With our Christmas money I got us a present, a new set of Global knifes. After over 20 years of professional kitchen work, I have found there is no better kitchen tool than a very sharp knife. Globals are my favorite. All metal, light, perfectly balanced and just right for my smaller hands.
True to form, within the first week of ownership I whacked off the whole side of my index finger. It was my fault for trying to go quickly in-between toddler demands, while using a serrated utility knife, I knew glances slightly to the left, to cut a butternut squash. It was operator error entirely. There was a lot of blood. I had cut it clean off and applying pressure was excruciating. The only thing worse was when the bandage shifted at all, rubbing against the rawness there, plus any sideways pressure shifted the clot and caused more bleeding. I needed a way to stop the bleeding before my daughter got up to anything else.
What could I do?
Yarrow has been found in burial caves 60,000 years old, it is used in most native traditions dating back tens of thousands of years. Its scientific name, Achillea millefolium comes from stories of the Greek hero Achilles using it in battle to stop bleeding and treat the injured. Yarrow helps reduce inflammation and promote wound healing among a dozen other external and internal benefits. I’ve used it many times before, but I have to say how impressed I am. I had never put it to the test like this, I have injured my digits in exactly this manner many times over the years. Not only did it immediately stop the heavy bleeding but it made it FEEL so much better.
I have yarrow growing all over the yard (I should say, it has planted itself all over the yard) our efforts to replace the lawn with food and medicine have been successful. I should not take their gifts for granted. Year over year, I vacillate between wanting to harvest flowers and getting the most out of our seed stock so that our yard can continue fill with medicinal plants.
I had put my ground dried yarrow in 100 proof alcohol for tincture, but the plant matter at the bottom was still very potent. The alcohol stung like mad the first time, but I strained more out and let it dry on a paper towel. After the alcohol evaporated, it didn’t sting at all to change the “dressing” just soothing, slightly numbing wonderful herbal relief.
In modern medicine; packing plant matter into wound treatment would seem like in invitation for infection, but there has been a lot of research done on the sometimes inhibiting effect things like Neosporin can have on healing. Our bodies are net meant to heal in sterile laboratory conditions or under processed petroleum based goo. From a patient’s perspective is far more pleasant. When it was time to change my bandages, the herbs come off cleanly in a patch, instead of a scab coming off with the bandage.
I can’t emphasize how amazing the effects of yarrow were on this wound. Originally, I only thought to use it because yarrow has a stippling effect to stop the bleeding. I continued dressing it with a mix of the dried yarrow, raw honey, saint john’s wort, prunella and plantian oil and I have to say, the amount of improvement is noteworthy day over day. The first picture is a little more then 24 hours after I cut it, and so on till the third day.
No scab ever formed, and while the side of my finger was obviously flat and still hurt really bad, the tissue improvement was outstanding. Without a scab sticking to bandages progress was quick with few backslides. Instead of a clot of blood there was an interesting almost jelly like layer of new tissue under the herbs. I hadn’t see that before, it was really cool. After a week of these treatments my finger was almost good as new.
Yarrow is one of those plants that grows pretty much everywhere, from ditches to fancy gardens. I have several verities including pink, peach and purple. Since these have been selectively bred for their color they are less medicinal, as are most ornamental hybrid herbs. We have plenty of the natural white and yellow too, so those are the ones I harvest for my apothecary.
Yarrow is a hardy perennial, it is easy to grow and self seeds. If you are concerned about the spread it’s easy to monitor the flowers and cut them before they go to seed as they are also beautiful in bouquets. It will still spread through its rhizome root structure expanding your patch year over year. All arial portions of the plant are useful for medicine. Its first little squirrel tail leaves in the spring inspired its traditional Northern American names, “plumajillo” (Spanish for ‘little feather’) in the South, and “squirrel tail” in the North. The showy displays of flowers come in the spring and summer. They are very beneficial for pollinators. Yarrow helpful for any issues concerning the blood, both inside and outside the body. It is also a useful insect repellent.
As usual, I owe a big “thank you” to healing green things, for making my mistakes hurt a little less. I need all the help I can get some days.
Be well, and get you some yarrow.