Wild Yarrow: Achillea Millefolium

aka: Milfoil, Soldiers woundwort, Nose Bleed Weed, Sanguinary, Devil’s Nettle.

Growing Wild Yarrow:  This plant makes a wonderful addendum to a domestic garden in the Spring. Although now highly cultivated and available everywhere in nurseries, there is still a quaint feeling to include a wild species in a domestic garden for a feel of times past.

I have seen red and yellow varieties as ornamentals, but by far the most common is white. I think the colors are hybrids of the wild white species. Some cautions when planting as Yarrow. It will creep through its root system and will drop seeds readily in late summer, thus becoming very prolific with time.  All varieties of Yarrow have similar qualities medicinally. Choice of colors should be preferential.

It is not commonly kept as a ‘Ground Cover’ and if it should get too thick, just thin it out. But Yarrow deserves a special place in everyone’s garden. It’s a very special plant and should be treated like an old friend.

Yarrow is well known for its blood clotting properties (Hemostatic).  It can be used when used fresh/crushed and applied as a direct poultice on a wound or laceration.  It also promotes healing and new tissue growth of the damaged tissues (a Vulnerary).  Yarrow is mildly antiseptic, even somewhat antibiotic by nature and can be applied directly to a wound. Herbalists in history have used yarrow leaf rolled and inserted into the nostrils to stem bleeding from a nosebleed. Another herbalist claims when a rolled leaf of Milfoil (yarrow) is placed in the nose it promotes bleeding to stem a severe headache and lower blood pressure. So it seems it has been used in history for both reasons.

Yarrow is also an alternative blood cleanser, for example, it can be used if the initial wound was contaminated such as puncture wounds or lacerations.  It may, in fact, prevent blood poisoning from a dirty laceration. Yarrow applied this way reduces pain and swelling, because it acts as an anti-inflammatory to the affected area. Yarrow is a good choice for veterinary first aid uses on animal injuries.

Yarrow’s blood clotting ability is legend.  Throughout history Native Americans, warriors and soldiers, dating back to the Greeks, nearly 3000 years ago.  All have used Yarrow to stem blood loss from wounds and injury, hence the name “soldier’s woundwort”.  Crushed leaves in a tea can stop internal bleeding from ulcers, nasal passages, esophageal, bleeding hemorrhoids, etc.  Yarrow also contains a Digestive “Bitters” quality and is very helpful as a digestive aid, promoting bile flow and preventing Gall stones from re-occurring.  It is also very soothing to the pancreas and endocrine system. It is useful in treating the common cold as it induces sweating by opening pores (diaphoresis), cleanses the blood and reduces fevers readily especially when aspirin is contraindicated.

Yarrow is considered a pretty safe plant and reportedly even used as a wild edible (survival food), but like anything else, take care when using it and monitor its results. When taken internally the active ingredient, Thujone Oi,  produces a slight sedating and diuretic effect. Thujone relaxes smooth muscle in the body which helps prevent cramping (Menstrual and abdominal).  It is very healing to an inflamed liver (Hepatitis, Jaundice conditions) and can be used as an adjunct in liver, gall bladder tonics..

Yarrow is a good choice to include in your garden next year. Because of its delicate presence it looks good as a backdrop growing amongst the other domestic low growing flowers. Yarrow is also indispensible as a wilderness first aid plant in the wild.

Know this plant, and know where to find it in the wild.


The TinMan


Burdock: Arctium Lappa


“Burdock” (or simply Dock)

AKA,  Gobo, Batchelor Buttons, Sticky Burrs

Getting out in the spring along the trails, meadows, fields and wooded areas of new england, I would always quickly recognize this Pesty Weed as I’m sure most of you would. But to the trained eye, the benefits of this weed is remarkable. It is often overlooked as a tasty vegetable, wild survival food, and a valuable natural medicine. It is highly nutritious. The roots being high in Carbohydrates, Calcium, Magnesium, iron, copper and dietary Iodine. Burdock also contains Vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, Vitamin P for blood building, Zinc, Silicon and Inulin, which I will explain later.

Herbally, Burdock is highly prized as a blood purifier, liver detoxifier and general hepatic herb, especially when used as a warm infusion. It is highly effective in the treatment of gout. It works by removing excess “Uric Acid” from the joints and blood. Excess Uric Acid is the root cause of GOUT.  My brother has occasional attacks of gout in his knee and several daily warm infusions will dispel his symptoms in 24 – 48 hours.

Burdock has a remarkable ability to pull waste from the body’s systems, especially through the liver and biliary, (liver and Gall Bladder cleansing).  It also pulls waste through digestive tract, (colon cleansing) and especially good at pulling waste through the lymphatic system and skin. It is used to reduce swollen lymph glands. Among Herbal Practitioners, Burdock is used extensively to remedy skin problems, because of its ability to pull waste and toxins away from the body through lymph and glands.

