Yarrow Flower Meaning, Spiritual Symbolism, Color Meaning & More

Last Updated on January 9, 2024

A spray of yellow petals bursting forth from a strong stem — many of us recognize the yarrow, even if we don’t know its name.

Yarrow flower, otherwise known as Achillea millefolium, is a prolific flowering plant, thriving in all kinds of conditions.

Yarrow flower can often be spotted in meadows and forests, but also in overgrown areas where you might not expect flowers to bloom.

The yarrow flower is also a plant with a rich tradition. Used to symbolize healing and love, the yarrow has found itself on both the battlefield and in the bedroom.

yarrow flower
Image by Davie Bicker from Pixabay

Nowadays, yarrow is still used in medicine thanks to its fantastic healing properties. And the beauty of the yarrow gives it a continued romantic significance.

Commonly found in gardens and kitchens, the yarrow plays an important role today.

We’ve put together this guide so you can learn more about the historical symbolism and significance of the yarrow.

It’s easy to overlook the yarrow, until you learn more about how important this flower can be.

Key Takeaways

  • Healing and Love: Yarrow, symbolizing healing and love, has a rich tradition rooted in its medicinal uses, historical significance in battlefields, and romantic associations.
  • Cultural Significance: With diverse meanings across cultures, from Ancient Greece to China, yarrow is associated with divination, protection, and medicinal practices, showcasing its global impact.
  • Color Symbolism: The color of yarrow flowers carries specific meanings—white for purity, yellow for friendship, red for desire, and pink for love and sensitivity—enabling nuanced expressions.
  • Cultural Impact Across Regions: Yarrow’s symbolism spans continents, from battlefield use in Ancient Greece to Native American medicine and love divination in the British Isles, illustrating its cultural versatility
  • Yarrow Flower Tattoo Symbolism: Yarrow tattoos symbolize love, healing, strength, and triumph over illness. The choice of color represents different types of love, and the tattoo connects individuals to nature.

What Does The Yarrow Flower Mean?

The yarrow flower grows in many places across the world, and was often transported with travelers for its medicinal uses. The yarrow flower means healing and love.

Yarrow has had an important role in many cultures throughout history, mostly as a plant used for healing.

Yarrow would even be taken on the battlefield in some instances, which is how it got its scientific name (and many other nicknames).

This has given yarrow the meaning of healing.

With pretty and delicate flowers, the yarrow has also come to mean love. It’s associated with both young love and romantic love, and can be given as a romantic gift. 

In China, the yarrow flower is associated with good luck. It’s frequently used in I Ching divination.

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Etymological Meaning Of The Yarrow Flower

The yarrow flower is correctly known as the Achillea millefolium. The etymological meaning of this dates back to antiquity.

Even to the Ancient Greeks, the use of yarrow to staunch the flow of blood was well known.

Chiron was a wise centaur, respected for his knowledge of medicine. Chiron acted as a teacher to many heroes of Greek legends, including Achilles.

The centaur taught Achilles the use of yarrow to treat wounds, and Achilles carried the flower into battle with him. From this, the plant gets the name Achillea. 

Millefolium refers to the small and delicate leaves that characterize the yarrow, and look like they can be divided into thousands. 

The name yarrow itself comes from the Saxon name gearwe. Gearwe was also thought to mean “entirely”, and “certainly”. 

Unveiling the Deep Symbolism of Yarrow Flowers

The symbolism of the yarrow is beautiful and poignantly related to its history as a plant used on the battlefield. The yarrow is typically used to symbolize healing and health.

An arrangement of yarrow can be given as a “get well soon” gesture.

The yarrow hasn’t just been healing for people — it can be used to support other plants by attracting pollinators.

Images of the yarrow flowers are sometimes used by herbalists, and makers of traditional medicine.

Because of the battlefield connotations, yarrow can also be used as a symbol for courage in battle. 

Love is another meaning of the yarrow flower. Depending on the color of the flower, it can be used to symbolize different kinds of love.

Young love, and romantic love, are common meanings.

A joyful plant that grows in abundance, the symbolism of the yarrow is positive and cheerful.

The yarrow is an important plant in Chinese culture. In China, the yarrow can be used as a symbol of good luck.

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Decoding the Symbolism of Yarrow Flower Colors

Yarrow ColorSymbolism
WhitePurity, innocence, hope, renewal
YellowFriendship, joy, celebration
RedDesire, passionate love, courage
PinkLove, sensitivity (various shades)

The small flowers of the yarrow can bloom in a wide range of coloring, although you’re most likely to see it in yellow or white.

Yarrow flowers range from delicate pastels to bold blooms, with white, yellow, red, and pink being common colors. 

The color of the yarrow can play a role in how we interpret the symbolism of the flower.

