Family: Compositae or Asteraceae
Names: Milfoil,Achillea lanulosa Nutt,Achillea gracilis Raf. Achillea albida Willd, Bloodwort, Death Flower, Devil’s Nettle, Soldier’s Woundwort, Thousandleaf, Millefoil, Carpenter’s Weed, Knight’s Milfoil, Sanguinary, Arrow Root, Thousand Seal
Habitat: Native to Eurasia and naturalized in North America, found intemperate zones. Meadows, pastures, lawns etc. on all but the poorest soils
Extended use of this plant, either medicinally or in the diet, can cause allergic skin rashes or lead to photosensitivity in some people. Theoretically yarrow can enhance the sedative effects of other herbs (e.g. valerian, kava, German chamomile, hops) & sedative drugs. Possible sedative & diuretic effects from ingesting large amounts.
Yarrow has a high reputation and is widely employed in medicinal herb, administered both internally and externally. It is used in the treatment of a very wide range of disorders but is particularly valuable for treating wounds, stopping the flow of blood, treating colds, fevers, kidney diseases, menstrual pain etc. The whole plant is used, both fresh and dried, and is best harvested when in flower. Some caution should be exercised in the use of this herb since large or frequent doses taken over a long period may be potentially harmful, causing allergic rashes and making the skin more sensitive to sunlight. The herb combines well with Sambucus nigra flowers (Elder) and Mentha x piperita vulgaris (Peppermint) for treating colds and influenza. The herb is antiseptic, antispasmodic, mildly aromatic, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, odontalgic, stimulant, bitter tonic, vasodilator and vulnerary. It also contains the anti-inflammatory agent azulene, though the content of this varies even between plants in the same habitat. The fresh leaf can be applied direct to an aching tooth in order to relieve the pain.
Description of Yarrow:
Achillea millefolium, Yarrow is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.6 m (2ft in).
It is hardy to zone 2 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.
Cultivation of Yarrow:
Succeeds in most soils and situations but prefers a well-drained soil in a sunny position. Shade tolerant. Plants live longer when grown in a poor soil and also do well on lime. Established plants are very drought tolerant, they can show distress in very severe droughts but usually recover. It remains green after grass has turned brown in a drought. Plants succeed in maritime gardens. The plant has a very spreading root system and is usually quite invasive. A very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to about -25°c. Yarrow is an excellent plant for growing in lawns, meadows, orchards etc., it is tolerant of repeated close cutting and of being walked on. It works to improve the soil fertility. There are some named forms, selected for their ornamental value. ‘Pink’ (syn. ‘Rosea’) has very aromatic foliage and deep pink flowers. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. A good bee plant, it is an important nectar source for many insects.
A very good companion plant, it improves the health of plants growing nearby and enhances their essential oil content thus making them more resistant to insect predations.
Propagation of Yarrow:
Seed – sow spring or early autumn in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates in 1 – 3 months. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, the divisions can be planted direct into their permanent positions. Divisions succeed at any time of the year. Basal cuttings of new shoots in spring. Very easy, collect the shoots when they are about 10cm tall, potting them up individually in pots and keeping them in a warm but lightly shaded position. They should root within 3 weeks and will be ready to plant out in the summer.
Collection: The whole of the plant above ground should be gathered when in flower between June and September. The herb is harvested in the summer when in flower and can be dried for later use.
Culinary uses of Yarrow:
Edible Parts: Leaves.
Edible Uses: Condiment, Tea.
Leaves – raw or cooked. A rather bitter flavour, they make an acceptable addition to mixed salads and are best used when young. The leaves are also used as a hop-substitute for flavouring and as a preservative for beer etc. Although in general yarrow is a very nutritious and beneficial plant to add to the diet, some caution should be exercised. See the notes above on possible toxicity. An aromatic tea is made from the flowers and leaves. An essential oil from the flowering heads is used as a flavouring for soft drinks.
Actions: Diaphoretic, hypotensive, astringent, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, anti-microbial, bitter, hepatic.
Part Used: Aerial parts.
Indications: Yarrow is one of the best diaphoretic herbs and is a standard remedy for aiding the body to deal with fevers. It lowers blood pressure due to a dilation of the peripheral vessels. It stimulates the digestion and tones the blood vessels. As a urinary antiseptic it is indicated in infections such as cystitis. Used externally it will aid in the healing of wounds. It is considered to be a specific in thrombotic conditions associated with hypertension.
Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “mild, slow & stimulating diaphoretic: indicated for the first stage of acute febrile reactions. For atonic & relaxed tissues where there is free discharge or passive haemorrhage of bright red blood. Cold preparations stimulate the appetite and tone the digestive organs.” They give the following specific indications: Acute stage of colds, influenza and respiratory catarrhs. Chronic diarrhoea and dysentery. Epistaxis, intestinal haemorrhage and bleeding haemorrhoids.Uterine haemorrhage, profuse protracted menstruation and leucorrhoea.
