Yarrow is one of my favourite herbs, but it took biodynamic compost to spark my curiosity about it. Once I saw how effective the compost preparations were, I simply had to learn about each of the plants.
What follows is a sneak peak into the online course on herb gardening, due for release on 18/1/21. At the moment, you can access this content through the Blue Borage Summer School, a bundle with 11 courses.
My personal experience
The first yarrow I grew was a stunning hot pink coloured flower. It grew on the edges of a shell pathway and surprised me each year it popped up. This was the plant I used to harvest my yarrow stalks, but I never made it to the 50 stalks I need to use them with the I-ching.
At some point someone told me that the pink yarrow was the wrong colour for using in biodynamic preparations, that I needed to find the white (medicinal) variety. I'd been so proud of myself for having any at all... but started discouraging the pink one from spreading, and instead began growing just white yarrow.
I recently had a couple of weeks of drinking herbal tea in the morning, wandering round the garden at first light to harvest a few leaves or flowers: chamomile, lemon balm, kawakawa, pineapple sage, clover, mint, yarrow, calendula, raspberry leaves, nettle, even plantain and dandelion!
Something I noticed after drinking the yarrow in my tea was an extremely clear respiratory system - almost like that feeling of using Vicks Vaporub. It was a little perplexing, to be honest, and had me stop drinking herbal tea, just in case I was overdosing on something. 2021 could be the year I start studying herbal remedies! Or at least collaborate with a herbalist to give safe advice on using herbs in drinks.
The quality I most love about yarrow is the delicate leaves. I am never confident with artwork, but had a go at sketching a leaf today:
In the words of Rudolf Steiner
Quotes taken from the Agriculture Course (my version is the translation by George Adams, but I'm also enjoying the upcoming translation by Stewart Lundy, edited by Natalie McGill)
"Yarrow is indeed a miraculous creation"
"Yarrow stands out in Nature as though some creator of the plant-world had had it before him as a model, to shew him how to bring the sulphur into a right relation to the remaining substances of the plant."
"One would fain say, 'In no other pant do the Nature-spirits attain such perfection in the use of sulphur as they do in yarrow.'"
"Yarrow is always the greatest boon, wherever it grows wild in the country - at the edges of the fields or roads, where cereals or potatoes or any other crops are growing. It should on no account be weeded out."
"In a word, like sympathetic people in human society, who have a favourable influence by their mere presence and not by anything they say, so yarrow, in a district where it is plentiful, works beneficially by its mere presence."
[After giving the recipe on how to make the yarrow preparation Steiner goes on to say] "The mass we thus gain from the yarrow has an effect so quickening and so refreshing that if we now use the manure thus treated, just in the way manure is ordinarily used, we shall make good again much that would otherwise become a ruthless exploitation of the earth. We re-endow the manure with the power, so to quicken the earth that the more distant comic substances - silicic acid, lead, etc., which come to the earth in finest homeopathic quantities - are caught up and received." [Lecture Five 13th June 1924]
in the words of Peter Proctor
Some quotes from the book 'Grasp the Nettle':
"This preparation brings in light forces to the soil in the form of potassium and sulphur"
"Yarrow is connected to the plnet Venus, which is also connected to the kidney."
"The yarrow plant grows in waste places on poor soils. Yarrow plants are delicate-looking, but to my eye, beautifully balanced. The roots are mainly at the surface: they are not deeply attached to the earth. You can feel by the feathery lightness of hte leaf how the yarrow is strongly connected to the light forces. The leaves have a reduced, flower-like gesture. Yarrow's main feature is its white, composite, flowers, which are connected by light forces with Venus. Each flower is like a little chalice - a receptacle for receiving the beneficence of the cosmos."
"This connection with the cosmic forces, one imagines, enables the yarrow to concentrate many trace elements. It is a wonderful example of what Pfeiffer (1983) has described as plant dynamics. Yarrow has been found to contain a measurable amount of potassium and selenium even when the soil in which it grows lacks these minerals. In 1985 in Reporoa, New Zealand, liquid manure was made from yarrow plants growing on land where soil tests had showed deficiency of potassium and total absence of selenium. Analysis showed the liquid manure to container measurable amounts of these minerals."
from Wilhelm Pelikan:
"The medicinal actions of yarrow begin with stimulation of metabolism, strengthening the stomach, and improving appetite; it also promotes liver function and hemopoiesis. In conjunction with this it also stops hemorrhages, and finally helps to direct anabolic and growth processes in which silica also plays a role. The bitter extracts strengthen the digestive process. Finally the plant, used in compresses, relieves the pain of spasms and colics, an action partly due to its volatile oils and camphor-like constituents."
observations from Manfred Klett
"The yarrow, like any other plant, takes in potassium through the roots. There the potassium as an earthly substance, with all its properties we have describe above, disappears. It leaves its physical environment and enters a living one. Of course we may find potassium to a certain extent still in a salty state in the roots. But in the process of growing and developing - first in the still watery leaves and all the more in the successive ones - the potassium becomes estranged from its physical properties and instead takes on properties, step by step, that relate to the living. Within the living sphere it becomes a carrier of living forces."
How to grow yarrow
I find the easiest method is to find someone with an abundant yarrow patch, and dig up just one clump of yarrow, divide the roots, and start these babies off in your own garden.
Try to find the white flowering yarrow used for its superior medicinal properties.
To learn more...
You can access the 'how to grow yarrow' video in the online course here, or get the full herb gardening course as part of the Blue Borage summer school (Herb gardening due for release on 18/1/21)
Yarrow - one of the six biodynamic compost preparations
What are the compost preparations?
|BD504||stinging nettle preparation|
|BD505||oak bark preparation|
I'd love to learn to make each of these, but for now I buy them in sets from the Biodynamic Association of New Zealand, and grow the plants in my home garden just to get to know them better each season.
You can learn more about using the compost preparations inside the online course 'Hot Composting', where I demonstrate the method in different locations and different seasons.