  • White yarrow: symbolizes purity, innocence, hope, and renewal; perfect for friendship or the start of a relationship.
  • Yellow yarrow: represents friendship, joy, and celebration; a cheerful choice.
  • Red yarrow: signifies desire, passionate love, and courage; great for expressing deep feelings or as an anniversary gift.
  • Pink yarrow: reflects love and sensitivity; various shades indicate different levels of symbolism (pale pink for innocent love, deep pink for passionate love). 
Yarrow Flower Meaning

Meaningful Botanical Characteristics Of The Yarrow Flower

Yarrow is an incredible flower, which is why it has such a prolific history. Much of that relates to the botanical characteristics of the yarrow.

Known as a healing plant, yarrow has been used to ease the healing of wounds for centuries.

Yarrow can be mixed into a poultice and used to treat inflammation.

The delicate leaves and petals can be applied directly to the wound, where they ease aches and pains while helping stop the flow of blood. 

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The astringent aniseed taste of the yarrow has led to its use in both medicine and food. A distinctive flavoring, the yarrow can heal wounds and alleviate pains

The deep roots of the yarrow has led it to be a drought resistant plant. This is part of the reason why it’s so widespread, and so widely used.

And with its beautiful smell and coloring, the yarrow attracts plenty of pollinators. Because of this, it’s a companion plant. 

The thick stalk of the yarrow is another feature that’s contributed highly to its use.

Because the stalk is so firm, it’s used to create the lines and readings of I Ching divination. 

Yarrow Flowers: Perfect Blooms for Special Occasions

OccasionDescription
Expression of Young LoveSimple bouquet expressing feelings
Romantic AnniversaryIn addition to roses and tulips
Healing GestureGift for someone recovering from illness
Informal BouquetsOften used as a filler flower

The blooms of the yarrow are certainly pretty, but the yarrow is a flower with an understated beauty. It’s rarely the central focus of a big bouquet, but is instead typically used as a filler flower.

Yarrow is often associated with wildflowers, which makes it a great addition to an informal bouquet.

A good time to give yarrow is as an expression of young love. A small and simple bouquet expresses a depth of feeling, but isn’t an overwhelming expression of devotion.

Try adding yarrow to roses and tulips, if you want an arrangement for a romantic anniversary.

For someone struggling with ill health, or recovering from an illness, yarrow makes a lovely gift. The meaning of healing and love combine for a heartfelt gesture. 

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CultureYarrow Significance
ChineseAssociated with divination and good luck
Native AmericanMedicinal use, referred to as “nosebleed plant”
European FolkloreProtective qualities, used in rituals and love divination
Ancient Greek and RomanHealing wounds, associated with Achilles
Western HerbalismKnown for its medicinal properties and remedies
British IslesSymbol of love, used in love divination
American Civil WarUsed to treat injuries on the battlefield

The Cultural Significance of Yarrow Flowers

The cultural impact of yarrow is surprising for such a delicate plant. 

Chinese Culture

In China, yarrow has been traditionally associated with divination and I Ching practices. It’s considered a plant with mystical properties and is used for both medicinal and spiritual purposes.

Native American Culture

Several Native American tribes have used yarrow for its medicinal properties, often referring to it as a “nosebleed plant” due to its ability to stop bleeding. It also holds cultural significance in various rituals and ceremonies.

European Folklore

Yarrow has a long history in European folklore. It was believed to have protective qualities, and people used to hang it over doorways to ward off evil spirits. Additionally, the yarrow was considered a symbol of love and used in love divination rituals.

Ancient Greek And Roman Cultures

In ancient Greece and Rome, yarrow was used for its healing properties, especially for wounds. It was associated with the god Achilles due to its use in treating his injuries in Greek mythology.

Native American Medicine

Many Native American tribes used yarrow for its medicinal properties, including as a pain reliever and for treating various ailments. It was also employed in spiritual ceremonies.

Western Herbalism

Yarrow is a well-known herb in Western herbalism, appreciated for its ability to staunch bleeding and its use in remedies for various conditions, including colds and fevers.

Fascinating Yarrow Flower Facts: Nature’s Intriguing Wonders

  • Yarrow’s Global Spread: Originating in the Northern Hemisphere, yarrow was prevalent in Europe, Asia, and North America and became widespread globally due to its versatile uses, especially in battlefield medicine.
  • Versatile Habitat: Yarrow is a robust plant that can thrive in various environments, from coastal regions to deserts, with its ideal habitat being forests and meadows.
  • Blooming Season: Yarrow blooms with a fragrant scent between May and June, attracting pollinators like hoverflies and ladybugs.
  • Historical Beer Ingredient: In medieval Europe, yarrow was an essential ingredient in brewing beer, part of an herbal mixture called gruit, used for flavoring.
  • Bitter Milk Warning: Consuming yarrow is an acquired taste, and when cows eat it, it can make their milk taste bitter.
  • Love Symbol in Britain: Yarrow held romantic symbolism in Britain, often placed under pillows to reveal true love. An unusual method involved inserting yarrow leaves into one’s nostril, and a nosebleed was seen as a sign of returned love.

