feathery leafed plant (Matthew Wood describes the feathery leaf as being single leaves evolved to just the ribs or vein, literally "cut to the bone and the artery") with its umbrels of tiny white flowers flourished in that open high altitude meadow near our campsite. I recall it growing on our open hillside back on Plain Old Farm in our former Vashon Island home. I can't wait to meet up with Yarrow again, now that I'm getting to know her better!


So, I'd love to make a tincture of Yarrow. Usually I prefer to work with fresh plants, but lacking a population of Yarrow in my yard, I pull the dried herb
back out from my cupboard. The ratio is 1:5, dried herb to 100 proof Vodka.
Browsing the web, I try to figure out what that means. Do I fill the jar 1/5th
full with the dried herb? Some places talk about particular weights .... In the
end I fill my jam jar almost halfway with the Yarrow, and pour 80 proof Vodka to the top. Since (several years ago) I purchased the Vodka specifically for tincture making, I wonder why I bought 80 proof and not 100 proof? Another browse through the web. Seems like 80 proof is just fine in some folks' dried herbal tincture making.

The little jar filled up lacks vitality to me. I call on Reiki and begin infusing the tincture with healing energy. As I do so, I connect with my memories and experiences with Yarrow, how that herb feels to me. I open to feeling the presence of Yarrow. The spirit of Yarrow is here, and perhaps Yarrow blesses my humble efforts. I offer Reiki to her in gratitude ....

Mullein Oil Update

Well, it turns out that two weeks apparently is long enough for cold-infusing the mullein (aka Verbascum thapsus) in olive oil. Mine has been infusing for five weeks! Opening the jar, I look at it carefully and take several deep sniffs. Smells fine. Nothing scary. I rummage through my cabinets, and can't locate my muslin. Rats. Okay, we'll see what I can do with coffee filters. Will the oil be too thick to pass through the filter?

I squeeze and smoosh it through once. Plenty of sediment. Probably it moved through a hole in the filter. So I pour it through a second filter and let it sit. Seems to be draining S-L-O-W-L-Y through. Okay! This will work, though perhaps coffee filters aren't the most efficient way to process an infused oil.

I relabel my jar, and stick it back into the cabinet. The mullein oil is now ready for use, if needed!


Sarah said...

Hi Jane

Lovely posting on yarrow - it's one of my favourite herbs. Henriette Kress once said that if you use yarrow for long enough it can heal anything! Given that you're a healer, check out the teachings about yarrow for boundaries and connecting with the whole. Once you manage to find some fresh yarrow, try the simpler's method of tincture making - stuff a glass jar full of herb, fill jar with vodka, podge with a chopstick to remove all the air bubbles, fill up the jar again with vodka ensuring you cover all plant matter. Seal, label and date and infuse for three weeks. Strain and use. I like the idea of adding extra vitality when using dried herbs through energy work. I'm a spiritual healer with The Healing Trust (formally NFSH). Our energy is attuned through visualisation and is on a slightly different "wavelength". You might want to try hot oil infusions sometime instead of cold infusions. It works well with both dry and fresh herbs and you don't have to worry about mold.

Jane said...

Sarah, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about Yarrow, insights, and your information! You've given me much food for thought, and I'm excited to go deeper. Time to find some Yarrow growing, or grow some myself!