Yarrow is a common wild herb that’s useful in both the kitchen and medicine cabinet. This list of yarrow uses covers everything from biscuits and beer to salves, soaps, and tinctures.
Yarrow’s always seemed magical to me, and I remember lounging in my room as a teenager, reading through 16th-century herbals and dreaming of the day I’d spot it in real life. (Yes really, that’s actually how I spent my free time as a teenager. I know, I’m such a nerd.)
The problem is, while yarrow grows ALMOST everywhere, I happened to grow up in one of the very few places outside of yarrow’s range…the Mojave Desert. Now on my homestead in Vermont, it grows in every untended nook and cranny. We’ll see our first yarrow blooms in early summer, and it’ll keep right on producing through fall, meaning I have a virtually unlimited supply of yarrow (even leaving plenty for the bees).
Though yarrow is incredibly common, so are its look-alikes. Once you’ve actually spotted yarrow, you’ll agree that the look-alikes aren’t really all that close. There are lots of low growing herbs with white flower clusters, but yarrow really stands out in a crowd.
Start with the flowers. They’re white, but not really. If you were looking at paint samples, they’d have the name “Victorian white” or some other fancy title, because in reality, they’re a muted off white color.
Yarrow leaves are also distinctive, and there’s a reason its species name is “millefolium” or thousands of leaves.
The leaves are feathery, as opposed to the more distinct leaves of Queen Anne’s Lace and other white flowering herbs.
Make sure you’re 100% certain on your identification, as there are white-flowering plants within its range that are deadly toxic (namely, Water Hemlock). To my eye, they don’t look anything alike, but as an optimistic teenager desperate to find yarrow in some stray ditch…I may well have made that mistake.
Read this guide to Yarrow Identification for more information.
Benefits of Yarrow
So why is yarrow so magical? Many reasons!
A wide geographic distribution means yarrow made it into the traditional pharmacopeias in Asia, Europe and the new world. Yarrow is used in everything from food and drink, to salves and tinctures, to ritual divination and ceremony.
This quick list will give you some ideas, but is by no means comprehensive:
- Stops Bleeding
- Skin Toner & Astringent
- Bitter Tonic
- Treats Cold and Flu
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Improves Circulation
- Induces Sweating
- Reduces Fever
Be aware that while it’s generally considered safe, individual reactions are always possible. It’s also contraindicated for pregnant women, as it can induce menstrual flow and possibly increase the risk of miscarriage.
Recipes for Cooking with Yarrow
While yarrow is perhaps best known for its uses as a medicinal, both internally and externally, it’s also a tasty culinary herb. It’s not the only one of course, and many culinary herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary, and more) are potent medicinals, taken in the right dosage at the right time.
These yarrow recipes incorporate a small amount of yarrow, just enough to flavor the dish without reaching a “medicinal” dosage.
- Foraged Yarrow Bitters ~ Edible Communities
- Yarrow Salt ~ Irma Green
- Yarrow Salad ~ Eat Smarter
- Shrimp with Yarrow & Baked Lemon ~ Food & Wine
- Buttermilk Buns with Yarrow ~ Fooby
- Penne Aglio Olio with Yarrow ~ Forager Chef
- Tomato, Ricotta and Yarrow ~ Great British Chefs
Recipes for Yarrow Beverages
Believe it or not, hops are actually a relatively recent brewing ingredient. Before hops became common in beer, herbal beers, or gruits, were all the rage. Yarrow was one of the most common brewing ingredients, and it was known to create an extremely intoxicating brew.
While hops are a sedative, that dulls the senses and slows the sex drive, yarrow based brews do just the opposite. There’s a reason yarrow beers (and meads) were popular historically because they lifted you up and sent you home ready to put a few buns in the oven (if you catch my drift).
If you’re interested in learning to brew with herbs, specifically yarrow, I’d highly recommend the book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, which takes you through literally thousands of years of herbal brewing tradition (with recipes for each herb discussed).
The Wildcrafting Brewer likewise includes recipes for yarrow brews and approaches the subject more from a foraging perspective (rather than a historical one).
While the traditions have but been forgotten, a few brewers keep the traditions alive. Here are a few yarrow beverage recipes to wet your whistle, both alcoholic and non.
- Yarrow Gruit Braggot Ale ~ Brewgr
- Summery Wildcrafted Soda ~ Nitty Gritty Life
- Bittersweet Herbal Tea Blend ~ Mountain Rose Herbs
- Honey Lemon Yarrow Summer Beer ~ Storey
- Sage Infused Gin, Wild Yarrow & Blackberry Cocktail ~ Dram Apothecary
- Alehoof & Yarrow Gruit ~ The Mad Fermentationist
- Yarrow Mead ~ Bardic Brews
Yarrow Uses for First Aid
My most common use of yarrow is as a first-aid treatment for bleeding. Yarrow tincture in a spray bottle is a powerful astringent, and I’ve watched it pucker closed wounds in seconds.
I always keep a small spray bottle on hand just in case, and it’s worked wonders on all manner of small (but persistent) topical injuries. It’s also made into styptic powder and DIY quick clot, for similar purposes.
