Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

Taxus baccata

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Yew is named from the Greek "Toxus", reflective of "Toxon" meaning bow and "Toxicon" meaning poison (a yew extract was used as an arrow poison)

Others believe it is derived from the Sanskrit word taxs, taksh, to cut out. Taksh-aka would mean a tree from which bows can be cut [taxus = spear, taxon = bow].
Baccata is derived from L. bacca, berry.


Traditional name

English: Yew
 French: Coniferes; German: Eibenbaum.

Used parts

tinct. of fresh leaves


Plantae; Spermatophyta, Gymnospermae; Taxopsida; Taxales; Taxaceae - Yew Family


Original proving

First proved and introduced by Gastier, Bid Hom. d. Gen. Gen. IV, 193; Allen: Encyclop. Mat. Med., Vol. IX, 549; Clarke: A Dictionary of Practical Mat. Med., Vol. III, 1382.

Description of the substance

Yew is among the most ancient of trees with estimates of Scottish and English specimens in the
3000 - to possibly greater than 4000 - year - old range. A 4000 - year - old tree was discovered in a churchyard in Llangernyw, Wales. The trees circumference is 47 feet. At Dundonnell, Scotland in the garden of the late Mr Alan Rogers there is a 3000 + year old Taxus baccata. The Fortingall Ywe in Perthshire is claimed to be up to 9,000 years old. Many yews are mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086 and one of the oldest weapons found is a crude yew spear from the Old Stone Age.
      The yew gains its capacity for great age from its particular growth of shoots or branches, which root into the ground and grow to form new trunks. These then join the main trunk and become part of it, which gives yews huge fluted girths. It takes 150 years for the main trunk to form and then the yew continues its growth widthways. In old age it continues to grow, even with a completely hollow trunk. This has given yew a reputation for immortality and has made it a symbol for life after death.
       Unlike other Conifers, the yew produces no cones. It is known to be deadly, for its leaves and fresh seeds contain a poison called Taxin. This is sometimes in moderate strength but it is often virulently strong. Humans and animals can die from ywe poisoning, though it has been said that cattle can become immune from constant contact.
      The yew is common in churchyards and in undisturbed country areas; examples are stil found of ancient yew avenues. Yews grow well onchalky soil and can reach heights of 80 feet (24 metres) and more.
Yew trees become hollow because their red-brown bark is thin and does not give good protection to the heart of the tree. The bark peels off the trees easily, and its long strips or flakes are smooth underneath and coloured in shades of salmony-pink.

The crown of the yew tree is wide and spreading, for it is made up of dense branches and foliage. The yew is evergreen, always retaining a good cover of waxy needle-leaves which are flattened, dark green on top and light green below. The leaves are arranged in 2 opposite rows in spirals along the twigs and can remain on the tree for 8 years before falling. At the end of a yew spray a small coe like growth of a soft green may appear. This is caused by insects laying eggs in the tree and producing a reaction similar to when galls are formed on oaks.

The yew is one of the first trees to flower in spring. The male and female flowers are on separate trees, and form in the angles between the narrow leaves and the stem. The flowers may be dormant for several years, especially if not in good light.
The flowering time of the male tree is very noticeable, not so much for the flowers themselves, which are like miniature globes of yellow stamens set in brown scales, but for the quantity of pollen produced
in the little sacs beneath them. When the flowers mature in February or March the stamen shields are open and as the flowers grow on the underside of the branches, pollen is free to fall onto the winds. In good weather the flowers shed pollen and in bad weather they keep the stamen shields in place to keep the pollen dry.
Once taken by the wind the pollen has to reach a female flower-bearing tree, for it is only the female tree which produces fruit. The female flower is the size of a pin-head, with a tip which projects from tiny protective green scales. From this tip comes a mucilage substance. This is most active at the time when grains of pollen from the male tree fill the air.

Once male pollen grains are caught by the tip of the female flower, it moves back into its ovule and fertilization takes place. The fruit that develops from this is small and green and sits like an egg in an egg-cup. By October the cup has grown to cover the fruit. It is fleshy, red and full of sweet mucilage. The green fruit inside the cup, the ovule has become a black seed. Now the yew tree relies upon other agents to complete its cycle, for most of its seeds are distributed by birds like the thrush and blackbird, who devour the fruit greedily and emit the seed unharmed upon their flights. It is rare that a yew seed will germinate in its first year, but by its second or third year it will begin to grow in the earth.