May 29, 2024

Last year, I was designing a lecture on yarrow (Achillea millefolium) for my Herbs 101 for Nutritionists course. I went searching for open access/Creative Commons images to use in my slides on some of the common image search engines.

Here are the very first images that came up on page 1:

May 30 Nl Photo

If you're an herbalist with some background in botany, you probably saw the problem right away.

The images on the top right and the bottom left are both very decidedly not yarrow. Yarrow is in the Asteraceae family. It's pedicels (individual flower stems) grow from different points on the main stem. The large image in the second column demonstrates this nicely.

Members of the Umbelliferae family, like those on the top right and bottom left, have pedicels that all grow from a single point on top of the main stem. The big issue is that some Umbelliferae plants are quite toxic (like poison hemlock and cow parsnip). Even an Umbelliferae plant that's relatively benign, like Queen Anne's lace, will not have the same actions as yarrow. It's at best ineffective and at worst deadly to mix up yarrow with a plant from the Umbel family.

To me, this emphasizes the importance of our expertise and experience in the field.

Can clients look up things on their own using the internet or other resources? Of course.

But DIY herbalism, nutrition, or anything else always comes with the risk of metaphorically mistaking Queen Anne's lace for yarrow.

In summary, your healing work is important, your training matters, and I'm glad you're doing the work that you're doing.

Take care,

Camille

About Camille Freeman, DCN, RH (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and nutritionist specializing in fertility and menstrual health. I run the Monday Mentoring community of practice and also offer continuing education programs for practicing herbalists and nutritionists (Check out this year's Deep Dive!). I'm also a former professor with the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I taught physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating for 17 years. 

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