Over the longer term, something like a yarrow salve is wonderful for treating injuries and promoting healing. It’s also commonly employed as an itch remedy topically.
Making a yarrow salve is no different than making any herbal healing salve, and it comes together quickly with just a few ingredients.
More yarrow uses for first aid:
- Herbal Poultice ~ Herbal Academy
- Rose Plantain & Yarrow Itch Remedy ~ The Nerdy Farm Wife
- Styptic Powder ~ Joybilee Farm
- Yarrow Salve ~ Practical Self Reliance
- DIY Quikclot ~ Healing Harvest Homestead
Yarrow Herbal Remedies
Beyond yarrows use as a topical first aid remedy, it’s also commonly used in preventative remedies and internal medicine.
- Rosemary Yarrow Herbal Liniment ~ Raven Song Herbals
- DIY Herbal Perineum Tea ~ Alice LMT
- Herbal Enema ~ Flowing Free
- High Blood Pressure Herbal Tincture ~ Joybilee Farm
- Sleep Tincture ~ Wellness Mama
- Yarrow Hot & Moist Cold/Flu Tea ~ The Herbal Academy
- Children’s Composition Remedy ~ A Better Way to Thrive
- Arnica & Yarrow Salve for Varicose Veins ~ Traditional Cooking School
- Yarrow Cold & Flu Buster Tea ~ You Make it Simple
- Yarrow Tincture ~ Growing Up Herbal
- Liniment for Muscle Pains, Strains, and Varicose Veins ~ The Nerdy Farm Wife
- DIY Herbal Cough Drops ~ The Nerdy Farm Wife
- Herbal Jello ~ The Nerdy Farm Wife
- Yarrow Capsules ~ Nitty Gritty Life
Yarrow as an Insect Repellent
Beyond yarrow’s medicinal uses, it has practical uses as well. It’s used in natural insect repellants as well as homemade pesticide-free flea and tick powder for pets.
- Yarrow Insect Repellent ~ Learning Herbs
- Yarrow Bug Spray ~ Natalie Rousseau
- Flea & Tick Powder ~ Dogs Naturally
Skin Care Recipes Using Yarrow
Yarrow’s natural astringent properties make it useful in soap, especially fascial soap for acne.
Making soap at home isn’t as hard as you think, but if you’re intimidated by lye, you can always incorporate yarrow into a homemade melt and pour soap.
- Yarrow Facial Toner ~ Monterey Bay Spice Company
- Yarrow Kelp Labradorite Soap ~ The Wondersmith
- Yarrow & Chamomile Soap ~ Lovin Soap
- Yarrow Witch Hazel Soap ~ Practical Self Reliance
- Annatto Yarrow Soap ~ Soap Queen
- Wild Rose & Yarrow Soap ~ Grow Forage Cook Ferment
- Wild Violet & Yarrow Soap ~ Healing Harvest Homestead
Other Uses for Yarrow
So far we’ve covered yarrow’s uses in food, drink, first aid, and cosmetics…but there’s more. Historically yarrow was used to help set milk for cheesemaking (stinging nettles, cleavers, and fig sap are similarly used for this purpose).
There’s also quite a bit of superstition around yarrow and divination, both in eastern and western traditions. In the west, it was incorporated into dream pillows and the scent supposedly promotes deep lucid dreaming. In the east, there’s a specific protocol for divination with yarrow stalks.
- Natural Coagulant (Rennet Substitute) in Cheesemaking ~ Artisan Cheesemaking at Home
- Buckwheat Relaxation Pillow ~ Wellness Mama
- Yarrow Divination ~ The I Ching on Wiki Books
More Herbal Guides
Looking for more ways to use your herbal harvest?
- How to Eat a Rose (and other ways to use them)
- 30+ Ways to Use Lemon Balm
- 12+ Ways to Use Bee Balm
- 20+ Immune Boosting Herbs and Mushrooms
(As always, it’s important to be 100% sure in your identification of any wild or cultivated plant. I am not a doctor or herbalist, nor do I claim to be. Please be sure to do your research and consult a qualified professional before starting any new treatment, herbal or otherwise.)
Do you know if the ‘ornamental’ varieties of yarrow can also be used in a similar fashion? Garden centres sell very nice red and yellow varieties with lush silvery foliage but they are in the yarrow family. I’m wondering if they have similar properties to the white yarrow that grows wild up here (another country that shares a border with Vermont… :-D)
That’s a good question, and I don’t know the answer for sure. Those varieties are bred/selected for color, not medicinal use, but that doesn’t mean the medicinal use was necessarily bred out of them. I imagine it wasn’t even considered. It seems likely they’d still have the same properties, but I honestly couldn’t say one way or the other. Occasionally here we get wild pink/red yarrow in our patch, so there is natural variation, I imagine they just planted enough seeds and then cultivated the off types into ornamental varieties.
Can yarrow be purchased? I am pretty sure I’ve never seen it growing near me.
Very interesting information! Thanks for sharing!
Yes of course! It’s widely available dried from all manner of herbal suppliers. Try starwest botanicals, frontier herbs or mountain rose herbs. All should have it.
