Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Yarrow: Medicinal preparations

I have been looking into the use of yarrow to treat circulatory issues. I have a huge yellow yarrow plant in my yard, so I have begun preparations. I have circulation problems with my feet and ankles, so I am interested in making salve and infusions for soaks.

I got my instructions from Lisa Zahn, who passed on the knowledge from her teacher.

Caution: Consult your medical doctor if you are taking other medications. Herbs are medicine, and have side effects. Seek advice from an herbal practitioner about how and how often to use the various preparations for your particular issues. Apparently, too much yarrow can disrupt women's menstrual cycles. I would be wary of using this is if I took blood thinners or other medications that affect clotting. These instructions are just for making the various preparations, not for using them.

Harvesting: To make yarrow salve, tincture, and infusions you need to use the top parts of flowering stems when they're in flower. If you use wild yarrow, limit the cutting to 1/3 of a stem, from about 1/3 of a plant from no more than 1/3 of the plants in an area. (I use cultivated yarrow in my yard, so I can cut all I want.) For the strongest medicine, pick it on a sunny day, not when it's wet or been wet the day before.

Tincture: Use fresh leaves and flower heads only, maybe a little stem. Rip into about one inch pieces and stuff them into a baby-food-sized glass jar. The small jar will make enough tincture for a single household, but use a larger jar if you are supplying a lot of people. Pack the jar as tight as you can with herb, to the tip top. Then pour 80 proof or higher vodka or brandy into the jar, also to the tip top. Poke air bubbles out with knife, then close the lid. A day or two later, open it up and top off the vodka to the top again, to replace what is absorbed. It must be filled to the top or the alcohol will oxidize.

Place this out of direct sunlight for six weeks, then decant into another jar by placing clean cheesecloth across the top of your jar, pouring off the liquid and squeezing as much liquid as you can out of the plant material. You can then compost the plant material, say a "thank you" to the plant. Some practitioners believe that the energy of gratitude contributes to the medicine. You may want to keep the finished tincture in a dark-colored sterilized bottle and dispense with an eye dropper than has not been used for anything else. Sterilize a bottle by boiling in water for 20 minutes.

Salve: First you need to make an oil, similar to making a tincture. First, allow the herb for a day or two before packing it into a jar. Tear or cut it into one-inch pieces with some stem. Pack tightly to the top of your jar, then pour cold-pressed olive oil over to the tip top. More olive oil to the top after a day or two, to replace what is absorbed. Set the oil in the sun, on a plate to catch the leaks. You can pour that little bit of leaked oil back in, or save it in a jar for later mixing with the rest of the finished oil. You let this sit in the sun for 6 weeks. You may want to check it for mold occasionally. You can scrape any mold off the top. If it's moldy throughout, you may want to start again. In the rare case that mold is a big problem, research making oil faster with heat.

After six weeks, decant the oil through cheesecloth. You can use the oil as is, keeping it in a cool place. Or, make a salve by adding beeswax. Use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of beeswax for each little salve pot you want. Heat the beeswax slowly just to melt, then take off heat and stir in the yarrow oil. One baby food jar of oil to 2 teaspoons of beeswax might be a good place to start. Adjust the beeswax to get the salve consistency you want. Pour your salve into sterile jars while it's still warm, before it sets up.

Infusion: You want to completely dry the flowers and leaves for this, as you would for making a tea or tisane (herbal tea). Add 1 teaspoon dried herb to 1 cup of boiling water and steep for 8 hours. Increase to the quantity you desire.

More information: Answers.com has an extensive article about yarrow from the Alternative Medicine Encyclopedia. If you have more info about the uses of yarrow, please post in the comments.


Verde said...

Yea, great post, thank you. I wasn't sure how to make tintures and Yarrow is what I want to work with.

I am wondering about leaving the salve in the sun?

Matriarchy said...

I am guessing the warming of the oil helps extract the yarrow-y goodness of the herb. It won't be salve until we mix it with the beeswax, and I am not leaving it in the sun after that.

This is the *first* time I am doing this, so I am no kind of expert at all.

So far, I opened up the jar after a few days and added little more oil. Nothing has oozed out yet.

LisaZ said...

Hey, love this post! Thanks for getting the word out. You did a great job!


p.s. I wouldn't leave the steeping oil outside, a sunny window inside might be better.

Nettie Rickerson said...

Just a word of caution - I believe that WHITE yarrow is the only one you should use for medicinal tinctures and salves. You might want to research that before using your medicines!