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.
- 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.)