I have used dried chopped Burdock root, blended 1:1 with Sassafras root bark for a very pleasant tea to help soothe the endocrine system and the hormone producing organs, (Pancreas, Adrenals, Thyroid, etc) Very effective in soothing the pituitary gland, (a Master gland) . When trying to lose weight, indulging in a cup of this bold flavorful tea 30 minutes before meals becomes an effective appetite supressant.

Burdock also contains “Inulin”, (similar to Insulin, but not the same).  Inulin has a dramatic effect on modulating blood sugar and can be a valuable natural tool in controlling Type 2 Diabetes with diet.  Inulin is at its highest concentrations immediately after harvesting the roots. In storing the roots, the inulin modifies itself into other forms of starches. Inulin is also found in high concentration in the roots of the Jerusalem Artichoke, another fine wild edible.

As an edible, the thick center stem of the long wavy leaves are quite tasty in the young and early season plant. They can be eaten raw as a survival food, or can be used as you would celery, chopped in any recipe.

The roots of the mature plant are actually cultivated in Japan (Gobo) as a staple, and is a pleasant starchy root vegetable. When washed, peeled, boiled, and mashed, they become a creamy, (slightly mucilaginous) side dish, rich in Carbohydrates. Fresh roots can be washed, peeled, and sliced lengthwise or julienned and put into an interesting stir fry with other vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms, Ginger spice, toasted sesame seeds, Soy Sauce or Tamari.

Burdock is a very common Herb and can easily be found wild in most of Northern U.S. and Canada. Burdock is best harvested for its roots in the fall. Leaf stems are best eaten in spring or early summer. There is also a smaller cousin of the Dock Family called Yellow Dock, or Curley Dock. Which is a little more difficult to seek out and find but it is even more concentrated in its medicinal values.

The TinMan

Purslane: Portulaca Oleracea

Today, I’d like to write about Purslane, also known by farm folk as “Pigweed”, (cause Piggy’s just love it).  It’s one of the earlier wild herbs, (wild edible) found in the spring, but thrives through early and mid-summer. By most people, it’s considered a nuisance weed that pops up everywhere in late spring, (Albeit it is now being cultivated and sold in nursery’s as an ornamental). It grows well in the wild in disturbed soils, and can be found handily, growing mostly in old garden plots, meadows fields and along trails, stone walls and fence rows.

It’s a small inconspicuous looking weed that grows to about 6 inches to a foot tall, sometimes lying down to assume a creeping ivy like plant. It’s dark green, wedge shaped leaves are thick and succulent as they are rich in juice and nutrition high in Vitamin C and trace minerals. According to Simopoulous Portulaca/ Purslane contains the highest amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids than any other leafy green vegetable tested to date.  Chickens are often fed Purslane to produce eggs lower in cholesterol.

Portulaca: courtesy of Harvard University Herbaria

The entire plant, (including the stems and roots) can be used both as a wild edible and as a medicinal plant. Tasting tangy with a slight sour taste similar to sorrel, (often mixed with Sorrel as a pot herb to make the French Sorrel Soup known as Bonne Femme). Purslane can be used raw in salads or just to chew on right out of the garden or on the trail.  Purslane can also be cooked and use as you would spinach.

Medicinally this little gem has the ability to pull “heat” from the body.  On a hot day blend some fresh picked Purslane, stems and all, with a stalk of celery and an apple in a juicer for a very refreshing and highly nutritious drink to allay thirst quicker than ‘Lemonade’.  Just one Purslane leaf crushed or bruised and placed under your tongue can relieve thirst while hiking or working in the garden or yard. During bouts of heat exhaustion a poultice of macerated leaves and stems placed over the eyes and temples will pull heat out of the body making recovery quicker.

As long as you have your juicer out, try making a juice of Purslane and Strawberries, even Wild Strawberries.   It can also be used as a mouthwash or gargle and will help fasten loose teeth.  Take a swallow and swish briskly in the mouth then carefully spit, trying not to dislodge the loose tooth further. A few applications will help ‘set’ the loose tooth.

Purslane, (including leaves, stems and roots) when cooked down and strained through a sieve or colander, then adding sugar and honey to the liquid to make a simple syrup to taste can be used as a very effective cough syrup.  Native Americans have often used Purslane for dry non productive coughs.

In ancient times, Purslane was used as an anti-magick herb.  It was strewn in a circle around a bed to afford protection against evil spirits and spells. It was also placed on window sills and in doorways to protect against Lightening striking.

Keep an eye out for this little inconspicuous and little known wild weed as its healthful value is little appreciated now.