Yarrow Herb of the Year

Achilles, hero of the Trojan War more than 3000 years ago, was a much feared wartime leader and a renowned healer of the wounds of war. He knew how to stop bleeding, reduce pain, and speed healing so soldiers could get back to the battlefield.

The plant Achilles relied on was common yarrow. It and its related species belong to the scientific genus Achillea named in his honour. Yarrows are found throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere. It seems wherever humans migrated yarrows soon followed.

Native Americans used yarrow for many purposes. They chewed the young flower tops and applied them directly on wounds as a poultice. They used yarrow for fevers, colds and flu, and for sore eyes, chapped hands, skin rashes, toothache, headache, indigestion, and menstrual complaints. To repel mosquitoes, they threw leaves on hot coals as a form of smudging, and applied fresh flowers to their armpits as a pleasant smelling deodorant.

Research is backing up many of the traditional uses. The wound healing effect that we know from Achilles is now supported by science. So are other protective effects such as its antioxidant, antiulcer, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory activities.

In North America common yarrow can be found in every state, province and territory: a true testament to its ability to adapt to a wide range of climatic zones. It can handle cold, heat and drought, and thrives in soils rich or poor, acidic or alkaline. It prefers sun but will grow in part shade.

Yarrows throw up attractive white or pastel-coloured flowers from April to September. When added to fresh or dried floral arrangements they emit a pleasing fragrance. Even when not in bloom their delicate lacy foliage adds a nice effect to the garden.

Richters offers a variety of useful yarrows, including the one used by Achilles. Why not try a few this year? Below are the yarrow varieties currently available from Richters.

Here are the currently available varieties of yarrow!

White Yarrow

(Common Yarrow) Used for medicine for thousands of years. Has delicate fern like foliage and clusters of white flowers. Traditionally used as a poultice to stop bleeding and control infection. Used as a tea for digestive complaints and for fever, and it is commonly used as a diuretic, as a bitter tonic, and as an anti-inflammatory. A tincture can be used to control blood pressure. When infused in a bath or oil it helps to soothe the skin. Order it now!

Proa White Yarrow

Elite tetraploid variety for commercial production. Its essential oil is rich in proazulene, a powerful anti-inflammatory agent with additional strong antibacterial and antifungal effects. Proazulene is also one of the best natural antioxidants known. When present, it adds a distinctive blue colour to yarrow essential oil. Yields of essential oil in Proa are typically high, between 0.3% and 1.4%, and proazulene or its precursor, chamazulene, are significant constituents. Heavy biomass-yields, uniform growth habit. Order it now!

Moonshine Yarrow

The contrast of the yellow flowers on a backdrop of blue gray foliage is quite lovely. When dried the flowers retain their colour well, which makes them a great choice for dried flower arrangements. Very easy to grow, flowering from summer to early fall. Drought tolerant, and requires little maintenance. Perfect for hot, dry and sunny environments, or for xerischaping. Order it now!

Mongolian Yarrow

Hardy native of grasslands and mountain slopes in northern China, Mongolia and Siberia. Has showy light pink flowers fading to white. The whole herb is used to treat fever, enteritis, and pains, such rheumatic pain and the pain of bone fractures. In animal studies the extract of the herb was shown to reduce stomach acidity and increase the protective mucus lining of the stomach. Order it now!

Red Yarrow

A close cousin of the common white yarrow, with similar fern-like foliage, and clusters of fragrant red-pink flowers. Like white yarrow it has wound-healing properties when used topically, and it helps resolve fevers, promotes circulation and improves digestion. Makes great cutflowers and will retain their colour when dried. Very hardy and easy to grow, as it is low maintenance and grows almost anywhere. Order it now!

Sneezewort Yarrow

An attractive yarrow that throws up a profusion of white or pink semi-double pearl-like flowers. According to Gerard, the renowned 16th century English herbalist, sneezewort powder was recommended as a snuff to "cleanse the head of tough slimy humours." In other words, it can make you sneeze forcefully! In the mouth, however, its tingling, slightly numbing effect is similar to that of Sichuan pepper, which makes it an intriguing herb to use in the kitchen. Traditionally, the leaves are eaten raw or cooked, but we think that this herb could be a great new seasoning herb. Tolerates wet and dry conditions in any well-drained soil, whether rich or poor. Much loved in cottage gardens and wildflower plantings. Excellent cut and dried flower. Order it now!

Western Yarrow

This native of western North America is similar to common white yarrow but its leaves are densely hairy. It is a mat-forming herb, incredibly low maintenance and highly drought-tolerant, yet adaptable enough to grow in wetter areas. Flowers almost continuously from May to October. Native people such as the Shoshoni, Cheyenne and Navajo used it for colds and headaches, and as a wash or poultice for sores and rashes. They also rubbed it on themselves to repel mosquitoes. Sheep and goats forage on it, as do deer, antelope and grouse. Pollinators love it! Order it now!

Woolly Yarrow

Hardy, mat-forming perennial with lovely grey-green fern-like foliage and clusters of yellow flowers of a deeper shade than other yarrow varieties. When crushed the leaves have a nice spicy odour. Thrives in dry to medium well-drained sandy loams in full sun. Does not like wet conditions. Highly drought resistant. Excellent for rock gardens and in borders. Attracts bees and butterflies. Order it now!

Yellow Yarrow

Aromatic hardy native of central and southwestern Asia. With its large showy yellow flowers and ferny leaves, it is perfect for any border garden. In central Asia it is used to treat stomachache and coughs in children. Also used externally to treat scabies and wounds. Studies have shown that the leaves possess strong antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Thrives in well-drained sandy, chalky and loamy soil in full sun. Drought tolerant which makes it great for xeriscaping. Also an excellent choice for cut flowers fresh and dry, as they retain their colour long after harvesting. Order it now!

The Herb of the Year for 2023 was Ginger!

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