Yarrow, as it is commonly known, has been used to combat infections and heal wounds since the beginning of time. Colds were treated with it and wounds packed with it throughout ancient Europe. Science reveals that the plant contains immune stimulants which partly explains these traditional uses. It is not a tea one would drink for pleasure, but, to its ability to stimulate healing, either from wound or infection, makes putting up with the nasty taste well worth the while.
Fact Sheet 1
Fact Sheet 2
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians
Fact Sheet 1
Scientific Name: Achillea millefolium
Part Used: Whole plant
Uses: Emergency tonic
In a Word: The ‘Cold Stopping’ Herb
A day or two of hateful feelings, achy bones, poor concentration, fatigue, and a general desire to crawl under a rock where no one can find you usually precede coughs and colds. If one takes action instead of crawling under a rock, coughs and colds can be avoided. To avoid a cold fighting its way into your body emergency medicine is required. The emergency tonic to be used in this case is yarrow, a universal folk heal-all which has been used for thousands of years as a cold stopper.
Yarrow’s scientific name hints of a legendary use. Achilles’ famous heel is said to have been healed when yarrow was applied to it. When studying herbal medicine it is useful to examine the mythical legends attached to medicinal plants. They will tell you something. In the ancient world, yarrow was seen as a potent healing agent, whether applied to a wound, or taken internally to prevent a cold setting in. Yarrow was the preferred domestic medicine of yesteryears’ mothers who kept it around to keep coughs and colds at bay.
Yarrow contains several substances, which are probably responsible for the anticold activity reported by those that use it. The plant contains sesquiterpene lactones including achillin, achillifolin, millefin, dihydroparthenolide, and balchanolide. These substances stimulate the digestive function, and are thought to stimulate the immune system. The stimulated immune system is then better able to fight off the cough or cold. Achillein, another constituent, acts on the blood vessels restricting blood flow to the mucous membrane. The substance is thought to make the mucous membrane less permeable to virus and bacteria and to reduce inflammation of the mucous producing membrane. It also contains azulene, an oil that reduces inflammation of the mucous membrane and body temperature.
Start using yarrow the minute you suspect you have a cold coming on. Time is of the essence; failure to take action at the first signs could result in having an unnecessary cold. If your office mate, spouse or children come down with a cold, start using yarrow immediately. You do not have to wait to feel grumpy to use yarrow.
If you are one of those people that always come down with a cold in flu season, use yarrow to avoid the experience this year. This is especially important for those that cannot afford to get a cold, the elderly and those suffering from a life threatening disease. Keep some yarrow around the house in a well-sealed container at all times. You never know when a cold will show its ugly head and you need to be prepared. Taking the time to get to the health food shop may mean you start taking yarrow too late in the game. If you are heading into a period of stress or difficulty, use yarrow on a daily basis to avoid that post exam, moving house, or funeral cold.
History: European folk medicine for problematic veins
Science: Contains achillein, a proven haemostat
Practitioners’ opinion: Strengthens fragile veins
Fact Sheet 2
Parts Used: Flowers, leaves, and stems
Remember This: Achilles Healer
Reasonable Uses: Infections including colds, coughs, flu, tonsilitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis, cystitis, urethritis, wounds, infected wounds, burns,
History and Traditional Uses
Yarrow gets its scientific name from a mythical association. Achilles is reported to have used this plant to heal his famous heel. Since long before the Greeks and Romans spun myths, Achillea was being used to stimulate healing. It has been found in cave dwellings dating back 60,000 years which makes it possibly one of the most ancient European herbal remedies.
Around the turn of the century, America’s Eclectic physicians, who combined natural cures with mainstream medicine, prescribed yarrow for infections and to prevent infections. It was used internally to clear up infections like tonsillitis and externally to prevent wounds from becoming infected.
Scientific Back Up
This pungent-smelling, all-around healing herb contains more than 120 compounds, including a fever-reducing, anti-inflammatory substance called azulene and others such as flavonoids, coumarins, and lactones. Some compounds have been found to directly inhibit the bacteria and viruses behind many infections, other have been found to stimulate the immune system into heightened action. On the wound healing front, other compound have been found to keep wounds free of infection and to speed the knitting together of the wound. As the ancients said, Yarrow is tops when it comes to healing.
Herbalists Use It To…
Stem a stream of coughs and colds
One symptom of flagging immune function is a steady stream of coughs and colds. Herbalists say using this immune stimulating herb offers the boost someone needs to leave this pattern behind. Indeed, they say it can be used to stop a cold before it starts when used at the first signs of trouble.
Heal a wound
We are now aware that using topical antibiotics is bad news. Firstly, it is leading to the development of so called killer bugs. Secondly, most of them are ineffective against the bacteria that commonly cause skin infections. Herbalists say this age old wound healer represents a superior option to the currently ineffective topical antibiotics. It stops blood flow, kills bacteria, and speeds wound healing!
This herb is readily available. Avoid purchasing products containing other herbal remedies.
