Achillea millefolium, or ‘yarrow’ is native to Europe and Asia, but is commonly found growing in ornamental gardens throughout Malawi. This plant has a long history in many countries of being used for its medicinal and nutritious properties.
In terms of medicine, yarrow is also sometimes called ‘Soldier’s Woundwart‘ and was given its scientific name from the Greek hero, Achilles, who was said to have used the plant to stop wounds from bleeding on the battlefield. To this day, the crushed leaves of this plant are still used to form a poultice which is used to stop bleeding. Similar poultices may be applied to soothe burns, open wounds, or sunburn. A tea made for the leaves or flower heads is said to reduce the effects of colds and flus, while chewing on the plant can help to reduce the pain of toothaches.
Nutritionally, yarrow contains vitamins A and C, potassium, zinc, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and niacin and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. The whole plant is edible, but the leaves and flowers are most commonly used. The plant has a licorice-like flavor, and its leaves or flowers can be added fresh to salads and vinaigrettes, or cooked into soups or stews.
The stalks of yarrow have even been dried and used throughout history in China for the casting of the ‘I Ching‘, an ancient form of divination.
The next time you see this plant being used in a flower garden, remember that it has many other useful properties. When we understand resources to their fullest potential, we can begin to use them to design functional landscaping that meets all of our human needs.
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