Interview with a famous representative of medicinal herbs: Achillea millefolium, the yarrow
Achillea millefolium, we are very pleased to welcome you here today. After all, you are one of the celebrities in the Green Nine Herb Soup. How does that make you feel?
Well, what can I say? Famous is relative. The truth is, I have made it into every important herbal book since the 6th century after the beginning of our era. There are beautiful pictures of me in ancient botanical books; with the resemblance, it sometimes hasn’t worked out that way yet. The fact that I can be seen on so many stamps is a colourful proof of my worldwide fame: Already in 1965 in the former Yugoslavia, Hungary (1980), Pakistan (1996), Turkey (2001), Bosnia-Herzegovina (2008), and even in the African Sao Tomé and Principe (2009).
And to the traditional power dish on Maundy Thursday, the “Green Nine”: “I am indeed one of the most common plants in our environment, growing everywhere on sunny meadows and along roadsides. My strength comes from my sturdy rootstock, which makes room between the grassroots and is able to withstand any obstacles. This is why I enliven the meadows with my fresh leaves early in the year. They taste refreshingly of mild mint and are not yet bitter. Anyone who cuts me into a soup, salad or smoothie so young feels how well my power cleanses his blood and provides his winter-tired body with new strength.”
As soon as the days get longer and warmer, I form my shining white blossoms, which are a total work of art from many single stars on a strong stem. The botanists call them “cymes”.
Their pinnate foliage has earned them the name “Eyebrow of Venus”. In any case, where does that come from?
Well, my innumerable small green pinnate leaves, perhaps really 1000 of them – after all, they gave me the name millefolium – in their delicate pattern, they are very similar to an eyebrow. Only those of Venus, the goddess of beauty and love, are as beautiful as my petals. Together with the energy of Venus, I help the women with their “women’s stories”. As a specialist, I bring the warmth into the pelvis, loosen cramps and eliminate pain. I help with premenstrual syndrome and excessive bleeding – even during the menopause. Young women and girls find their own menstrual rhythm and femininity with me. I am particularly happy to help reduce or eliminate fibroids. I have an intensive effect through hip baths and teas. I also develop my qualities in this way in cases of nausea during pregnancy, premature labour, varicose veins and haemorrhoids. There’s a reason they say, “Yarrow in the womb does wonders for any woman.” And I am proud of the praise of my herbalist friend Sebastian Kneipp, who said: “Much harm would be spared to the women if they would resort to yarrow more often.” Yes, I am simply a real herb for mothers and spoil every womb.
One of your nicknames is “Salvation for the whole world” – that as well speaks for important inner values.
Oh yes, on a personal level I am a very old, nowadays well researched medicinal plant. You can use my stems, leaves and flowers in every situation. I help with almost every problem. My many names tell about it.
Garbe is an old German word for a healer. I have helped many sheep to get healthy, where the dog tapeworm had led to the rotary disease. As a worm seed, I already expelled the roundworms from the intestines of the Germanic tribes.
The farmers did hard labour at all times, especially at harvest time they loved to drink my tea – and their backs survived the bending much better. They called me gratefully “Herrgottsrückenkraut – herb for God’s back”. And nowadays – who doesn’t complain about “backache” – all of them should regularly bathe their hands or feet in my decoction – this will also strengthen their backs.
You carry a big name, how did you come to this?
For the botanists, I am called Achillea millefolium. “Achilleus” means “painkiller”. Over 3000 years ago, the Greek hero Achilles healed with me the wounds of his warriors on the battlefields of the Trojan War. The Romans later also appreciated my powers and I accompanied them in their battles and their exhausting way across the Alps almost 2000 years ago. Their doctor Dioscurides gave me the memorable name Soldatenkraut – soldier’s herb. Even during the Second World War my skills were highly valued in the military hospitals.
Today I help all outdoor friends, walkers and hikers with spontaneous, small injuries from the side of the road as a readily prepared herb for wounds. They crush some of my beautiful fresh leaves in the palm of their hands and carefully spread the green “mud” on the injured area. That helps immediately. In the same way, I am there when someone has cut himself with a sharp knife while doing kitchen work or similar dangerous jobs. Many people are afraid to place the crushed leaves directly on the wound because that would be contrary to today’s hygiene standards. But I can dispel this concern, after all, I am full of essential oil and have almost antibiotic abilities. These allow the wound to heal quickly and without scarring. If you still remain sceptical, you can boil a strong tea from my herb and use it to make compresses or compresses. By the way, this also helps with eczema and slight skin inflammations.