Versatile Applications of Yarrow Flowers

CharacteristicDescription
Medicinal UsesHealing wounds, inflammation, digestive issues
Astringent TasteUsed in medicine and food, distinctive flavor
Drought ResistanceThrives in various environments
Attracts PollinatorsAttracts beneficial insects
Historical Beer IngredientUsed in medieval beer brewing (gruit)
I Ching DivinationStalks used for divination readings

The yarrow is an incredibly useful flower, and is often grown as a companion plant. It attracts insects such as wasps, ladybugs, and hoverflies, while keeping pests away.

Yarrow can also be eaten.  With a slight taste of aniseed, yarrow can be brewed into a tea, eaten in salads, or used as a cooking herb.

Once used in the brewing of beer, yarrow is still used to create some liquors as well as bitters.

Although not a common use now, the yarrow plant was once used to staunch the blood flow from wounds. Yarrow has several different names relating to this original use, such as the Roman Herba militaris (military herb), and the Irish lus na fola (blood plant). 

Thanks to its astringent properties, yarrow has also been used in traditional and herbal medicine.

Yarrow has been used to treat various aches such as toothache, headaches, and sore throats.

An application of yarrow has also been shown to speed up the healing of wounds, treat digestive issues, and potentially even alleviate anxiety.

For centuries yarrow has been a significant medicinal plant, and it’s still important today.

What Is The Symbolism Of A Yarrow Flower Tattoo?

Yarrow Tattoo Symbolism

  • Symbolizes love and healing, especially for those who’ve faced illness.
  • Represents strength and resilience.
  • Can signify the triumph over illness.
  • Also symbolizes love, both romantic and platonic.
  • Yarrow flower colors represent different types of love.
  • White yarrow tattoo can symbolize love for a child.
  • A red yarrow tattoo can symbolize love for a partner.

Natural World Connection

  • Yarrow’s widespread growth makes it akin to a wildflower.
  • Abundant in natural areas.
  • A yarrow tattoo can symbolize a love for the natural world.

Final Thoughts

The twin meanings of healing and love make the yarrow a plant with a special significance. Found in many parts of the world, the prolific yarrow is joyful, and a cheerful plant to come across. When you see the yarrow, you want to smile.

Although sometimes seem as simple, the symbolism of the yarrow, as well as it’s many uses, make this a truly lovely flower.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does yarrow symbolize?

Yarrow symbolizes a range of qualities and emotions depending on its color. White yarrow symbolizes purity and innocence, while yellow represents friendship and joy. Red yarrow signifies desire and passionate love, and pink yarrow conveys love and sensitivity.

Are there cultural variations in yarrow symbolism?

Yes, yarrow’s symbolism can vary across cultures. For instance, it has different meanings in Chinese, Native American, European, and Greek cultures. It may be associated with divination, protection, or healing, depending on the culture.

Is yarrow associated with any specific holidays or occasions?

Yarrow is not tied to specific holidays but can be gifted for various occasions. White yarrow may symbolize hope and renewal for new beginnings, while red yarrow is a passionate declaration of love, suitable for anniversaries.

Can yarrow be used in wedding bouquets?

While yarrow is not a traditional wedding flower, its white variety can symbolize purity and hope, making it a unique and meaningful addition to a wedding bouquet or arrangement.

Is there a specific yarrow color that signifies friendship?

Yellow yarrow is commonly associated with friendship, joy, and celebration. Therefore, it is an appropriate choice when you want to express friendship through Yarrow’s symbolism.

Are there superstitions or beliefs related to yarrow symbolism?

In some cultures, yarrow has been used for divination and protection against evil spirits. There are also beliefs associated with the use of yarrow in love divination rituals.

Can yarrow be used in healing practices?

Yes, yarrow has a history of being used in traditional medicine for its medicinal properties, especially in Native American and European herbalism. It is believed to have various healing properties.

Are there alternative meanings for yarrow’s color shades?

Within the pink yarrow category, the depth of pink can convey different levels of symbolism. Light pink is associated with innocent love, while deep pink represents passionate love.

Can yarrow be combined with other flowers in arrangements?

Yarrow can be combined with other flowers to create visually appealing arrangements that convey various messages. Its versatility allows for creative combinations with complementary blooms.

Is yarrow widely available as a cut flower for arrangements?

Yarrow is not as common as some other flowers in the cut flower industry, but it can often be found in season and may be available at florists specializing in native or wildflower arrangements. It’s also possible to grow your yarrow for arrangements.

Jose Viacrucis
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