Yarrow for Wound First Aide
(2 - 3 minute read | First published February '21 | Updated August '23
The herb yarrow (Achillea millefoleum) is known for its ability to quickly stop bleeding and help heal wounds.
When my son was 8 years old, he cut his foot badly one day on a bit of jagged rusty metal. With his sister's help he hobbled to the kitchen where I was chopping veggies for dinner. It was the most blood I’ve ever seen issuing from one of my children, and for a moment my brain kind of stopped working.
Then, as I reached for a towel to stop the bleeding, I remembered. Yarrow (Achillea millefoleum). One of its older names is "soldier’s wound wort." As with “skullcap” (helpful for headaches), the older names of herbs give clues as to their uses.
Making a yarrow "spit poultice"
I went to find some yarrow (there wasn’t much because it was getting almost no water in the spot I had it… note to self: water yarrow). I picked some leaves, chewed them up (bitter), wadded them crudely against the cut as best I could amongst the still-seeping blood, and wrapped the foot up.
Chewing a herb to soften it and make it stick better to where it’s needed is an old-as humanity technique called “making a spit-poultice.” I know – it doesn’t sound very hygienic. But I can personally attest to its effectiveness.
We replaced that yarrow spit-poultice with another one at bedtime. At the same time, I added a squirt of yarrow tincture for good measure. He objected because it stung, which was probably the alcohol in the tincture rather than the yarrow itself. In hindsight, I should have diluted the tincture with water first.
Yarrow really does stop bleeding and seems to help wounds close quickly
When we did the second spit-poultice and the yarrow tincture, it was about an hour or two since he had hobbled into the kitchen. The bleeding had completely stopped. The wound had tightened and seemed to have shrunk, puckering around the edges. It looked clean. My worry about whether I should have taken him to get it stitched up disappeared.
I've had a similar experience since then with a badly cut finger. You know that moment where you wonder if its gone through the bone? Brand new super-duper gardening secateurs, which I had warned myself would take a finger off if I weren't careful. Ouch. I chewed a wad of yarrow, pressed it against where the most blood was flowing, strapped it on with Elastoplast, and went back to work. A couple of hours later when I gingerly peeled the Elastoplast and yarrow away, same thing: the bleeding had completely stopped and the wound looked clean, with the edges puckering inwards.
Back to the 8-year-old's foot. Over the next few days we soaked it in warm salty water twice daily and kept it covered, but did not dress it with anything. Then its owner decided it didn’t need covering any more, and went back to his bare-footed ways.
In the picture above, the staining on the skin is from the yarrow tincture the night before.
The cut turns a corner at the bottom of the toe and extends across the ball of the foot, which is hard to see in the picture because there is a flap of skin over it.
In the picture above, the dots/spots are what's left of the yarrow tincture stain. The cut is almost fully closed.
The people’s medicine
It’s really worthwhile learning some basic herb-lore. As Wise-Woman Herbalist Susun Weed says, “herbalism is the people’s medicine;” the herbs and weeds are “green blessings, allies,” growing at your doorstep, ready to help. For free, and without side-effects.
More on yarrow
Yarrow is a herb of many uses. An online search will reveal an extraordinary array of medicinal uses for it as well as a few culinary uses, and yarrow also helps in many ways in the garden.
One use I've been making of yarrow for years is in oral health care, where its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic/anti-microbial, and astringent properties make it a very effective helper. More on that in Yarrow for Oral Care.