“Ahhh!! I cut myself!!” cried one of our Earth Scouts Summer Camp students suddenly while she was whittling a stick with her knife. I looked up to see her hunched over with blood dripping from her finger, her knife tossed to the ground.
Tears were streaming down her face as pain from the cut (and perhaps a bit of fright from the sight of lots of blood) sank in. I quickly got up to get a closer look. Blood was gushing from what appeared to be a deep laceration in her finger (Perhaps she had forgotten to follow our third rule of knife safety: always cut away from and off of yourself!). I grabbed my first-aid kit and got out some supplies. I rinsed the wound with clean water and had her put pressure on it. After a few minutes, the blood was still gushing. This cut was deep!
Luckily, I was mentored by some awesome herbalists, who taught me all about the healing power of plants, so I always stock my first-aid kit with an incredible medicinal plant known as Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). I pulled out some dried Yarrow that I had made into a styptic powder and sprinkled it on the cut. The bleeding stopped pretty much immediately. Phew!
Yarrow is a staple in my first-aid kit, and for good reasons! It’s very effective as a coagulant, so it’s perfect for treating wounds and nosebleeds. It also has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, so it keeps wounds clean and free of infection. In addition, Yarrow has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, so it can be used to make a healing salve which can be applied topically to bruises, scrapes, achy muscles, and other areas of inflammation. (My friend Kyle makes an awesome product called Black Market Organic Tattoo Care, which utilizes the healing properties of Yarrow and Comfrey to promote healthy tattoo after-care.. check it out!).
Yarrow is also a wonderful herb to use for treating colds and flu! I drink yarrow tea whenever I’m feeling sick, as it promotes sweating and helps to break a fever.
Not only is Yarrow a pretty awesome medicinal herb, it’s also very accessible. It seems to grow almost anywhere: along roadsides, in meadows and open spaces/lawns, on rocky hillsides, on the edges of beaches, and even in subalpine and alpine zones!
Wild Yarrow has very distinguishable feathery, fernlike leaves with many delicate leaflets. The leaves are very aromatic and grow alternately along the main stalk. It has flat-topped clusters of white flowers which bloom in Summer and sometimes into Fall. If you aren’t confident in your Yarrow identification, please find a local naturalist to point it out to you.
As the Summer fades into Fall, it’s time to harvest some Yarrow if you haven’t done so already! I’m getting my first-aid kit all geared up for our school-year programs (which kick off next week!!), so I’m making sure that I have lots of Yarrow on hand.
Here’s how to make a Yarrow styptic powder, which makes a great addition to an herbal first-aid kit. It certainly comes in handy if you or your kiddo happen to get a cut while romping in the forest!