Getting to Know: Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow, surviving in my garden despite the clay soil.
Yarrow, surviving in my garden despite the clay soil.

Yarrow, an herb in the Asteraceae family, has been used for wound healing/vulnerary purposes since ancient times. According to folklore, Achilles (the Grecian battle hero), carried the herb while on battle campaigns to treat battle wounds.

This tough (it’s so tough that it grows in the incredibly damp, clay soil of my gardens!) herb can be found throughout the temperate climates of the Northern Hemisphere. It is often seen in the “wild,” though it is commonly found cultivated in many gardens. Like many herbs, Yarrow is happiest when its roots are in well draining soil and otherwise “neglected” (e.g., left alone, not fertilized, in lean soil). Yarrow essential oil is steam-distilled from the leaves and flowering tops of the plant.

How may yarrow be used in aromatherapy? (Remember: ALWAYS dilute EOs prior to using on the skin and NEVER take them internally.)

  • Physical level: anti-inflammatory, astringent, cicatrisant, haemostatic, vulnerary, skin regenerative (just to name a few!)
    • Combine with Helichrysum in a compress for treatment of wounds or skin issues such as bruises or eczema.
    • It helps support the circulatory system (astringent and anti-inflammatory)–combine with Cypress in a salve or compress for varicose veins.
    • It aids with digestion–add ONE drop to a tablespoon of carrier oil (e.g., almond, jojoba) and massage onto a gassy stomach to sooth discomfort (add a drop of Ginger to enhance the carminative effect).
  • Emotional level: it is a balancing oil, useful for transitional times such as menopause, change in relationships, moving to a new location.
    • Put a few drops on a cotton ball and inhale the balancing goodness throughout the day (place the cotton ball in a compact or similar container to keep the oils from evaporating).
    • Add a few drops of Clary Sage to enhance the balancing benefit!

Due to its carminative & stomachic properties, using the herb (not the essential oil) in an infusion (i.e., tea) may help with stomach cramps, expel gas or to aid digestion in general.

  • Take a tablespoon of the dried herb (or 2 Tbsp of the fresh) (e.g., leaves & flowering tops-chopped) and steep in hot water for 5-7 minutes (up to 10 minutes for a very strong brew). Sip and enjoy!
    • Try combining Yarrow with Peppermint (and Ginger!) to enhance its soothing & digestive qualities.

A fun fact: Yarrow essential oil is a blue oil! As the herb goes through the steam distillation process it becomes blue! This is due to the presences of azulenes in the plant.

Getting to Know: Angelica archangelica

Here is a picture of the beautiful Angelica archangelica (commonly known as garden angelica) that was growing in my garden this summer. I saved the seeds from the umbels and plan on distilling them in a few weeks to keep the water (hydrosol) created from the distillation process.

Angelica archangelica
Angelica archangelica

Both the root and the seed are used from this plant for aromatherapy purposes. The plant is a biennial, meaning that it flowers the second year and dies after.

Root: Should be used with caution as the oil is phototoxic (avoid use when going into the sun). It is noted for a calming (even sedative) effect on the nervous system–making it great when used in an inhaler for those with anxiety.

Seed: It “gets things moving” and is an overall stimulant for the digestive & lymph systems and aids in easing water retention (by promoting movement). Angelica seed would be wonderful addition in a belly rub cream to aid in digestion or on the legs in a cream/body butter/salve to promote circulation for those with edema.

Both the root and seed oils have an affinity for the female reproductive system–excellent for PMS and fertility issues.