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(Last edited: Tuesday, 31 March 2015, 11:46 PM)
Also known as:Achillea, Carpenter's Herb, Common Yarrow, Nosebleed, Soldier's Wound Wort, Knight’s milfoil, Bloodwort, Sanguinary.
Scientific name:Achillea millefolium,
Botanical Family: Asteraceae/Compositae.
Part used: The above ground parts.
Legend has it that yarrow (Achillea millefolium) was named after Achilles, the Greek mythical hero who used it to stop the bleeding wounds of his soldiers. Some First American tribes used yarrow as a body-wash before battles because it was known to reduce bleeding from wounds.
As a traditional medicine yarrow is used as a blood cleanser via the induction of sweating and promoting urine flow. Yarrow lowers fever, acts as an anti-inflammatory, it staunches bleeding from small blood vessels, and has antispasmodic and hypotensive qualities. It is used for feverish illnesses including, the common cold and influenza, chronic ‘runny’ nose, absence of or scanty menstrual periods, dysentery, diarrhea, loss of appetite, mild or crampy discomfort of the digestive tract, promotion of sweating and reduce high blood pressure. It is used for toning the venous system and reducing congestion of the lower limbs and pelvis by enhancing venous return. It is used throughout the cycle for heavy periods and during menses to reduce heavy bleeding.
In combination with other herbs, yarrow is used for bloating, flatulence, mild gastrointestinal cramping, and nervous digestive complaints.
In foods, the young leaves and flowers of yarrow are used in salads.
No concerns regarding safety when used orally in amounts commonly found in foods. Yarrow has Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status for use in foods in the US.1
No concerns regarding safety have been reported with medicinal use of yarrow.2,3
Pregnancy:avoid in pregnancy because its ability to relax the smooth muscle of the uterus may be associated with miscarriage.
Breastfeeding: because very little information is available avoid excessive amounts.
Unless advised by a medical herbalist for clinical reasons that outweigh the lack of information do not take more than 1 tsp per day.
Volatile oil; azulene, chamazulene,guaiizulene, alpha and beta pinene, borneol, bornyl acetate, camphor, caryophyllene, eugenol, farnesene, myrcene, sabinene, isoartemisia ketone, terpineol, thujone, alpha-bisabolol, neridol, spathulenol and others.
Sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpene lactones; achillin, achillicin, hydroxachillen, balchanolide, leucodin, millifin, millifolide, longipine and achillifolin and their derivatives.
Flavonoids; apigenin, luteolin, quercitin and their glucosides.
Alkaloids and bases; betonicene, stachydrine, achiceine, moschatine, trigonelline and others.
Miscellaneous; polyvynes, cyclitols, salicylic acid etc.
There is evidence of effectiveness of yarrow for reducing high blood pressure in anaesthetised rats.
There are no clinical studies on the use of Yarrow for osteoarthritis.
Mechanism of action.
Yarrow has an evidence base for promoting sweat, lowering fever, lowering blood pressure, astringency, promotion of urine flow, urinary antiseptic, antispasmodic, and antiflatulent effects.4 Yarrow contains amino acids, fatty acids, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), caffeic acid, folic acid, salicylic acid, succinic acid, alkaloids, flavonoids including rutin, tannins, volatile oil, an unknown cyanogenetic compound, and sugars.4 The volatile oil contains chamazulene, other azulenes,5 and trace amounts of thujone.4,5 The volatile oil content, and especially the azulene content, varies considerably depending on the source.5 The alkaloid fraction has shown evidence of fever lowering and blood pressure lowering effects.4
A water extract shows some evidence of anti-inflammatory and diuretic activity. 4
The anti-inflammatory activity is partly mediated by inhibition of protein splitting enzymes involved in the inflammatory pathways (HNE and MMP-2 and -9).9 Anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy activities may be associated with the volatile oil chamazulene.6 Not all species contain azulene constituents.6 An alcohol extract shows moderate antibacterial effects.
Animal studies showed protective anti-stomach ulcer effect which included protecting the stomach lining against indomethacin (An NSAID).8
Interactions with herbs and supplements.
Because yarrow contains the essential oil thujone in very small amounts there is a possibility that taking other herbs containing this essential oil will have an additive effect leading to problems associated with toxicity of high levels of thujone. Thujone-containing herbs include oak moss, oriental arborvitae, sage, tansy, thuja (cedar), tree moss, and wormwood. Be careful to avoid higher than therapeutic doses. Consult a medical herbalist for advice regarding combining these herbs. The level of thujone in yarrow used by itself of not a concern.
Interactions with drugs.
Warfarin: there is a theoretical risk of interaction. Monitor weekly and do not exceed the therapeutic dose.
Lithium. Precaution advised with any herb or drug with diuretic effect including yarrow, black tea and coffee. If you start of stop any substance with a diuretic action monitor your blood lithium level.
Interactions with foods.
Interactions with lababoratory tests.
Tincture: 2-6mls per day 1:5 tincture 30% alcohol.
Infusion: 1-3 tsps per day.
Powder/capsule: 1-2gms per day in tablet form.
Infusion of dried herb: 2-4 gms per day. Typically 1 tsp. three times daily as a herb tea. This can be increased to 1 tsp. every 2 hours for acute conditions such as influenza.
Liquid extract: 1-3ml/day 1:1 in 25% alcohol.
1. FDA. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Office of Premarket Approval, EAFUS: A food additive database. Available at: vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/eafus.html. [Accessed 22/6/2014]
2. Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Trans. S. Klein. Boston, MA: American Botanical Council, 1998.
3. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A, eds. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, LLC 1997.
4. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Philpson JD. Herbal Medicine: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London, UK: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996.
5. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
6. The Review of Natural Products by Facts and Comparisons. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Co., 1999
7. Blood pressure lowering, cardiovascular inhibitory and bronchodilatory actions of Achillea millefolium.
Phytother Res. 2011 Apr;25(4):577-83.
8. Safety and antiulcer efficacy studies of Achillea millefolium L. after chronic treatment in Wistar rats
Ana Maria Cavalcanti, Cristiane Hatsuko Baggio,Cristina Setim Freitas.
Volume 107, Issue 2, 19 September 2006, Pages 277–284.
9. Achillea millefolium L. s.l. – Is the anti-inflammatory activity mediated by protease inhibition?
Birgit Benedek, Brigitte Kopp, Matthias F. Melzig.
Volume 113, Issue 2, 5 September 2007, Pages 312–317