I've been harvesting and drying out yarrow flowers this week to use in some of my moisturising creams and thought I'd write up some notes on this wonderful, native plant and on how to prepare it for use. It's great for treating problem skin, is a useful plant for helping your garden to thrive and it makes a very nutritious addition to your diet.
In the garden, yarrow is a stimulant that helps neighbouring plants grow more strongly. Its white flowers are loved by bees, but at the same time, help to repel ants and flies, so it keeps your garden's insect mix more biased towards the friendly ones. It can also give you a lovely lush, green lawn right through the driest of weather if grown in amongst your grass due to its stimulant properties and excellent drought tolerance, giving it green leaves under all conditions.
Once mown or cut down, it is a great plant to add to the compost heap or to make into a liquid plant feed. In particular, it contains useful amounts of calcium, potassium and phosphorus. Potassium for flower and fruit growth and phosphorus for root growth. Calcium is important as it improves the ability of plants to access other nutrients in the soil. On top of this, yarrow also contains copper, nitrogen, iron and sulphur. Very nutritious!
So with all these nutrients, yarrow is also a good one to add into your diet, albeit in small amounts as it's rather bitter. You can add small pieces of the leaves to salads or mix them in with a salad dressing. You could try adding it to an omlette, quiche or as a herbal seasoning in sandwiches perhaps.
Another great property for the accident prone cook or gardener is that it stops bleeding. If you cut yourself, just grab a little yarrow leaf, moisten it and rub it hard between your fingers to release its juices and then press it onto the cut for a few minutes. You should find that the bleeding stops quite dramatically. I feel as though I should have a little disclaimer here saying 'don't try this at home' or some other covering-my- back type statement just in case you happen to pick a leaf covered in agricultural chemicals and they get into your system when you rub it on and then the compensation companies hassle you to pin the blame on me... But I'm sure of course that you'd be sensible with it and would wash it first or will just read this and think 'oh that's interesting' and never try it. It's a pretty nifty trick though, nice to see it working!
But, of course, my main interest right now, and the reason I'm growing so much of it, is for its beneficial effects when applied to the skin. The flowers contain a volatile oil, which has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties in test tube studies. It is also astringent and antiseptic, all of which make it ideal for oily, spot prone skin and for reducing large pores. Its anti-inflammatory properties also make it great for treating eczema type rashes with itchiness and sores.
To prep it up for use (or to dry any herbs for later use) this is what you do:
First wash and rinse the flowers to remove bits of chaff and any little bugs that might be hanging on in there.
Then, after they're air dried, spread them out on a baking tray and place in a pre-warmed oven at around 80 degrees C with the door jammed slightly ajar to let all the moisture escape.
Leave them there until they crumble in your fingers. This means they're ready. It took me about two and a half hours. I'm looking forward to getting that solar drier made up so I don't feel so guilty about all the electricity I'm using for this!
Then seal them up in a nice, air-tight container until you're ready to use them. Make sure to date it so you don't have a jar sitting around for years and years without realising.