The Yarrow, from hiera, holy herb (Achillea millefolium), or
Milfoil, is so called from the very numerous fine segments of its
leaves. It is a Composite plant very common on waysides and in
pastures throughout Britain.
The name Achillea has been bestowed thereupon because the
Greek warrior, Achilles, is said to have disclosed its virtues which
he had been taught by Chiron, the Centaur. This herb is the
Stratiotes chiliophullos of the Greek botanists, by whom it was
valued as an excellent astringent and vulnerary. But Gerard
supposes it may have been the Achillea millefolium nobile, which
grows with a thick root and longer leaves, on a fat and fruitful soil,
a stranger in England, and the very same with which Achilles cured
the wounds of his soldiers. But, he adds, the virtues of each sort
of Milfoil are set to be both alike.
The flowers of the Common Yarrow or Nosebleed are white or
pink; those of the Nobile are yellow.
The popular name of Nosebleed has been given to the Yarrow
because the hairy filaments of the leaves, when put up the nose,
provoke an exudation of blood, and will thus afford relief to
headache, caused by a passive fulness of the vessels. Parkinson says
if it be  pat into the nose, assuredly it will stay the bleeding
of it, which mast be the' effect of action according to similars. Or
if using Yarrow in the same way as a love charm, the following lines
Green arrow! green arrow!
You bear a white blow;
If my love love me
My nose will bleed now.
The leaves have a somewhat fragrant smell, and a bitterish taste.
The odour of the flowers, when rubbed between the fingers, is
aromatic. In consequence of this pungent, volatile principle, the herb
has proved useful in hysteria, flatulence, heartburn, colic, and
epilepsy; also, it is employed in Norway for the cure of rheumatism,
and sometimes chewed for toothache.
Yarrow is one of the few aboriginal English plants, having held the
primitive title, Gearwe. Greek botanists seem to have known the
identical species which we now possess, and to have used it against
haemorrhagic losses. It yields, chemically, a dark-green volatile oil,
and achilleic acid, which is said to be identical with aconitic acid;
also resin, tannin, gum; and earthy ash consisting of nitrates,
phosphates, and chlorides of potash and lime.
For preparing an infusion of the plant, half an ounce should be
boiled down in half a pint of water to six ounces; one tablespoonful
for a dose.
Sir John Hill says the best way of giving Yarrow is in a strong
decoction of the whole plant. A hot infusion of the herb taken freely
on going to bed at night seldom fails to make short work of a cold.
A medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared from the whole plant with
spirit of wine. This, when employed in a diluted form of the first or
third decimal strength, and  in small doses of from five to ten
drops in a tablespoonful of cold water, will act admirably in
arresting nocturnal losses in the male; likewise bleeding from the
lungs, the kidneys, or the nose, especially in florid, hectic subjects.
It has been found by healthy provers that stronger, and larger doses
of any preparation of the herb will induce or aggravate one or
another of these bleedings.
The fresh juice of the plant may be had, a dessert-spoonful three
times in the day; or of the volatile essential oil, from three to five
drops for a dose. These medicines greatly stimulate and promote the
appetite. For ague, says Parkinson, drink a decoction of the herb
warm before the fit, and so for two or three fits together.
Externally, a strong decoction of the leaves has been used as an
injection into the nostrils to stay bleeding from the nose. It is
similarly of service for piles, and for female floodings, because
exerting a special local action on the organs within the middle trunk.
The bruised herb, or an ointment made from it, is applied by rustics
to heal fresh cuts and contusions.
Even in ancient times it was famous as a topical remedy for piles. It
is further of benefit for sore nipples as a lotion, and for a relaxed
sore throat as a gargle: also as a hair wash.
The leaves were applied in former days as a poultice to wounds; and
because of its healing and astringent virtues when so used, the plant
gained the names Sanguinary, Thousand leaf, Old Man's pepper,
Soldiers' Woundwort. Other local names for it are Staunch grass,
Carpenters' weed, and Bloodwort: also, Old Man's Mustard, Bad
Man's Plaything, and Devil's Plaything. In Gloucestershire and
some other parts, the double-flowered Yarrow is brought to a
wedding by  bridesmaids as seven years' love. In Cheshire,
children draw the herb across the face to produce a tingling
sensation, and they call it Devil's nettle.
Culpeper spoke of the same as a profitable herb in cramps, and
therefore called Militaris.
Yarrow, worn in a little bag over the stomach, was the secret
(confided to Boyle) of a great lord against ague. A famous physician
had used it with strange efficacy.
Similarly a charmed packet containing dried Yarrow has been
credited with bringing success to its bearer, if at the same time he
were admitted to the knowledge of a traditional secret (only
whispered to the initiated) that this was the first herb our Saviour
had put into His hand when a child.
Again, Elspeth Reoch, in 1616, when tried for witchcraft,
acknowledged to having employed the Yarrow in her incantations.
She plucked one herbe called Meleflower, sitting on her right knee,
and pulling it betwixt the mid-finger and thumbe, and saying: In
nominee Patris, Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. The Meleflower is the
Achilloea Ptarmica or Sneezewort.
By the plant so gathered, she was enabled to cure distempers, and to
impart the faculty of prediction.