Friday, May 23, 2008

Herb of the Day--Yarrow

Wind, Rain, Cold, Snow, Sun, Heat, and do it all again! We've had a mixed bag of weather around here lately. Mostly, we've had months of cooler temps and lots of wind, but the last 2 weeks have been a roller-coaster of changes, that seem a little off for this time of May--something more commonly seen in April.
It started with some seriously cold wind the weekend of May 10th, that evolved to some much needed rain showers during the next week, which turned to snow, and then back to some lovely calm, sunny days for the weekend, to a seriously rapid rise to the mid-80s mid week, back to rain, and snow!
The heat felt more worse than pleasant as the HVAC unit in the building I work in was out, so while it was a lovely 78 degrees outside, it was nearly 90, stagnant, and sweltering in my office. To go home to a little hot-burning ember of a 2 year old with fever for two of those days, made the heat seem practically unbearable! Then the winds came back with a vengeance, and the snow, sleet, and hail came down with a roar all day yesterday. Currently--a gentle rain. Timing is a remarkable thing...

During the arduous, yet fun Jemez Mountain Trail Run, an acquaintance of mine had a mishap on the trail and thought she was through. Fortunately, due to a lack of pain, and a first aid kit at the Mitchell Aid Station, she was bandaged up and back on the trail passing me after no time! Due to the fact that I was suffering in my own way, my herbal repertoire was shoved way to the back of my brain when I came upon her, bleeding leg and all, on the trail. About 50 minutes and 1,540 feet of elevation gain later, I realized that I could have easily helped her stop the bleeding leg with a few simple steps. She hadn't passed me yet, and I assumed she was at ER awaiting stitches. Little did I know she'd come romping up behind me a mere matter of minutes later. Perhaps my subconscious intuition of her presence spurned my thoughts towards healing, rather than the 7.2 miles of running I had left before me. That and the fact that all around me, I kept seeing fresh, green signs of one of my favorite plant allies:
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, the Warrior's herb.
(drawing copyright Mimi Kamp, courtesty of Michael Moore)

In days of old, you know, like Brave Heart and the Knights of the Roundtable, men used to spend their days in battle. Since men were often a long ways from the comforts of their stone hearths, they often had to rely on emergency methods to take care of gaping wounds caused by the blades of their foes. Yarrow was one such tool these warriors could rely on.
A handful of the fresh leaves, chewed up into a green, sticky mess, and applied to a wound is a highly effective first aid to stop bleeding. If one chooses not to chew up the bitter tasting leaves, they can be reasonably mashed up by squeezing the leaves with your fingers. Oak can also be used this way, and oaks are even more easy to identify and be familiar with. The leaves from an oak scrub, or oak tree can similarly be chewed up into a pasty mush and applied to a wound to stop the bleeding and to decrease swelling and pain. The astringent nature of tannin is what makes both these common plants so useful.
So, note to myself, next time you are laboring through an arduous race by choice, don't let your herbal knowledge sink to the bottom of your brain, lost in the sludge of personal suffering and blatant muscle aching! Think about those who may be hurting more than you, and help them to see the little allies that might be growing around their feet--accessible and helpful.

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