The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge


By Susan M. Thigpen © 1983-2012

Issue: August, 1983

yarrowIllustration by Susan M. Thigpen.Yarrow is one of the most common and taken for granted weeds in this area. It’s everywhere! Pastures are covered with it. Roadsides have their share as well.

Yarrow grows to be about three feet tall, in average to dry soil, usually in full sunlit places. It has flat topped heads of tiny white flower clusters and finely divided leaves, slightly “fuzzy” instead of slick. The foliage is almost “lacy” like that of a carrot top.

To appreciate Yarrow, you have to know its heritage. Yarrow is one of the oldest herbs known. Its scientific name, Achilla Millefolium, came from an ancient Greek doctor called Achillos, who is said to have cured a seriously wounded warrior called Telph with it. Its stems and leaves have been used to stop bleeding by pressing them on the wound. Another source states it was used by Achilles to stop bleeding of his wounded men in the Trojan Wars. It is now known that pressure applied to a wound will stop bleeding. It may have simply been the pressure applied instead of the Yarrow that helped.

By the late middle ages, another use for Yarrow was popular. Herb pillows were made for various reasons, using a variety of herbs. A young lady of those days would make a small pillow and stuff it with Yarrow. Then at night she would sleep on it, saying this rhyme before going to sleep:

Oh, sweet herb of Venus tree,
Thy true name be Yarrow.
If I sleep I hope to dream,
Of my true love by ‘Morrow.

Supposedly, the lass would know the name of her “true love” upon awakening. I haven’t tried it or know of anyone who has, so I can’t testify if it works or not. It probably won’t harm anyone who would like to try it, with the possible exception of those who are prone to hay fever.