An ancient flowering plant, yarrow has been used as a medicinal herb since antiquity. Saxons, Chinese, and Native Americans favored yarrow for its many healthful benefits. Surprisingly, yarrow was also used as a medicinal herb by some Neanderthal peoples as evidenced by ancient burial sites. Herbalists and practitioners of folk medicine have been prescribing yarrow for headaches, colds, toothaches, earaches, hay fever, and inflammation for centuries. Today, herbalists also believe that this common little plant may even help promote weight loss.
As with many folk remedies, there has been little formal research conducted by the medical community about yarrow and its ability to enhance weight loss; however, this lack of scientific attention is changing as more and more practitioners of Western medicine begin to plumb history’s remedies for their hidden healing potential. As an ancient herb, yarrow has been used safely for a wide array of ailments, but it’s the weight loss trait that now has everybody talking. (Image taken from Wikimedia Commons)
Yarrow is a mild diuretic and, as a consequence, has the ability to help the body release more sodium and water; in this way, the herb allows the body to rid itself of excess fluids along with toxins. While herbalists believe this is chiefly why yarrow has earned itself the reputation as a weight loss agent, they also suggest that it decreases appetite. Together, increased urination and decreased appetite, appear to help some people shed weight. The plant’s aerial parts are associated with its diuretic properties; often, yarrow is taken as a bitter tonic. This tonic is also taken to ease digestive ailments and to treat some menstrual disorders.
Of course, the chief reason yarrow is growing in popularity among the dieting set is because it is natural—part of nature’s pharmacotherapy. It can be taken in a tea or purchased as a supplement. In any case, people find it less risky than diet pills; however, as with any herb, it is essential to check with a healthcare provider before introducing it to your body. For instance, medical organizations like WebMD warn against ingesting this herb while pregnant or breastfeeding. Since the herb is known to slow clotting, it should not be taken after surgery. People who have ragweed allergies or are allergic to related plants may also want to avoid yarrow unless it is suggested by a healthcare provider.
Otherwise, yarrow has a great reputation as a powerful healing plant. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (umm.edu/altmed/articles/yarrow-000282.htm), yarrow has also been prescribed to relieve insomnia, reduce anxiety, alleviate heartburn, ease muscle spasms or aches, reduce fever, and promote wound healing. Topically, it has been used to treat eczema. In folk medicine, yarrow has also been used with other herbs to treat such conditions as chicken pox, measles, diabetes, thrombosis, and internal bleeding. Moreover, yarrow has been known to reduce the autoimmune response and to treat ulcers.
With all these healing benefits attached to its reputation, it is not surprising that legends surround yarrow. Most famously, the plant was said to be carried into battle by the Greek warrior Achilles, the famed hero of Homer’s Iliad. This is most likely the reason yarrow is sometimes referred to as soldier’s woundwort. The Chinese believe that yarrow grew on the grave of Confucius and is still associated with wisdom and intelligence among practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.
Yarrow is a perennial that has a pleasantly sweet scent associated with the fragrance of chrysanthemums. Various species of the plant are grown throughout North America as well as Europe and parts of Asia. Flowering in late spring and early summer, yarrow boasts flowers that range in color from white to pale pink and grow in clusters. Gardeners favor yarrow because it wards off bad insects and improves soil quality where it is planted. It is attractive to butterflies and has also been known to improve the health of surrounding plants.
Although it is essential to check with your physician before embarking on a yarrow regimen to increase weight loss, it is a well-known herb that is taken by many for a wide range of health-related issues without serious side effects. In any case, discuss its use with a healthcare provider to ensure proper dosage before taking this or any herb.
Guest post contributed by Rebecca Chang, on behalf of National Hearing Care – Australia's leading independent provider of hearing healthcare services and free deafness tests. Rebecca is an experience audiologist and also enjoys writing about medicinal herbal remedies and alternative therapies.