Herb of the Year for 2024  Yarrow - (Achillea millefolium)

Achillea or Yarrow a plant of the asteracae family and is common in Europe and Asia.  Although it is a plant that normally is native to colder northern areas with the different varieties now available it can thrive in zones 3-9. It is a beautiful landscape plant for our gardens where it has been grown since colonial times in America, when it was introduced .  In fact legend has it that the plant was named after Achilles who supposedly used it to treat his soldiers wounds during the siege of Troy. Yarrow pollen has been found in 60,000 year old burial caves in Europe indicating that Yarrow has been - both gathered and grown - in use for humans since prehistoric times! 

It has many medicinal properties but I would advise great caution before taking internally, as it contains volatile oils, coumarins, lactones, amino acids, bitters, salicylic acid and cyanidin and can be an allergen for some of us.  Although its leaves were once used quite commonly in soups and potato salads, it is not something one would would see on the menu as it has few nutritional benefits.  Its essential oils are anti inflammatory and its use in modern medicines is increasing as we learn more about its chemical properties.  It is used mainly in perfume making and in some liqueurs and bitters. But the principal reason we want it in the garden is because it is one of the great pollinators.  It provides habitat for beneficial insects including hoverflies, ladybugs and parasitic wasps, all of which prey on garden insects especially the aphid!  One word of warning its leaves are toxic to dogs, cats and horses so it should be kept out of pastures.

This beautiful plant - which comes in red, pink, cream and white - sometimes colloquially named sneezewort or milfoil, likes well drained soil in full sun and can be a bit iffy in our hot dry summers so watch for mildew and give it lots of room. 

How to Use Yarrow

As a topical antiseptic in ointments and creams

To treat Napalm burns

To stop bleeding topically

In dried flower arrangements

As a major pollinator for beneficial insects

Simply as a beautiful flower in your garden

Look for these varieties - Cerese Queen, Lilac Beauty, Lavender Beauty and Paprika

Leslie Bingham May 2024

​Herb of the Year Criteria

The  International Herb Association established National Herb Week in 1991 and every year since 1995 they have chosen an Herb Of The Year.  The Herb Of The Year must fulfill its mandate by being useful in 2 out of  3 categories:  Medicinal, Culinary or Decorative. 

 The original use of herbs was for medicine.  In ancient Egypt, China, Greece and Assyria the treatment of diseases was performed by the use of herbs and spices either ingested or used as a poultice, salve, balm or the ancient word 'nard.'   Arcane herbal knowledge has come down to us through the generations and today we look to the past finding out  how our ancestors  used herbs on a daily basis to keep their households healthy and happy.  Here in San Antonio we are part of an ancient native American culture that used herbs for healing and in food preparation daily. There is no substitute for clipping a handful of  fresh herbs from your garden  or a pot on your kitchen window adding flavor and freshness to your dinner table and in so doing improving our health and linking us to centuries of herbal knowledge.

What Is An Herb?  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, an herb is defined as a "(1) seed plant that lacks woody tissue and dies to the ground at the end of a growing season.  (2) A plant or plant part valued for medicinal or savory qualities."  The value of the plant can be in its leaves, stems, seeds or root.  They are valued and harvested for their flavor, healthful qualities, fragrance or dye.  Examples such as mint, oregano, cilantro and basil are harvested for their leaves which we primarily use in our kitchens.  Spices are the woody parts or seeds of herbaceous plants. Examples are caraway, fennel, sesame, black pepper and cinnamon.

Come and help us celebrate Yarrow as Herb of the Year 2024 at October's Herb Market

at Rainbow Gardens Nursery

8516 Bandera Road, San Antonio

October 19th, 2024 - 9 am to 1 pm

Herb Of The Year:
1995 Fennel
1996 Monarda
1997 Thyme
1998 Mint
1999 Lavender
2000 Rosemary
2001 Sage
2002 Echinacea
2003 Basil
2004 Garlic
2005 Oregano and Marjoram
2006 Scented Geraniums
2007 Lemon Balm
2008 Calendula
2009 Bay Laurel
2010 Dill
2011 Horseradish
2012 Rose
2013 Elderberry
2014 Artemisias
2015 Savory
2016 Peppers Caspicum ssp.
2017 Coriander/Cilantro 
Coriandrum sativum
2018 Hops
Humulus ssp.
​2019 Agastache
2020 Rubus ssp. (Blackberries,
Raspberries et al.)
2021  Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

2022 Viola (Violet, Johnny Jump Ups)

Family violaceae

2023 Herb of the year - Ginger

2024 - Yarrow