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Yarrow, also known as Nosebleed or Woundwort, is a very ancient herb. It was used by the Greeks to control heamorrhages and legend has it that soldiers’ wounds were healed with yarrow leaves during the Trojan War.

It has long been associated with magic: the Druids used yarrow stems to forecast the weather and foretell the future. In interpreting the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of prophecy, the ancients used to to cast dried yarrow stalks. Modern users of the I Ching employ three coins instead. A bunch of yarrow hanging in the house is said to avert illness.

Yarrow is still used in herbal medicine today: It is made into a decoction for chapped skin and rashes, and as a mouthwash for inflamed gums. It also speeeds up decomposition if added to raw compost.

Its alternative name of “Nosebleed” comes from the belief that a girl can tell whether her lover is faithful by tickling her nose with a spray of yarrow. If blood gushes from her nose, he loves her and will never look at another woman. There is a lot to be said for hiring a private eye instead.

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