Pets and livestock always get sick after 5 p.m. or over holiday weekends when all the vets are closed. If your animal starts bleeding, will you be able to stop it easily? You will if you grow yarrow or calendula marigolds, or if you have a barn full of spiderwebs. All three are natural blood coagulants. They have been proven time and again on battlefields since long before the birth of Christ.
The European herb yarrow was dubbed Soldier’s Woundwort because no other plant treated battlefield injuries quite like it. Ancient Greek mythology tells us the gods gave Achilles yarrow to save his soldiers.
The Roman Empire’s armies carried these aromatic plants with them from Italy into the rest of the Western world. The ancient physicians ensured it was established at every fort and outpost because it contains a natural blood coagulant. Growing masses of it in military institutions ensured there was plenty available to stuff into open wounds during combat to staunch the blood flow on the battlefield. Without it, many more men bled to death before reaching the field hospitals.
The same herb has been known as carpenter’s weed, often grown around workshops to treat cuts and injuries from work. Another name, nosebleed, describes how packing nostrils with the herb can staunch this bleeding too, and double as a styptic for shaving cuts. This is how it came into gardens so early, since it’s not consumed, but valued strictly for its coagulant properties. Incidentally, yarrow flowers can be cut and hold their color as dried everlastings.
The pot marigold, or calendula of Europe, is a cool weather-bedding plant that produces large daisies in yellow and orange. It was grown in the Deep South during the Civil War when wound dressings were running low. They came out again in World War I during the trench warfare when cotton ran low in the French countryside. The famous English gardener Gertrude Jekyll cut and sent bushels of flowers them across the Channel to field hospitals. The pot marigold petals are the parts used due to their coagulant abilities as well as a natural antibiotic. Grow and dry your flower petals this year and store for offseason wound treatment.
Spiderwebs were the first Band-Aids and antibiotics, which date back at least as far as these two plants. Recent studies have proven it’s not the web itself that has the antibiotic quality, but a coating on the web. This is all created by the spider and dubbed arachnicillin for its antiseptic ability. The web contains a high amount of vitamin K, the clotting vitamin, which is why it’s rolled up and packed into wounds. Fresh webs are the most efficacious to bind and hold a wound better than old dusty webs that may have lost their medicinal benefits. Some prefer to blend honey (another natural antibiotic) with the spiderwebs to help them stick to the wound like a bandage covered with cloth wrap.
Yarrow is an ideal herb to grow in arid droughty gardens. Calendula will prefer traditional soils and moist conditions to flourish in the cool season. However, it can thrive in every spring and summer garden, making petal harvest possible for everyone. Plus, you'll have a big supply for garnishing salads and meats with a rain of sunny edible petals.
From nosebleeds to the careless woodworker, the discoveries of the ancient armies have left us with an alternative if the vet isn’t available. Gather your petals and yarrow to dry them for a year-round supply. Plant them all around your garden for plenty of material when you need the most. These plants were likely grown at every colonial homestead of early America and are just as useful today.
Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at www.MoPlants.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 891, Morongo Valley, CA 92256.