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Friday, November 5, 2010

YARROW : YARROW HERB BENEFITS, USES AND HISTORY: SPICY YARROW TISANE RECIPE

YARROW (ACHILLEA MILLEFOLIUM) BIRANJASIF,OR  SULTANI BOOTI
Yarrow has been around for thousands of years and its properties were even known to Neanderthals we think, as a bunch of yarrow was found lying besides a human skeleton in a Stone Age burial site in Shanidar Cave, in Iraq. The skeleton dated back to more than 100,000 BC and it is thought that it was used as a funerary herb.
   It was considered a sacred plant in ancient China, because it was thought to embody the perfect balance of yin and yang, with the outer stalk being hard, with a soft substance inside it. The Chinese form of divination, the I-Ching, consists of 50 sticks which are thrown to reveal your future. These sticks used to be made from the stalks of the yarrow plant.
multi yarrow
  Yarrow is native to Europe and western Asia, and grows wherever it is allowed to in Britain. It has a number of names, some of which describe the plant, such as Milfoil, (a thousand leaves) and its Latin names, millefolium means the same and refers to the fact that the leaves have many segments.. It is believed that it is called Achillea because the legendary Greek hero Achilles is said to have staunched his soldiers’ wounds with this plant. In English it is also called Soldier’s Woundwort, which describes one of the uses yarrow was put to in the past. The Romans used it to heal wounds and staunch the flow of blood from wounds as well as the Greeks. They called it the Herbis Militaris or the military’s herb. In Scotland the plant was made into an ointment and used to dress wounds.
yellow yarrow
  The name yarrow comes from the Anglo-Saxon gearwe and the Dutch, yerw. It is also called Nosebleed because it can stop one and it can also start one if the leaf is rolled up and applied to the nostrils. It was thought that a nosebleed was an effective form of relieving a headache.
  It wasn’t just the Chinese who used it for divination purposes though, in England it is called yarroway in Eastern counties such as Norfolk, and this is a little rhyme that was recited while tickling the inside of the nostrils with a yarrow leaf to find out if love was reciprocated: -
        “Yarroway, yarroway, bear a white blow,
          If my love love me, my nose will bleed now.”
People used to collect the leaves and sew them into a small pouch and sleep with then under their pillow so that they would dream of their future spouse. Some recited this verse from Halliwell’s “Popular Rhymes” while laying it under the pillow: -
        “Thou pretty herb of Venus’ tree
          Thy true name it is yarrow,
          Now who my bosom friend must be,
          Pray tell me thou tomorrow.”
It was also called “Devil’s Plaything” and “Devil’s Nettle” because it was thought to have some malignant properties perhaps because of its ability to cause nose bleeds. It was also used as snuff and called Old Man’s Pepper because of this use. It is good for clearing nasal congestion. All you have to do is sniff the bruised leaves or the flowers.
   The whole plant used to be collected when it was in flower and all the parts can be used. In the 17th century the leaves were used in salads and you can do this as long as you blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes, and then refresh them under cold water.
    If you have piles, you can put yarrow leaves in a bath of very hot water – as hot as you can bear – and sit in it until it grows cold. This is supposed to be very good for bleeding piles. Boiling water, fresh yarrow leaves and rosemary are a good mixture for helping to prevent baldness, according to tradition. You should boil the leaves in the water for 5-10 minutes and let the liquid reduce and then cool and rub it onto the scalp.
  A plain tisane is good for stomach aches and menstrual cramps, and you should use 1 once of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water. Drink this warm with a little honey or sugar to taste in small cupfuls. Culpeper recommended this for all stomach cramps and it is used as a digestive aid too.
  The essential oil of yarrow is usually made from the flowers, and has a bitter astringent aroma and taste. Yarrow leaves are called Field Hops in Sweden and have been used in brewing beer before the use of hops became more acceptable.. The leaves were also added to beer in Britain when villagers made their own homebrew. The oil has been used to treat eczema and for other skin problems. You can chew the leaves to freshen your mouth and to relieve toothache.
   In Pakistan’s Siran Valley, the fresh plant is used as a poultice for healing wounds, chapped or rough skin, rashes and mouthwash. A tisane made form it is used in the treatment of T.B., stomach ache, and headache. The fresh and dried leaves are ground and used for headaches and to increase the appetite when people are suffering from chronic weight loss .It’s also used to relieve constipation.
  In North America it was widely used by the indigenous people and the Flathead Indians used to rub it under their armpits and elsewhere on their bodies as a deodorant.
  The tannins in the yarrow plant assist in the healing of wounds, and the alkaloids help lower blood pressure. The flavonoids in the oil dilate the peripheral arteries and promote sweat, so this is useful in intermittent fevers, or in the sort we get in Pakistan when the seasons change, when we know we should sweat but don’t. The essential oil consists chiefly of azulene, which has strong anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. It calms the nervous system and strengthens the immune system. Yarrow also contains coumarins, lactones, triterpines, eucalyptol and camphor. It also has a high potassium content which stimulates kidney activity and so is a diuretic.
  Yarrow stimulates the uterus and although this may help in childbirth it should not be taken if you are pregnant. Also if you take yarrow orally over a long period of time it may make your skin sensitive to sunlight.
  However you can safely use it as a facial steam treatment. Put 1 tablespoon of fresh yarrow leaves in a bowl half full of boiling water, and put a towel over your head, while leaning over the steam reduced for several minutes. When you have finished splash cold water on your face and pat it dry. For a more aromatic steam, use lavender and rosemary in the water.
   You can use yarrow as a herb with shell fish, and this tisane recipe is especially good for colds and fevers, as it will make you sweat.

SPICY YARROW TISANE
Ingredients
25 gr dried yarrow leaves or 75 gr of fresh
1 pint water
1 stick of cinnamon or several of cassia bark
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 green cardamom pod, split open
honey to taste

Method
Put everything into a pan apart from the honey and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, leave to steep for 20 minutes the strain and drink hot. You will have to reheat it perhaps.
This has Taste and is a Treat(ment).



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