Yarrow infusions definitely will fight some infections, but tastes like pee smells even when I load the infusion with cayenne and peppermint. I simply cannot imagine cooking with it, although it might be flavorful in salads.
Hello Vermont Girl, You must have been reading my mind when you put out this post on yarrow. I made a poultice of yarrow to put on my grandson poison Ivy in the last few days and yarrow works great. We really enjoy all your posts Love to read. Thank you keep up the great work. Take care and be well.
Wonderful, glad the timing worked out (and good to know on the poultice).
I have yarrow in my garden but I didn’t know that it can be used in so many ways! I knew only its medical properties but after reading this post I know that I can also use it for my skin and in the kitchen! Good to know! But yes, it’s a good point about Water Hemlock..Be really careful! I use yarrow grown from seeds.
Does yarrow grow in Virginia? I love to read your posts they give me so much to plan for. P.S. I can relate to reading herbal books and guides
Yes it looks like yarrow is a native plant to Virginia and grows in the wild.
Lots of extremely useful info here! I just wish it was more clear on what part of the plant is used for what health need. I know that both flowers and leaves are used, but can they be used interchangeably?
In many cases, yes they can be used interchangeably. Many herbalists will use different parts of the plant depending on the specific result that they are looking for and the preparation method they are using. I would just use this article as a starting point and then do some additional research. Most recipes will tell you specifically which part of the plant to use. There are several links within this article for various recipes. I would start there.
Hi, Ashley! I have told all my friends about your site – it’s awesome!!! To my question: Does yarrow come in different colors? I have several clumps that range from a lovely maroon, to white blossoms that start white but slowly turn pink to lilac. Yes, feather like leaves, and they have a scent. 20 yrs ago, I planted a packet of yarrow seeds (it contained different colors like the above mentioned and yellow, too). Now I have volunteers from white to the colored (have hot seen the yellow since that first year). Is it true yarrow or a flower garden cross-bred for bouquets?
Thanks for your help, and thanks for such an informative and absolutely terrific website!!
There is some debate as to whether or not the hybrid varieties have the same medicinal properties as the wild varieties. I would personally stick to the wild variety myself. The wild yarrow has a very medicinal smell when you rub the leaves and flowers. What do your plants smell like?
Tthank you again for your wonderful writings.I admire your hard work and scholarship.
Yarrow can also be smoked as a mild intoxicant..
You’re welcome. We’re so glad you enjoyed the post.
I am wondering if you can harvest wild Yarrow, dry it and use it as a soil amendment like Alfalfa? As it has many minerals and nutrients. I am very interested in trying to use it in organic gardening.
That’s very interesting. I have not heard of that before. I would maybe do a little test patch on your garden, put the yarrow on a portion of the garden and leave the rest without. Let us know if you decide to give it a try.
That is actually done in biodynamic practices. Yarrow is one of the preparations.
I think that’s an awesome idea to make a simple fertilizer with it. I’ve seen people
utilize comfrey like that, yarrow would be awesome!
It’s amazing learning how powerful natural herbs really are!!thanks for sharing about yarrow!
It sure is. You’re welcome. So glad you enjoyed the post.
Just curious, since you live in Vermont & spend plenty of time foraging….you must grapple with deer ticks. What do you use? I have been trying to formulate a natural tick repellent spray w/yarrow tincture + several essential oils, but the struggle is real..lol. When I run out, I have lemon eucalyptus spray to use in a pinch. I hate the idea of using permethrin because we keep bees.
This yarrow post has links for several different recipes for insect repellant. https://practicalselfreliance.com/yarrow-uses/ I have also heard a lot of good things about beautyberry but haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet.
Curious as to what book you are referring to when you mention the 16th Century Herbals The link for purchasing the book does not seem to be the same book.
Sorry about that. It should be “The Herbal or General History of Plants: The Complete 1633 Edition.”
Thanks so much for your knowledge and help : )
You’re very welcome.
This is useful to have on hand! What a helpful plant.
I have grown yarrow, dried it in my greenhouse and have taken the buds and the leaves off that are dried.
1. Can I mix the leaves and the flowers for a tea?
2. Is it better to use the flower for tea and salves and the leaves for healing wounds?
I am at a standstill. I feel like I should combine them together. Am I right?
Thank you for your help.
It’s totally ok to mix them together and use both for teas and salves.
I thought that yarrow was dangerous for children; I didn’t see that mentioned here. And I heard that the colored varieties were somewhat less-medicinal.
I haven’t seen anything that says that it is dangerous for children. If you have information about that we would love for you to share the source. I have read that some do not recommend using it with children because there haven’t been studies done to show that it’s safe but that is the same for many herbs. Many people have been using yarrow with their children for many years and I haven’t heard of any issues with it. You will just need to do your own research and make the best decision for your family as with any herb.
One active ingredient in yarrow is methyl salicylate. Yarrow no longer is recommended for internal use because of potential for liver damage. It definitely is not a good idea to use it in infusions or decoctions for children.
Isopropyl alcohol containing methyl salicylate, tinted green, is still sold for external use and I have not seen any warnings about using it on childhood cuts and scrapes.