Updated: Feb 8
Upgrading your nutrition can sometimes be so cheap, simple, and easy that you miss it!
Check out today’s herbal immune hero that grows wild across North America: Yarrow.
Many people seem to think that, to use herbs in daily healthcare, you need to be an herbalist or have some sort of expertise in plant knowledge. This simply isn’t true. There are so many plants growing wild in your back yard (can you say, dandelion and plantain?) that are easy and wonderful sources of nutrients. Because it’s September and the first day of fall is just around the bend on September 22, let’s get comfy with an herb found growing widely in northern California and, in fact, is a native plant across North America: Yarrow.
Yarrow a very “old” herb and has been used medicinally and nutritionally for eons. Its Latin name is Achillea Millefolium and legend has it that Achilles used it to heal his soldiers on the plains before Troy in the tale of the Iliad. It was used in older times to ward off evil, hence another of its names, Devil’s Nettle. Scientific research abounds on this plant! I’ll review just one article I found, but if this peaks your interest, type in PubMed a search for Yarrow and you’ll find all sorts of nutritional gems and medicinal uses.
Elmann et al wrote an article in 2011 entitled “Anti-neuroinflammatory effects of the extract of Achillea fragrantissima” that gives a glimpse into how powerfully Yarrow can aid your immune system. This article focused on immune cells in your brain, called microglia. With any sort of body inflammation, your brain inevitably suffers from inflammation as well. The study examined the effects of a Yarrow tincture (Yarrow extracted in alcohol) on neuroinflammation. Incredibly, Yarrow lowered certain inflammatory substances by 70%! But its benefits didn’t stop there, Yarrow also reduced production of harmful substances such as: Interleukin-1b (IL-1b), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa), matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), COX-2, and inducible nitric oxide synthetase (iNOS).
Don’t worry too much about the particulars of these substances, unless you’re an autodidact and want to research them for yourself. Suffice it to say, Yarrow extract significantly decreased brain inflammation and the substances that are produced when the brain is inflamed. But the good news doesn’t stop there. These substances are not specific to the brain. IL-1b, TNFa, MMP-9, COX-2, and iNOS are all produced in the rest of the body when you are inflamed. And an inflamed immune system is one that is impaired in its ability to keep you well, to fight of seasonal bugs such as the flu, and to recover once seasonal bugs pass. IL-1b and TNFa in particular are self-perpetuating chemicals. This means that, once cells begin to produce them, they amplify production of…more of themselves, creating an inflammatory swamp that can get further and further bogged down.
But what do you do with this herb?
It's incredibly easy to use.
Yarrow can be used in a variety of forms: tinctures, ointments and salves, and teas/infusions. It has a mild and pleasing aroma and taste, rather savory and easily drunk in tea without sweetener. Many gardeners grow it, but as it is a hardy herb and can be found growing in cracks and crannies on its own. A few contraindications exist: those who are on blood thinning medications should consult their doctor first as well as pregnant women and Yarrow used directly on the skin may cause some photosensitivity.
When you're a pro at using Yarrow tea and salve, try it as a new vegetable addition to your meals! Young leaves can be used as well as flowers raw in salads. Light cooking is also great and Yarrow can be added to soups and stews. It can be dried and used as a dry herb and substituted for tarragon. If using it in a sauté, add it at the end. Oil and vinegar infusions can also be made with this lovely herb.
Are you intrigued? Give it a whirl! And, as you’re basking in the knowledge that you’re supporting an anti-inflammatory response in your body, consider that this is just ONE effect of Yarrow. Plants are incredibly complex and Yarrow has many benefits in addition to its immunomodulatory effects. Other possible Yarrow effects include: Mild sleep aid and anti-anxiety aid, benefits for the gastrointestinal tract, relief during menstruation from cramps, wound healing especially via stoppage of bleeding, and a general antibacterial/antimicrobial agent. If you’d like to read more, the article cited above can be found for free on PubMed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3213061/
Now…go out and find some Yarrow! There is nothing quite as satisfying as knowing where your nutrition comes from, what the food is doing in your body, and that it’s a beautiful plant that grows naturally in your area. Have fun!
For more information on all things nutrition and more specific information on boosting your immune system and dealing with autoimmune issues, visit www.raphanutrition.com and join our email list! Schedule a free Discovery Session and Initial Intensive with Spencer today! https://raphanutritionscheduling.as.me/schedule.php And never forget, nutrition is your first line of defense in wellness, one which you have complete control over. Just by educating yourself as you read articles like this one, you're already miles ahead of many. You’ve got this.
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