Published on December 3, 2012 by Casey
Some books, especially older botanical books, claim that yarrow plants are not native to North America and that they were introduced by early Europeans. Although we are not botanists, we find that claim extremely hard to believe because we know indigenous words for yarrow in so many Native American languages; meanwhile, we are unaware of any Native American words for yarrow that were borrowed from English, French or Spanish. (Most plants and animals introduced by Europeans have just the opposite situation.) Yarrow also has a more important and longer-standing role in traditional Native American herbalism than do more recent herbal arrivals like dandelions and chicory. Recently published botany books more often seem to recognize multiple different subvarieties of yarrow, suggesting that there were slight genetic differences between Old World and New World varieties of yarrow, and that most yarrow growing wild in North America today is a hybrid form between the two. Whatever the truth of this situation is, yarrow plays an extensive role in the medicine and oral history of Native American tribes throughout North America, particularly used as a poultice for wounds and a treatment for headaches, toothaches, and gastrointestinal problems. Yarrow is considered one of the sacred Life Medicines of the Navajo tribe, and was sometimes burned as a purifying herb by the Anishinabe tribes.
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