A herb to help keep the blood flowing where it needs to go
Now that we’re allowed to venture outside more often, I’ve upped my foraging game and started to explore the areas around me in greater detail. Having moved home 12 months ago, it’s been exciting to see what new growth has popped up during the spring. Weeds are a herbalist’s best friend, so I’ve been excited to explore the bountiful hedgerow herbs that appear during spring and summer.
One herb I’ve been unable to find yet is yarrow, so in my frustration, I decided that I’d write about it instead. Yarrow is a beautiful herb that grows wild across Britain. It has clusters of tiny white flowers that branch from the main stem in an umbrella type shape.
These white umbrellas look similar to the flowers of poison hemlock, so if you’re inclined to gathering your own herbs instead of buying them, be careful with this one.
I use yarrow in my clinic, mostly for digestive disorders or for anything to do with bleeding. While training, I was taught that yarrow was an excellent ‘blood herb’, as it helps keep the blood where it’s supposed to be. This sounded a little strange to me at the time, until my teacher went into detail about how it helps with all disorders involving blood vessels and bleeding.
Traditionally, yarrow was used as a styptic, to heal wounds and prevent bleeding. This is probably due to its astringent properties that help tighten up small breaks in blood vessels. It has been given the name woundwort, nosebleed and bloodwort during the age it was used to pack wounds.
These days, I don’t find we have much need for field medicine of this kind, as most people will have a first aid kit handy or take a trip to A&E for deeper cuts. Instead, I use yarrow for disorders that involve bleeding on the inside of the body.
A prime example of this would be bowel inflammation that can cause bloody stool. Now if you find blood in your stool you should visit your doctor before consulting a herbalist, but in my practice I find that this can be quite common. Conditions like diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease and haemorrhoids can all cause bleeding. Taking yarrow by mouth is a bit like using a bandage on the inside of the body.
The astringent action helps to reduce inflammation that can lead to diarrhoea and/or bleeding. My most popular use for yarrow includes recovery from bowel surgery. Some years ago, I recommended it to a friends husband who was having a lot of trouble leaving the house after surgery on his bowel. The urge to go would come over him so suddenly, that he didn’t dare be too far away from anywhere without a bathroom.
Yarrow improved the comfort of his recovery significantly. Not only did it help stop some of the pain that was occurring in his abdomen, but it also gave him much more control over his toilet trips.
Since yarrow also helps to strengthen blood vessels, I use it to reduce the size and appearance of varicose veins and haemorrhoids. When the blood vessels are weakened, they can become swollen and start to bulge. In the case of haemorrhoids, this can lead to damage which may cause bleeding and discomfort. Unlike its action on the bowel, which is immediate and direct, just like a bandage application, yarrow works slowly on blood vessels.
It takes time to strengthen something that has weakened over time. My most recent success was as 50 per cent in haemorrhoid size over a period of three months. This is a significant improvement, but it has required some patience.
Heavy periods, nose bleeds, regular bruising (which involves bleeding beneath the skin) are all conditions that I think of when I think about yarrow. It can also help to bring on sweating, making it helpful for colds, flu and feverish conditions.
Yarrow can be taken as a liquid medicine, brewed as a tea or made into a salve to treat minor cuts and wounds. For bleeds and inflammation, it works as a perfect companion to modern medicine.
l For more information, contact Nicola at her clinic on 01524 413733.