Updated: 1 day ago
Since transitioning from full-time work to freelance work, a lot of time has opened up for me to explore more of my passions on the homestead. And, I must say, I’ve been loving it. There is, of course, a laundry list of things to do and learn on any homestead. But this season, I’ve been focusing on foraging and cultivating herbal medicinals and expanding my knowledge of the plants surrounding our mountain home.
Yarrow was one of the very first plants I learned to identify and use when we moved to our homestead and for a good reason. This powerful plant has a long history of medicinal uses, and making Yarrow Styptic Powder could not be easier for a fledgling herbalist.
A Quick Disclaimer
Before we start, let me remind you that harvesting and eating unidentified wild plants can be dangerous or even deadly. Some plants have parts that are safe, as well as toxic parts. Others have close cousins or look a likes who are poisonous. The information here is intended to be educational and is not a substitute for medical advice. Remember that just because something is natural doesn’t automatically mean it’s safe. Certain herbs can be harmful to pregnant or nursing mothers. Others can have adverse interactions with existing medications. Always do your research, speak to a professional regarding any significant concerns, and never fail to get medical advice when needed.
All About Yarrow
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is native to North America and will grow wild in almost any region since it requires less than an inch of water per week. The plant is characterized by its soft fern-like leaves and a flat-topped cluster of small flowers.
In wild varieties, the flowers are typically white, but as a cultivar, they can be found in shades of pink, orange, and yellow. Both the leaves and flowers can be used for medicinal purposes, but today we are talking about just the leaves.
The Medicinal History of Yarrow
The Latin name for Yarrow is Achillea millefolium, which comes from Greek mythology. According to legend, Achilles, Greek warrior and demigod, used Yarrow on the battlefield to heal soldiers' wounds. Now, I don’t know about legends, but I do know that for thousands of years, Yarrow, also known as “Soldier’s Woundwort,” “Military Herb,” or “Nosebleed,” was used to staunch the bleeding from wounds inflicted during wartime. This mighty plant was carried by soldiers not only during the Civil War but as far back as the Trojan War as a means to spot bleeding when soldiers were injured. On the battlefields of history, deep wounds would be packed with Yarrow powder to disinfect, relieve pain, and stop profuse bleeding.
Though Yarrow grows wild throughout much of the US, it is also grown as a cultivar and can be purchased at any local garden center. An easy and prolific herb to grow, Yarrow is a perennial that can take over a garden space in just a season or two, so if you are short on space, be sure to plant them in pots.
We grow them in our herb garden, but we’re also lucky enough to have them growing wild throughout our property.
Ethically Harvesting Wild Yarrow
As with any foraged plant, it is imperative that you use ethical harvesting practices. To sustainably harvest wild Yarrow for styptic power, only the leaves will be needed. Starting at the base of the plant, harvest at most 2/3rds of the leaves, be mindful of keeping the flower intact, and never disturb the roots.
There are two kinds of leaves present on the Yarrow plant. You’ll find long fern-like leaves at its base, and there will be tiny fern-like leaves growing up the stalk. You’ll want to harvest the long fern-like leaves growing from the bottom of the plant. The leaves on the stem work, too, but gathering them is more work.
How To Make Yarrow Styptic Powder
You will dried Yarrow for this recipe. Once you’ve harvested your Yarrow leaves, you can dry them in one of three ways.
Oven - Lay leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place in a 170-degree oven for 1 hour.
Dehydrator - Add your leaves to your dehydrator and dry them for 2-4 hours, checking every hour.
Air Dry - Tie your leaves in small bundles and hang them to dry for 1-2 weeks.
Once your leaves are completely dry, place them in a coffee grinder or food processor and grind till you reach a super fine, powdery consistency. If the powder is not super fine, you may risk skin irritation from the larger pieces. Once your powder reaches the right consistency, transfer it to a small glass jar, tin, or baggie and mark it. Make sure to select an airtight container, as excess moisture could cause mold. Store in a cool, dry place. It will last up to 5 years if kept dry.
How to Use Your Yarrow Styptic Powder
Simply apply a small amount of the Yarrow styptic powder directly to any minor cuts, scrapes, insect bites, or other abrasions. Affix a band-aid or wrap over the powder to secure it in place.
To use Yarrow for nose bleeds, dab your finger into the powder, place it inside the nose, and apply pressure until the bleeding stops.
One of my favorite things about this powder is that it can also be used on pets and livestock. The first time we used it was actually on our pup's paw when a nail got snapped off above the quick. I simply dipped the nail in some of the powder, and the bleeding stopped instantly.
Yarrow can sometimes be confused with Queen Anne's Lace or Poison Hemlock. The Queen Anne’s Lace is edible, but obviously (from the name alone), Poison Hemlock is not. Please be sure of your identification before harvesting any plant.
Yarrow is not recommended for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding, particularly internally, as Yarrow contains thujone, which could put you at risk for miscarriage. There is insufficient research on topical use during pregnancy, but it would be best to avoid it.
Anyone with allergies to other Asteraceae/Compositae family members should exercise caution with Yarrow. Other plants in the family include:
Other Uses for Yarrow
Aside from being great at staunching blood flow, Yarrow has many other uses, both topically and internally. Yarrow's medicinal properties include the following:
From digestive support to skin issues such as burns, cuts, bug bites, and fungal infections, this is one powerful plant! Yarrow tinctures can be used for fevers, colds, and flu. As a refrigerant, Yarrow has a cooling energy that can be useful in lowering body temperature. Yarrow tea has been known to help break a fever and stop the symptoms of a viral illness. It can also be used as a wash to treat lingering bruising.
Yarrow, Why We Love It
Admittedly, I was skeptical about using Yarrow Stypic Power on myself. That is until I cut my hand in the kitchen. The cut was deep, and my kitchen looked like a battlefield (it may have needed stitches, but I hate ER visits). I cleaned the cut, poured some Yarrow powder on it, and wrapped it up. Ten minutes later, I removed the wrap to check it. Not only was the cut no longer bleeding, but it was completely sealed, and there was no pain at all. That deep cut healed in a matter of days and didn’t even leave a scar behind. After that, we always have a jar on hand. Plus, as I said before, it’s safe for both people and animals, so it’s a beneficial product on the homestead.
Feel free to ask any questions, and tell us all about your favorite uses for Yarrow in the comments below! As always, until next time: