Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Benefits, Uses and Contraindications

Yarrow herb has great medicinal properties used by Greek as healing herb. It has many other medicinal uses. Learn some remedies of yarrow plant and scientific classification.

Common Yarrow, is a powerful healing herb. The Latin name of the plant are 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 the 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 the 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 the treatment of loss of appetite, dyspeptic complaints, and the liver/gallbladder issues.

General Information

Yarrow is a perennial, medium-sized, stoloniferous, slightly floccose-pilose, feathery bitter aromatic plant. It has a rough, and angular stem. It reaches up to 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 color 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.

Scientific Classification

The botanical name of Yarrow is Achillea millefolium. It belongs to plant family Asteraceae. Below is given taxonomical classification of the 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, breastfeeding, gall bladder disease, ulcers, bile duct blockage

Safety profile in pregnancy: It affects hormones in the 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

  1. Himalaya Bonnisan
  2. Himalaya Liv 52
  3. Himalaya Geriforte
  4. Arq Brinjasif
  5. Arq Maullehem Mako Kasni wala

Vernacular names / Synonyms

  1. Scientific name: Achillea millefolium. N.O. Compositae
  2. 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
  3. Unani: Biranjaasif
  4. Folk name in India: Gandana, Rojmari
  5. Arabic: Al-Biranjaasf
  6. 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:

  1. Tannin, terpineol, and cineole: antiseptic
  2. achillein, and achilletin are coagulants: coagulants
  3. 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 the 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 the 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 (anti-inflammatory): 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 the 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.

  1. Abortifacient: Causes abortion.
  2. Astringents: Constrict tissues; styptic.
  3. Antibacterial: Active against bacteria.
  4. Antispasmodic: Relieve spasm of involuntary muscle.
  5. Antimicrobial: Active against microbes.
  6. Antiinflammatory: Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms.
  7. Cholagogue: Bile flow stimulant
  8. Diuretic: Promoting excretion of urine/agent that increases the amount of urine excreted.
  9. Digestive: Digestant.
  10. Diaphoretic: Promote sweating.
  11. Expectorant: Promotes the secretion of sputum by the air passages, used to treat coughs.
  12. Styptic: Capable of causing bleeding to stop when it is applied to a wound.
  13. Tonic: Restore or improve health or well-being.
  14. Wound healing: Heals the wound.

Main Indications of Yarrow

  1. Colds, catarrh
  2. Fever, influenza
  3. Indigestion
  4. Inflammation of the bowel, IBS
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Liver, and Gallbladder complaints
  7. Menstrual disorders, heavy menstrual bleeding, fibroid tumors, menopausal hot flushes
  8. Ulcers, piles
  9. Varicose veins
  10. Wounds

Healing Benefits of Common Yarrow

Yarrow is excellent herb for the 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, the 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 the 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)

  1. Common yarrow is mainly used in the treatment of acute catarrh, coryza, cold, cough, fever, and influenza. The infusion or decoction of the plant/flowers, is used as a medicine in influenza, fever, cold, catarrh, and cough.
  2. For fever, the decoction of flower heads or of the whole plant is prescribed. It stimulates diaphoresis, and promotes perspiration.
  3. The whole plant is also used as a liver tonic. It is one of the ingredient of well-known, and scientifically proven as a liver Tonic, Himalaya’s Liv 52.
  4. The capsules prepared from yarrow are prescribed for restoring hormonal balance in women.
  5. In varicosity, and rheumatism, the yarrow tea can be used both internally, and externally.
  6. In toothache, the leaves of the plant are chewed.
  7. 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 the plant are used as vaginal douche, an eyewash, and a skin lotion.

The 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 liters of warm or hot water.

Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects, and Warnings Achillea millefolium

  1. Long term use can increase skin’s photosensitivity.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. It turns urine dark brown but it is not harmful.
  5. The use in children under 12 years of age has not been established due to lack of adequate data.
  6. In lab study, alcohol extract stopped the production of sperms in mice.
  7. If the symptoms worsen during the use of the medicinal product, a doctor or a qualified health care practitioner should be consulted.
  8. It stimulates secretion of bile, and hence may increase the pain of gallbladder stones.
  9. It is contraindicated in hypersensitivity to the plant, pregnancy, Gastric, and duodenal ulcer, occlusion of the bile duct, and gallbladder disease.
  10. Excessive doses may interfere with or augment anticoagulant, blood pressure, diuretic, and sedative medications.

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