Common Yarrow, is a powerful healing herb. The Latin name of the plant is Achillea millefolium and the word Achillea, is derived from the legend of Greek hero Achilles who healed the wounds of his fellow soldiers with yarrow. He learned the use of yarrow for healing wounds from the centaur Khiron / Chiron before the siege of Troy, and he taught this science to his friend Patroclus. Millefolium means “a thousand leaves,” and refers to yarrow’s finely cut foliage. Yarrow was used in ancient Greece and Rome for medicinal purpose and to drive out the evils from the body of possessed.
Yarrow is extremely useful in respiratory ailments such as catarrhs, cold and cough. It increases sweating and helps to lower the body temperature. Yarrow opens the pores of body. It is also used in influenza, nervous debility and as a tonic. It is an astringent that stops internal or external bleeding. It is great promoter of sweating and circulation. It is used in liver and chest complaints, retention of urine, amenorrhea, inflammatory conditions and as an antidote for scorpion stings.
German Commission E has approved the use of Yarrow in treatment of loss of appetite, dyspeptic complaints and liver/gallbladder issues.
Yarrow is a perennial, medium-sized, stoloniferous, slightly floccose-pilose, feathery bitter aromatic plant. It has a rough and angular stem. It reaches upto height of 1-2 foot. Leaves are green or greyish-green, faintly pubescent on the upper surface and more pubescent on the lower surface, 2–3 pinnately divided with linear lobes and a finely pointed whitish tip, alternate, clustered at the base of the stem. They are cut into very fine segments. Flowering heads (capitula) in a flat-topped corymb (3–5 cm in diameter), small, pedunculate, varying in colour from white to pink, magenta and red; involucral bracts in few rows, the outer somewhat shorter than the inner, with a scarious margin. Outer florets in each capitulum usually 5, female, ligulate with more or less 3-dentate, patent ligules; inner florets hermaphrodite, 5-lobed, with compressed corolla tube and a receptacle scale at the base. Ray flowers are white, sometimes pink. Fruit a compressed achene, oblong or obovate, without pappus.
The botanical name of Yarrow is Achillea millefolium. It belongs to plant family Asteraceae. Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.
- Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
- Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
- Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
- Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
- Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
- Subclass: Asteridae
- Order: Asterales
- Family: Asteraceae – Aster family
- Genus: Achillea L. – yarrow P
- Species: Achillea millefolium L. – common yarrow
Achillea lanulosa Nutt
Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Whole plant, Flower heads
Plant type: herb
Geographical distribution: Native to Asia, Europe and North America. Now widely distributed and cultivated in the temperate regions of the world. In India, it is found in Himalayas from Kashmir to Kumaun at the altitude of 1050-3600 meter. It is found growing wild in temperate regions of Europe and United States.
Habitat: Very common in Pasture and meadow lands of Europe and America.
Main Uses: As food, medicine and ornamental plant.
Edibility: Leaves are edible and tastes bitter.
Contraindications: Known allergy, pregnancy, breast feeding, gall bladder disease, ulcers, bile duct blockage
Safety profile in pregnancy: It affects hormones in body and may stimulate uterus. Therefore it is UNSAFE to use this herb in pregnancy.
Overall clinical safety: The medicinal use of yarrow can be considered safe. Only the reported hypersensitivity reactions may present a risk.
