Updated: Mar 1
Blue yarrow truly is a beautiful essential oil. Its use dates back thousands of years – fossilised pollen of yarrow has been found in Iraq, in the burial caves of the Neanderthals, dating back some 60,000 years ago. Considered to be a ‘Life Medicine’ by the Navajo, yarrow was used extensively by Native American tribes for treating wounds and as an analgesic for headaches and toothaches.
Its botanical name, Achillea millefolium, is attributed to none other than Greek warrior and legend Achilles, who is said to have used yarrow to treat the battlefield wounds of his soldiers during the battle of Troy. Herbal lore claims that the centaur Chiron taught Archilles how to use yarrow, which grew from the rust on his sword.
Battaglia says that “yarrow is highly valued for its treatment of wounds. Its antiseptic, astringent, styptic and anti-inflammatory properties contribute to its excellent affinity with skin problems, and it may be used to soothe irritated skin and to help heal infections”. No doubt this made it the perfect battlefield companion – its common names of soldiers woundwort, bloodwort and thousand seal certainly attest to this.
Its benefits in this manner have been noted by my favourite 17th century physician Culpeper, who states that “an ointment of them (yarrow flowers) cures wounds, and is most fit for such as have inflammations... the herb to be drying and binding”.
Holmes states that yarrow has excellent pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, and is a “superlative remedy for topical conditions”, putting it firmly in league with Helichrysum. He says that yarrow has an affinity for the organs within the pelvis, particularly the uterus, and works as a decongestant and progesterone hormone regulator, making it “a versatile woman’s ally for both menstrual and menopausal complaints, much in the league of geranium and clary sage.”
Yarrow is from the Asteraceae family, the largest botanical family, comprising the flowers. According to Battaglia, flower oils “have the most powerful effect on our psyche”. Yarrow helps with feelings of bitterness and bottled-up anger, again a shared attribute with Helichrysum.
It is also the oil to turn to during times of transition and change, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. Keim and Bull state that it should be employed during times of spiritual transition, when you are the most vulnerable and need protection and guidance. According to Battaglia, yarrow reflects the colour indigo, which is associated with our spirituality and our higher self. Indigo is the colour of the crown chakra, which is about enlightenment and self-actualisation – or as Judith put it: “merging the divine consciousness and realising our true nature”. Gerber says that “this chakra is most active when individuals are involved in a religious or spiritual quest” – exactly when yarrow is most beneficial.
Bringing this full circle, and to prove that essential oils are supremely synergistic entities, Battaglia states that indigo is the colour aligned with pain relief, bruising, inflammations and skin repair – as we see with the wound healing properties of yarrow.
A supremely balancing oil, Zeck states that “yarrow, a sacred plant of ancient China, superbly represents the qualities of Yin and Yang… yarrow stabilises polar opposites within the body and is useful during times of major life changes, when emotional equilibrium needs great support. Yarrow will bring balance when life is testing you on your weaknesses…Just as nature impressively romps between mayhem and order, recognise that your own rhythm is echoed here.”
Fisher-Rizzi puts it beautifully, saying “yarrow helps to balance these Yin and Yang energies", and that "the scent of yarrow makes possible the meeting of heaven and earth”.
Holmes further supports this by saying yarrow “supports a striving for balance and harmony in both the mental and emotional spheres of the psyche… yarrow is particularly useful during times of change and transition whether entailing internal or external events, including menarch, menopause, work or career changes, relationships or simply surges of inner renewal. Here the oil can be a valuable ally in helping us let go of the old and in allowing us to move forward with the new with grace and poise.”
He goes on to say that “yarrow can also help open us to clarity and insight into a challenging situation, helping us sort out the issues involved and envision future possibilities and potentials for resolution. It is no accident that the traditional instruments for divination using the ancient Chines oracle, the Yi Jing (I Ching) are dried stalks of yarrow”.
Battaglia, S. Aromatherapy and Chakras . (2020). Black Pepper Creative.
Battaglia, S. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, 3rd Ed, Vol. 1, (2018). Black Pepper Creative Pty Ltd.
Cooper, AJ. Colour The Cosmic Code. 1st Edition. (1999). Artmedia.
Culpeper, N. Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. 2019. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Fisher-Rizzi, S. Complete Aromatherapy Handbook. (1990). Sterling Publishing.
Gerber, R. Vibrational Medicine for the 21st Century. (2000). Piatkus.
Holmes, P. Aromatica, Volume 2. (2019). Singing Dragon.
Judith, A. Eastern Body, Western Mind – Psychology and the chakra System as a path to the self. (2004). Celestial Arts.
Keim, J and Bull, R. Aromatherapy Anointing Oils. (2016). Joni Keim and Ruah Bull.
Zeck, R. The Blossoming Heart. (2003) Aroma Tours, in conjunction with Brolga Publishing Pty Ltd.
Gaia Herbs. 2021. Yarrow. https://www.gaiaherbs.com/blogs/herbs/yarrow Accessed 08/02/2023
Motherlove. 2023. Yarrow: A 60,000 Year History. https://www.motherlove.com/blogs/all/yarrow-a-60-000-year-history Accessed 08/02/2023
Brogle, J. Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism. 2015. Yarrow Throughout History. https://clinicalherbalism.com/yarrow-throughout-history/ Accessed 08/02/2023
Hunter, C. The Practical Herbalist. 2023-2023. Yarrow History, Folklore, Myth and Magic
https://thepracticalherbalist.com/advanced-herbalism/yarrow-myth-and-magic/ Accessed 08/02/2023
Wikipedia. Edited 2023. Achillea millefolium https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achillea_millefolium Accessed 08/02/2023