Simon’s Simples: Yarrow Herb Tea

Yarrow Herb Tea


This tea made from a common wayside weed is a remedy for colds and flu. It is also psychoactive and can also help you see in pure colour! Yarrow has an ancient history. The generic name ‘Achillea millefolium’ comes from the story of Achilles who saved the lives of his warriors by healing their wounds with yarrow leaves. Crushed and rolled in the hands the plant provides a temporary styptic to check blood flow.

Millefolium means ‘thousand leaves’ which help with binding a wound and helping a scab to form. The feathery leaves of Yarrow are ideal for this purpose, creating a binding but still allowing a wound to breathe. One of this astringent herb’s ancient names is ‘Soldier’s Woundwort’, along with ‘Carpenters’ Weed’, ‘Staunchweed’ and others that show its popularity and prolonged use as a styptic over many centuries.

The decoction has been used for all sort of external wounds and sores such as chapped skin or sore nipples. In China Yarrow is still considered to have sacred properties, readers of the I Ching will often use Yarrow stalks in their studies.

The herb tea made from Yarrow has also been used for stimulating appetite, helping stomach cramps, flatulence, gastritis, enteritis, gallbladder and liver problems and internal haemorrhage – particularly of the lungs. It’s effect is described as ‘diaphoretic’, causing the dilation of surface capillaries and helping poor circulation. Its effects promote sweating which can be useful for fevers and colds. Yarrow mixed with Elderflowers and Peppermint is an old and most useful remedy for colds.

Yarrow leaf and Yarrow tea

There is a danger though that over use of this tea may render the skin sensitive light. It is this ‘side effect’ that shows that Yarrow tea has some mild psychotropic effect. A couple of cups of this tea and you may notice a shift in the colour and intensity of light around you.

For artists or photographers this photosensitiser can sometimes provide a useful shift in perception. However, another name attributed to Yarrow is ‘Devil’s Plaything’ – this name was given to several herbs used by the witches or ‘Wise Women’ who were systematically hunted down and exterminated in the middle-ages.

Yarrow leaves have also been used in tobacco or snuff mixtures and a decoction rubbed into the head is said to delay balding. Well, us guys like to live in hope!

To make Yarrow tea add two or three fresh or dried leaves per person to boiling water and leave to infuse for 5 minutes or so. Sweeten this with honey if you like. Some people like it with a slice of lemon to give this ‘tisane’ a clean edge.

As a general guide to making herbal teas from the wild, pick only from where you are sure there is no pollution. Avoid roadsides that are contaminated with car exhaust fumes, or farmland where toxic sprays may be used. Usually a few leaves or flowers will need to stand in freshly boiled water to extract the flavours and some of the beneficial effects. Never strip a whole plant and only ever take so much that the plant can still regenerate.