Yarrow stimulates the uterine muscles, so avoid it during pregnancy. Although it is rare, handling the flower can cause an allergic skin rash.
If a wound becomes red, warm, and painful, see you health care practitioner.
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians
1854: JOHN KING – ACHILLEA – YARROW
Description – Yarrow, also called Milfoil, is from twelve to eighteen inches high, with simple stems, branches at top. The leaves are doubly pinnate, crowded, alternate, with linear, dentate, mucronate segments. The flowers are white rose-coloured, and are arranged in a dense, flat-topped, compound corymb; involucre oblong and imbricated. Rays four or five, short: receptacle chaffy, small, flattish. Achenium oblong, flattened, margined.
History – Yarrow is a perennial herb, common to Europe and North America, growing in fields, woods, pastures, etc, and flowering nearly the whole summer. The American plant is the most active. The flowers and leaves have an agreeable, but feeble aromatic odour and a bitter, astringent, pungent taste. It contains a volatile oil, bitter extractive, tannin, and achilleic acid. The active principles are extracted both by water and alcohol.
According to M Zanon, the active principle of this plant, Achilleine, has been used as a substitute for sulphate of quinia in intermittent fevers, in the south of Europe. It is prepared by boiling five pounds of the dried plant with sixteen pounds of rain water for about two hours. The residue is again boiled twice with smaller quantities of water, the decoctions are then filtered and mixed. These are then clarified with white of egg, and evaporated at a gentle heat until a whitish pellicle is formed on the surface. After twenty-four hours the cold liquid deposits a mass consisting for the most part of vegetable fiber, green coloring substance, with some coagulated albumen, extractive matter insoluble in alcohol, lime-salts, and traces of silica. The bitter and acid liquid is filtered, and then treated with an excess of hydrate of lime, which produces a white precipitate; upon this the liquid is treated with acetate of lead as long as any precipitate is formed. This precipitate is collected on a filter, and the solution saturated with sulphereted hydrogen, after which it still possesses a yellowish color and a very bitter taste. On evaporation it yields nearly half a pound of dry extract, which, as well as the previously-filtered sulphuret of lead, are exhausted with alcohol. The two, mixed and evaporated, yield about seven ounces of achilleine.
The achilleine obtained in this manner, contains some acetate of lime, resin, etc. but which may be avoided by treating the neutralised decoction (above, by hydrate of lime) with animal charcoal, then evaporating to dryness, and finally extracting with boiling absolute alcohol.
The color of achilleine is instantly destroyed by chlorine; it is not precipitated by tincture of galls or acetate of lead, but it is thrown down by basis acetate of lead; it is soluble in ammonia and the solution, when exposed to the air until the ammoniacal odor has disappeared, deposits brown flakes, which are less soluble than achilleine; the slight trace of resin in achilleine may be removed by solution in water.
Achilleine acid is obtained by treating the decoction of Yarrow with acetate of lead as long as any precipitate is formed, this is suspended in water, and decomposed with sulphureted hydrogen. The liquid obtained will be very acid, and contain some lime and green coloring substance; to precipitate the lime, supersaturate it with carbonate of potassa, and then treat it with animal charcoal. The potassa-salt may be precipitated with acetate of lead, and the precipitate decomposed with sulphereted hydrogen.
Achilleic acid is not volatile of 212F; its solution can therefore be concentrated by evaporation in the water-bath. The greatest concentration to which it can be brought is 1.014825. In this state it is perfectly colorless, but on further evaporation it becomes straw coloured. Exposed to the air in a glass or porcelain dish, it crystallises in perfectly colorless quadrilateral prisms. The crystallised acid requires a t 56F two parts of cold water for solution; the solution is very acid, makes the teeth rough, has no odor, and strongly reddens litmus paper. Added by drops to a clear solution of acetate of lead, it does not render it in least turbid; but in a solution of basic acetate of lead it immediately produces a white precipitate, which is very slightly soluble.
Achilleic acid forms salts with carobonates of potassa and soda, ammonia, lime, magnesia, and quinia, which may become useful therapeutical agents. The achilleate of quinia is very soluble, and may be found superior to the sulphate of quinia; it may be made by dissolving quinia in very slightly diluted acid allowing the substances to act on each other for several days, stirring them frequently, until the liquid no longer reddens the litmus paper. Then filter, and add some alcohol; heat it nearly to boiling, and allow it to cool, when nearly the whole liquid is converted into very beautiful radiate-grouped prismatic crystals, which are very bitter, and readily soluble in water and alcohol.
Properties and Uses – Yarrow is a tonic, astringent, and alterative. It has been used in intermittent fever, hemoptysis, hematuria, incontinence of urine, diabetes, hemorrhoids, and dysentery; also in leucorrhea, amenorrhea, flatulent colic, and some nervous affections. In menorrhagia, half a fluidounce of the saturated tincture, repeated three or four times daily, has been found advantageous; a few drops of oil of anise will cover the unpleasant taste. The late Prof T V Morrow made much use of an infusion of this herb in dysentery. Dose of the infusion, from four to six fluidounces, three or four times daily; of the volatile oil, from ten to thirty drops.