Few medicines containing Yarrow
Vernacular names / Synonyms
- Scientific name: Achillea millefolium. N.O. Compositae
- English: Milfoil, Nosebleed, Thousand-leaf, Old Man’s Pepper, Knight’s Milfoil, Soldier’s Woundwort, Devil’s Plaything, Blood wort, Hemming and Sewing, Staunch weed, Carpenter’s Weed, Thousand Seal, Sanguinary
- Unani: Biranjaasif
- Folk name in India: Gandana, Rojmari
- Arabic: Al-Biranjaasf
- Persian: Biranjaasp, Palangasp, Buye-rnaaderaan
Constituents of Achillea millefolium
Over 120 compounds have been found in Common Yarrow. Some of them are given below:
- Glycoalkaloid (achilleine)
- Flavonoids (luteolin, apigenin, kaempferol, quercitrin)
- Volatile oil 0.2–1.0% (containing cineol, azulene, eugnol, pinene, thujone, camphor, camphene, sabinene, achillin)
- Tannins, aconitic and isovalerianic acids
- Resins, tannins, salicylic acid and coumarins
Action of important phytochemicals:
- Tannin, terpineol and cineole: antiseptic
- achillein and achilletin are coagulants: coagulants
- azulene, chamazulene, camphor, eugenol, quercetin, rutin and salicilic acid: anti-inflammatory, analgesic and demulcent
Ayurvedic Properties and Action
Yarrow is not indigenous to India and its description is not found in ancient classical Ayurvedic texts. Here, it is mainly used in preparation of Unani medicines. Yarrow is astringent, bitter, and pungent in taste (Rasa) pungent after digestion (Vipaka), and is warming in effect (Virya).
- Rasa (taste on tongue): Kashaya (Astringent).Katu (Pungent), Tikta (Bitter)
- Guna (Pharmacological Action): Guru (Heavy)
- Virya (Action): Shita (Cooling)
- Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Katu (Pungent)
Unani Properties of Brinjasif / Biranjasif
- Dafe Huma (Antipyretic): Reduce the temperature.
- Mufatteh (Deobstruent): Remove the obstruction in form of thick or sticky secretion or any other form.
- Mulattiff (Demulcent): Break the matter into pieces and make humor more liquid by their mild hotness.
- Munzij Sauda (Melancholic concoctive): Act on humor melanchole and prepare it for elimination.
- Muhallil-e-Auram (antiinflammatory): Reduces swelling.
- Mudir-e-Bol-wo-Haiz (diuretic & emmenagogue): Increases urination and blood flow to pelvic.
- Musakkin-e-Alam (analgesic): Gives relief in pain.
- Muqawwi-e-Dimagh (brain tonic): Tonic for brain.
- Musaffi Khoon (blood purifier): Purifies blood.
- Habise-Dam (haemostatic): Causes bleeding to stop.
- Hazim (carminative): Relieving flatulence.
Important Medicinal Properties
Achillea millefolium is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. These also indicate the conditions in which we should avoid it. For example, this herb has emmenagogue and abortifacient action and therefore it is unsafe to take Yarrow during pregnancy.
Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.
- Abortifacient: Causes abortion.
- Astringents: Constrict tissues; styptic.
- Antibacterial: Active against bacteria.
- Antispasmodic: Relieve spasm of involuntary muscle.
- Antimicrobial: Active against microbes.
- Anti–inflammatory: Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms.
- Cholagogue: Bile flow stimulant
- Diuretic: Promoting excretion of urine/agent that increases the amount of urine excreted.
- Digestive: Digestant.
- Diaphoretic: Promote sweating.
- Expectorant: Promotes the secretion of sputum by the air passages, used to treat coughs.
- Styptic: Capable of causing bleeding to stop when it is applied to a wound.
- Tonic: Restore or improve health or well-being.
- Wound healing: Heals the wound.
Main Indications of Yarrow
- Colds, catarrh
- Fever, influenza
- Inflammation of the bowel, IBS
- Loss of appetite
- Liver and Gallbladder complaints
- Menstrual disorders, heavy menstrual bleeding, fibroid tumours, menopausal hot flushes
- Ulcers, piles
- Varicose veins
Healing Benefits of Common Yarrow
Yarrow is excellent herb for digestive, respiratory, circulatory and gynecological disorders.
1. Digestive System
- Yarrow improves appetite, digestion and assimilation. It is a bitter digestive tonic.
- Yarrow gives relief in colic, indigestion and flatulence. It is recognized for its relaxant property on smooth muscles, thus may aide with the relief of stomach cramps. It protects gut and reduces swelling and helps in ulcers, gastritis and colitis.
