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David Watson Hood, visual artist.
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Yarrow: Achillea millefolium L. synonym Achillea lanulosa Nutt. Athair thalmhainn (earth/ground father), Cathair thalmainn (ground seat or chair), Doggie's Brose, Eàrr-thalmhainn, Hundred leaved grass, Lus na chasgadh na fala (Plant that staunches bleeding), Lus na fola (blood weed), Meal-and-folie, Melancholy, Milfoil, Knight's Milfoil, Moleery Tea, Stanch-girs, Thousand-leaf clover, Wild pepper, Old Man's Pepper (i.e. devil's), Yarra, Yarroway, Thousand Weed, Nose Bleed, Carpenter's Weed, Bloodwort, Staunchweed, Sanguinary, Devil's Nettle, Devil's Plaything, Herbe Militaris, Soldier's Woundwort, Sodger's freind.


Yarrow flowerA fairy herb long held in great esteem it grows handily on most roadsides and waste places. For the tramp on the road, the soldier behind enemy lines or a last post-apocalyptic survivor in the wilderness….. this plant is there when and where they need it.

Despite the myth, that Achilles discovered the healing uses of this herb, I suspect Palaeolithic hunters knew the virtues of the plant long before the siege of Troy, as well as many a later sodger that had never heard of Achilles. It is almost a panacea. The plants bitter astringent taste is at first off putting but it is not hard to develop a fondness for it in time. For me the taste and smell provoke a bittersweet melancholy like a nostalgic half memory of Tir na nÓg or of a youthful romance (in Orkney yarrow tea is actually held to dispel melancholy).

Be warned however, for there are reports of habitual heavy users (culinary or medicinal) developing a sensitivity resulting in allergic rashes and photosensitive skin.

THE YARROW
"I will pluck the yarrow fair,
That more benign will be my face,
That more warm shall be my lips,
That more chaste shall be my speech,
Be my speech the beams of the sun,
Be my lips the sap of the strawberry.

May I be an isle in the sea,
May I be a hill on the shore,
May I be a star in the waning of the moon,
May I be a staff to the weak,
Wound can I every man,
Wound can no man me."
- from Alexander Carmichael's Carmina Gadelica.

Non-medical uses of yarrow
As a food or condiment, in small quantity in salad or cooked. As a tea (flowers & leaves), also has uses as an insect repellent, cosmetic cleanser for greasy skin, to produce a liquid plant feed and as a constituent of a compost accelerator. Yellow and green dyes are obtained from the flowers. The dried stalks are used for the ancient Chinese divination rite of casting the I Ching. In Britain the dried herb has also been used for love divination by dreaming with it under the pillow.

Medicinal uses of wild yarrow
Antiinflamatory, Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Aromatic, Astringent, Carminative, Cholagogue, Diaphoretic, Digestive, Emmenagogue, Odontalgic, Stimulant, Tonic, Vasodilator, Vulnerary.
Definitons of medical actions

Yarrow has a high reputation and is widely employed in herbal medicine, administered both internally and externally. It is used in the treatment of a very wide range of disorders but is particularly valuable for treating wounds, stopping the flow of blood, treating colds, fevers, kidney diseases, menstrual pain etc. The whole plant is used, both fresh and dried, and is best harvested when in flower. Some caution should be exercised in the use of this herb since large or frequent doses taken over a long period may be potentially harmful, causing allergic rashes and making the skin more sensitive to sunlight. The herb combines well with Sambucus nigra flowers (Elder) and Mentha x piperita vulgaris (Peppermint) for treating colds and influenza. The herb is antiseptic, antispasmodic, mildly aromatic, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, odontalgic, stimulant, bitter tonic, vasodilator and vulnerary. It also contains the anti-inflammatory agent azulene, though the content of this varies even between plants in the same habitat. The herb is harvested in the summer when in flower and can be dried for later use. The fresh leaf can be applied direct to an aching tooth in order to relieve the pain.

Sources:
Plants For A Future, www.pfaf.org/index.html,
Flora Celtica, www.floraceltica.com/, Flora Celtica is an international project based at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, documenting and promoting the knowledge and sustainable use of native plants in the Celtic countries and regions of Europe.
Carmichael, A. (1997 reprint). Carmina Gadelica: Hymns & incantations collected in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the Last century. Floris Books, Edinburgh.
The Really WILD Food Guide, www.countrylovers.co.uk/wildfoodjj/index.htm


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