Ellingwood considered it specific for “hot, dry burning skin, at the beginning of acute asthenic fevers, with suppressed secretion; deficientrenal action, with renal or urethral irritation; acute or chronic Bright’sdisease in its incipient stage. Leucorrhoea with relaxed vaginal walls. Menorrhagia and amenorrhoea; haemorrhoids with bloody discharge, atonic gastric and intestinal dyspepsia; passive haemorrhages.” In addition he recommends it for the following patholgies: haematuria, uterine haemorrhage,intestinal irritation, leucorrhoea, fevers, ureamia, oedema, tonsillitis,epididymitis.
Combinations: For fevers it will combine well with Elder Flower, Peppermint, Boneset and with Cayenne and Ginger. For raised blood pressure it may be used with Hawthorn, Linden Flowers and European Mistletoe.
Preparations & Dosage:
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk hot three times a day. When feverish it should be drunk hourly.
Tincture: take 2-4ml of the tincture three times a day.
Other uses of Yarrow:
Compost, Cosmetic, Dye, Essential, Hair, Liquid feed, Repellent.
The growing plant repels beetles, ants and flies. The plant has been burnt in order to ward off mosquitoes. A liquid plant feed can be made from the leaves. You fill a container with the leaves and then add some water. Leave it to soak for a week or two and then dilute the rather smelly dark liquid, perhaps 10 – 1 with water though this figure is not crucial. This plant is an essential ingredient of ‘Quick Return’ herbal compost activator. This is a dried and powdered mixture of several herbs that can be added to a compost heap in order to speed up bacterial activity and thus shorten the time needed to make the compost. The fragrant seeds have been used to impart a pleasant smell indoors. An essential oil obtained from the leaves is used medicinally. The leaves contain from 0.6 to 0.85% essential oil. The leaves have been used as a cosmetic cleanser for greasy skin. Yellow and green dyes are obtained from the flowers. A good ground cover plant, spreading quickly by its roots.
Uses include healing, handfasting & weddings, and divination. Draws love. Carry as a sachet or amulet to banish negativity, ward off fear, and promote courage, confidence, and psychic opening. Frequently used in marriage charms and love sachets. Said to keep a newly married couple happy for seven years by keeping their love alive and preventing upsetting influences from entering the relationship. Place in a yellow flannel bag with a piece of parchment on which you have written your fears, carry with you to overcome them.
- Volatile oil, containing [[alpha]]- and [[beta]]-pinenes, borneol, bornyl acetate, camphor, caryophyllene, eugenol, farnesene, myrcene, sabinene, salicylic acid, terpineol, thujone and many others, and including the sesquiterpene lactones. Many samples contain high concentrations of azulenes, up to about 50%, including chamazulene and guajazulene.
- Sesquiterpene lactones; achillin, achillicin, hydroxyachillin, balchanolide, leucodin, millifin, millifolide and many others.
- Alkaloids and bases; betonicine (= achilleine), stachydrine, achiceine, moschatine, trigonelline and others.
- Miscellaneous; acetylenes, aldehydes, cyclitols, plant acids etc.
Citations from the Medline database for the genus Achillea
YarrowBarel S Segal R Yashphe J The antimicrobial activity of the essential oil from Achilleafragrantissima.
J Ethnopharmacol 1991 May-Jun;33(1-2):187-91Chandler RF Hooper SN Hooper DL Jamieson WD Flinn CG Safe LM Herbal remedies of the Maritime Indians: sterols and triterpenes ofAchillea millefolium L. (Yarrow).
J Pharm Sci 1982 Jun;71(6):690-3Goldberg AS Mueller EC Eigen E Desalva SJIsolation of the anti-inflammatory principles from Achillea millefolium(Compositae).
J Pharm Sci 1969 Aug;58(8):938-41Ibragimov DI Kazanskaia GB [Antimicrobial action of cranberry bush, common yarrow and Achilleabiebersteinii]
Antibiotiki 1981 Feb;26(2):108-9 (Published in Russian) Kelley BD Appelt GD Appelt JM Pharmacological aspects of selected herbs employed in hispanic folkmedicine in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, USA: II. Asclepias asperula(inmortal) and Achillea lanulosa (plumajillo).
J Ethnopharmacol 1988 Jan;22(1):1-9Peng Y Yan H Wang SQ Liu XT 65 cases of urinary tract infection treated by total acid of Achilleaalpina.
J Tradit Chin Med 1983 Sep;3(3):217-8Tewari JP Srivastava MC Bajpai JLPhytopharmacologic studies of Achillea millefolium Linn.
Indian J Med Sci 1974 Aug;28(8):331-6