encyclopedia

Milfoil Herb

Scientific Names:
Achillea millefolium L. [Fam. Asteraceae]

Forms:
Aqueous extract of fresh or dried herb and flowers.

Traditional Usage:
– Abdominal Cramps

– Amenorrhea

– Anorexia

– Antibacterial

– Anti-inflammatory

– Antimicrobial

– Appetite Stimulant

– Bile Stimulant

– Bleeding (Styptic Poultice)

– Bone and Joint Problems (externally)

– Catarrh (gastric mucous)

– Cold and Flu Symptoms

– Colic

– Colitis

– Cramps

– Digestive Disorders

– Dyspepsia

– Enteritis

– Expectorant

– Fever

– Flatulence

– Gastrointestinal Disorders

– Gastritis

– Heartburn

– Hemorrhoids

– Indigestion

– Infections

– Internal Bleeding

– Menstrual Cramps

– Menstrual Difficulties

– Nosebleed

– Poultice

– Sciatica

– Skin Disorders

– Spasms

– Styptic

– Ulcers

– Wounds

Overview:
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium L. [Fam. Asteraceae], is a widely distributed herbaceous perennial that grows up to 70cm and has highly divided, feathery green leaves and a white or pink panicle of small flower-heads in an umbel-like arrangement. Yarrow is most well known as an appetite stimulant for treating anorexia, as well as being a bile stimulant for treating gastrointestinal complaints such as cramps, diarrhea, flatulence and inflammation. Through its bitter properties and essential oil, yarrow also increases the flow of gastric juices relieving dyspepsia, indigestion, heartburn and other gastrointestinal complaints including: gastritis, enteritis, colitis and abdominal cramps. Yarrow tea also contains several spasmolytic compounds and is recommended to alleviate menstrual cramps and to treat amenorrhea. Research on yarrow has demonstrated antibacterial and antifungal properties for several of the compounds contained in the herb and the tea was traditionally used externally to stimulate wound healing and prevent infections. Yarrow is also well known as a styptic or haemostatic and can be taken as a tea for treating internal bleeding including from nosebleeds and hemorrhoids, as well as externally for nosebleeds, wounds and abrasions. Yarrow tea can also be used externally as an antinflammatory wash for treating skin problems such as acne. Baths with yarrow are recommended to help sciatica and bone and joint problems, especially hip discomforts through its antinflammatory properties. The German Commission E monograph notes that yarrow tea is antiphlogistic (anti-inflammatory and anti-fever) and studies have verified that several compounds contribute to this activity including chamazulene, beta-bisabolene and alpha-bisabolol. Three sesquiterpenoids, achimillic acids A, B and C, have been isolated from Achillea millefolium and found to have strong activity against abnormal blood cells in live mice.

Active Ingredients:
Yarrow contains: From 0.13-1.0% essential oil containing chamazulene, prochamazulene, camphor, sabinene, 1,8-cineole, alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, alpha-thujone, borneol, and bornyl acetate. The essential oil also contains beta-bisabolene, alpha-bisabolol, delta-cadinene and achimillic acids A, B and C. Beta-sitosterol is the major sterol and alpha-amyrin is the major triterpene of this plant. The sterols stigmasterol, campesterol, and cholesterol and the triterpenses beta-amyrin, taraxasterol, and pseudotaraxasterol were also identified. Flavonoids including: apigenin, luteolin, swertisin, vicenin 2 and 3, schaftoside, etc. Yarrow also contains approximately 0.35% coumarins, 3-4% tannins and 3 polyines. The contact allergen alpha-peroxyachifolid (1) (a guaianolide-peroxide) from yarrow ranges between 0.25 and 0.60% in blossoms, and between 0.01 and 0.05% in the leaves. Other sensitizing compounds from yarrow include: dehydromatricaria ester and pontica epoxide.

Suggested Amount:
Yarrow is generally taken as an herbal tea three to four times per day between meals. German authorities recommend using two teaspoonfuls (ca. 2-4g) of the herb and flowers for every 150ml of water. It is recommended that boiling water be poured over the flowers and after 5-10 minutes strained. Alternatively, 3 teaspoonfuls of the freshly pressed juice of the whole plant can also be used daily. Externally: a 3-10% infusion is used for poultices and rinses; and as a bath additive, 50 grams of herb and flowers are used per 10 liters of water.

Drug Interactions:
None known.

Contraindications:
Persons who are allergic to daisy family plants [Fam. Asteraceae] may experience allergy symptoms to yarrow. A 5-year follow-up (1985-1990) of Compositae-sensitive patients showed that more than 50% reacted when tested with a short ether extract of yarrow. Exacerbation of the patch test sites by irradiation with UV light was never observed.

Side Effects:
Allergic reactions are possible in susceptible persons. Infusions should not be used near the eyes.

References:

Chandler RF, Hooper SN, Hooper DL, Jamieson WD, Flinn CG, Safe LM. 1982. Herbal remedies of the Maritime Indians: sterols and triterpenes of Achillea millefolium L. (Yarrow). J Pharm Sci 1982 Jun; 71(6): 690-3.

Foster S, and Duke JA. 1990. Yarrow in Medicinal Plants. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY, p. 64.

Rohloff J, Skagen EB, Steen AH, Iversen TH. 2000. Production of yarrow (Achillea millefolium L.) in Norway: essential oil content and quality. J Agric Food Chem 2000 Dec; 48(12): 6205-9.

Tozyo T, Yoshimura Y, Sakurai K, Uchida N, Takeda Y, Nakai H, Ishii H. 1994. Novel antitumor sesquiterpenoids in Achillea millefolium. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 42(5): 1096-100.

Wichtl M (ed). 1994. Millefolii herba – Yarrow (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 342-344.