I heard that Hildegard von Bingen too appreciated you.
Names such as carpenter’s herb, St. Joseph’s wort or even hatchet weed speak of major injuries, in which I can just as well – and gladly – unfold my haemostatic and healing effect. This wise abbess wrote very precise instructions for wound treatment in her book “Physica” almost 900 years ago: “If a person is wounded by an accident, after washing the wound with wine (alcohol for wounds), one should boil yarrow lightly in water and squeeze the water a little and then bind it still warm and tenderly over the bandage that lies on the wound, and so it takes away the pus and ulcers from the wound and heals the wound…
Anyone who has suffered an internal injury so that he has been beaten or injured internally should boil the powdered yarrow and drink this powder in warm water. “
This is still relevant. Today, the great Hildegard doctor Wighard Strehlow (he made Hildegard medicine known again in the present day) advises to drinking 1 litre of yarrow tea (3 tbsp. yarrow powder with 1 litre of water cooked for 2 minutes) daily after each operation, which is also an internal injury.
And what is the situation in other countries? Do they know you there as well?
Oh yes. The Austrians call me Bauchwehkraut – herb against tummy ache. They know that I use my bitter constituents to relieve cramps in the gastrointestinal tract and stimulate digestion. My essential oil which, by the way, is very similar to camomile – it is my relative – and my tanning agents eliminate possible inflammations and even – and this is very topical today – removes the modern stomach tormentor Helicobacter pylori.
The French gave me a particularly beautiful name. They call me en rêve – in a dream. The children put a yarrow leaf on each eye to attract beautiful dreams. Young women hoped to see their future lover in this way in their dreams.
During my research on you, I read that you also protect the liver?
Well, the liver is our inner alchemist who has to remove all pollutants and environmental toxins from the body. With today’s stress, it could well use my support. I stimulate the production of bile fluid and thus the cleansing. I also eliminate viruses, bacteria and fungi that have no place in the body. This also strengthens the kidneys and bladder.
And so that you can sleep well tonight, I will also tell you about my ability to calm the nerves, to eliminate sensitivity to the weather and ensure a refreshing sleep. A cup in the evening will do.
Dear Achillea millefolium, thank you very much for this conversation!
Rounding off the whole picture, here is an excerpt from the herb news:
If you take a break in places where many yarrow plants grow, you will perhaps feel how good it does you. This plant brings new strength and straightens the spine with ease. It has been called new strength for centuries. There is a lot of harmony to be found in yarrow. Not only did ancient herbal astrologers see the influence of the planet Mars in the blood-soothing herb they also discovered Venus in its strong healing power, which healed everyone with its love. In the course of their life together, the two planetary gods first had four quarrelsome sons and finally a daughter whom they called Harmonia.
This harmony is embodied in the yarrow. It combines strong rootoffshoots, a tough stem with very delicate leaves and a bright white flower to a harmonious whole.
Thus it helps anyone who wants to find the golden middle ground between highs and lows. It ends the exhausting “either- or” and makes “both- and” possible. It expands the established perspective in such a way that new perspectives lead to new insights. Basic trust slowly seeps through. And it conveys the power of perseverance, which is also expressed in its growth. Its tenacity is particularly evident in winter when the brown and thoroughly dried flower stems protrude over the cold snow cover. From these hard yarrow stalks the Chinese have been cutting the fifty sticks for their I Ching oracle for 3000 years. They are convinced that these sticks allow them to look into the future because they can create a natural connection between man and his destiny. The yarrow encourages everyone to live and develop themselves full of joy. This saying yes “warms” from within.
Green Nine Soup:
500g potatoes, 100g mixed wild herbs, e.g. groundsel, nettle, dandelion, sorrel, groundsel, chickweed, yarrow, ribwort, deadnettle (depending on the region, all green and edible herbs are suitable for this), butter. 1 l vegetable stock. 100 g cream, salt, pepper, 4 tbsp creme fraiche. Garnish: deadnettle flowers
Cut potatoes into cubes, boil for 10 minutes in the vegetable stock until soft, add chopped herbs to taste, cream. Puree everything together in a blender. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.