- It is effective in treating bile, liver, gall bladder and stomach complaints. It has antispasmodic action and helps to relax the muscles of the digestive tract.
- Yarrow is effective for hepatitis as it protects the liver from poisons. It is a liver cleanser. It may assist in the alleviation of fullness and constipation.
2. Gynecological Problems
- Yarrow balances hormones and helps to flush excess estrogen.
- It regulates the periods. As an antispasmodic, it is helpful in menstrual cramps and also in inflammation of the uterus.
3. Respiratory System
Yarrow is very effective in curing cough, cold, congestion, fever and flu. It opens the pores of body and increases sweating. This helps to bring down the temperature. Yarrow removes congestion.
4. Circulatory system
Internal use of Yarrow, improves circulation and is useful in varicose veins. It improves sweating and reduces fever. It detoxifies blood. It promotes tissue repair and blood circulation. Yaroow lowers high blood pressure.
5. Other Benefits
Yarrow is diuretic and increases passing of urine. It cleanses the kidneys.
It calms nervous system and cures nervous weakness. It has wound healing properties. It stops the both internal and external bleeding. It is used for internal hemorrhages of the lung, uterus, anus, bladder, nose, hemorrhoids.
Medicinal Uses of Achillea millefolium (Common Yarrow)
- Common yarrow is mainly used in treatment of acute catarrh, coryza, cold, cough, fever and influenza. The infusion or decoction of plant/flowers, is used as a medicine in influenza, fever, cold, catarrh and cough.
- For fever, the decoction of flower heads or of the whole plant is prescribed. It stimulates diaphoresis and promotes perspiration.
- The whole plant is also used as a liver tonic. It is one of the ingredient of well-known and scientifically proven liver tonic, Himalaya’s Liv 52.
- The capsules prepared from yarrow are prescribed for restoring hormonal balance in women.
- In varicosity and rheumatism, the yarrow tea can be used both internally and externally.
- In toothache, the leaves of plant are chewed.
- Externally, it is used to stop bleeding. The ointment prepared from the herb is used on burns, varicose veins, ulcer, fistula and wounds. The infusion of plant is used as vaginal douche, an eyewash, and a skin lotion.
Dosage of Achillea millefolium
4.5 g of cut herb (flowering top) per day, or 3.0 g cut flowers for teas (infusions) and other preparations.
Infusion: Put 1–2 g of dried yarrow leaves and flowers in 150 ml boiling water. Steep for 10–15 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey. This can be taken three times daily between meals.
Succus (pressed juice from fresh herb): 5 ml (1 teaspoon), three times daily between meals.
Fluid extract 1:1 (g/ml): 1–2 ml, three times daily between meals.
Tincture (1:5 g/ml): 5 ml, three times daily between meals.
External sitz bath: 100 g per 20 litres of warm or hot water.
Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects and Warnings Achillea millefolium
- Long term use can increase skin’s photosensitivity.
- It can cause allergic reactions (rhinitis, asthma and urticaria symptoms). People who are allergic to yarrow and other Compositae / Asteraceae plants (arnica, chamomile flowers or marigold), should not use it.
- It must not be used in pregnancy. It is reputed to be an abortifacient and to affect the menstrual cycle, and the volatile oil contains trace amounts (0.3%) of the abortifacient principle thujone. Excessive use should be avoided during lactation.
- It turns urine dark brown but it is not harmful.
- The use in children under 12 years of age has not been established due to lack of adequate data.
- In lab study, alcohol extract stopped the production of sperms in mice.
- If the symptoms worsen during the use of the medicinal product, a doctor or a qualified health care practitioner should be consulted.
- It stimulates secretion of bile and hence may increase the pain of gallbladder stones.
- It is contraindicated in hypersensitivity to the plant, pregnancy, Gastric and duodenal ulcer, occlusion of the bile duct and gallbladder disease.
- Excessive doses may interfere with or augment anticoagulant, blood pressure, diuretic, and sedative medications.