Achillea Ptarmica or Sneezewort, grows in hedges and thickets, and in moist places in various parts of the country. It is about two feet in hight, with the leaves sessle, linear or slightly lanceolate, acuminate, equally and sharply serrate, with appressed teeth, and smooth. The flowers are white, and arranged at the top of the plant in a diffuse corymb. The leaves are remarkably distinct from the Yarrow. The whole plant is pungent, exciting and increased flow of saliva. The powder of the dried leaves when snuffed into the nostrils, produces sneezing, which is supposed to be owing to their small, sharp, and marginal teeth.
Preparation – Prepare a tincture of the recent herb, 3viij. to Alcohol 50degree Oj. Dose, gtts. v. to 3ss.
This agent, though feeble in its action, is much better than many in common use. It acts directly on the urinary apparatus, and the reproductive organs of the female. I have used it to allay irritation of the kidneys and vesical and urethral irritation. In these cases its influence is somewhat similar to Buchu and Uva Ursi. It is employed with advantage in atonic amenorrhoea, menorrhagia, and vaginal leucorrhoea.
1883: J.M. Scudder
Yarrow or milfoil is a mild astringent and feeble aromatic tonic, possessed of excitant properties. We have used this article mostly for restraining morbid sanguineous discharges. we have found it decidedly beneficial in hemoptysis, hematemesis, and menorrhagia, or passive hemorrhages from the uterine organs. In these cases we have not unfrequently exhibited it alone, perhaps ore frequently combined with lycopus virginicus, and rarely without deriving much advantage from its use. It has been found beneficial in the bleeding piles, dysentery, diarrhea, leucorrhea, used both internally and locally,etc. and some speak of it favorably in intermittents, retention of the menses, flatulent colic, nervous debility, and likewise to remove various obstructions, counteract spasm, and purify the blood.
Atonic conditions of the stomach and bowels, vaginal irritation, leucorrhea, capillary relaxation, irritation of the urinary tract, hematuria. One ounce to three of water; teaspoonful every four hours.
(Urinary) Yarrow acts on the urinary tract to constringe the capillaries, and will be found a valuable remedy in haematuria. It also relieves irritation of the urinary tract, and may be found of service in the early stages of Blights Disease, and in strangury and suppression of urine. It is not as prompt as some other remedies of this class, but may be remembered with profit by those who are so situated as to avail themselves of a decoction of the fresh herb, which grows almost everywhere, in proper season.
Form of administration: specific medicine.
Dose: from the fraction of a drop to five drops.
1901 : Harvey W Felter (Tonics) – ACHILLEA – YARROW
SYNONYMS – Milfoil, Thousand Leaf.
BOTANIAL ORIGIN – The herb of Achillea millefolium, Linne, Nat. Ord., Compositae. Common in the temperate portions of Europe and North America.
This plant grows native in Europe and America in fields and door-yards, and bears white or red-colored flowers. We use the entire herb. It is bitter, aromatic, and astringent. It is a good tonic to the urinary organs and gives tone to the reproductive organs, especially of the female.
Irritation of the bowels is relieved by it, and it is a good remedy in leucorrhoea, to overcome relaxation, and in amenorrhea and diabetes. It is also employed to stop hemorrhage, though it is not very powerful in this use. It is, however, well adapted to passive conditions with loss of small quantities of blood. An infusion is a good preparation. Make it of the strength of one ounce to one pint of hot water. Dose of this, a wineglassful; of the tincture, from five to thirty drops.
It is a good tonic to the urinary organs and gives tone to the reproductive organs, especially of the female.
While the profession has used yarrow but little, we find an individual physician occasionally who depends upon it for some very important conditions. Dr.Lakin of England uses it in haematuria. He claims that it is good in all forms of passive haemorrhage, whether of the lungs or of the kidneys, or uterine haemorrhage. It is of benefit in improving the tone of the urinary apparatus, relieving irritation, overcoming strangury and suppression of the urine.
1909: Kings Dispensatory
Yarrow possesses slightly astringent properties, and is tonic, alterative, and diuretic, in infusion. Its use in chronic diseases of the urinary aparatus, is especially recomended by Prof.Scudder. It exerts a tonic influence upon the venous system, as well as upon mucuous membranes. It has been efficacious in sore throat, hemoptysis, hematuria, and other forms of hemorrhage where the bleeding is smal in amount, incontinence of urine, diabetes, hemorrhoids with bloody or mucoid discharges, and dyssentery; also in amenorrhea, flatulency, and spasmodic diseases, and in the form of injeciton in leucorrhea with relaxed vaginal walls. Prof.T.V.Morrow made much use of an infusion of this herb in dyssentry. Given in half drachm doses of the saturated tincutre or twenty drop doses of specific achilea, it will be found one of our best agents for the releif of menorrhagia.
Specific Indications and Uses: To relieve urinary irritation, strangury, urinary suppression, relieves irritation in incipient Brights disease, capillary relaxation, leucorrhea, with relaxed and irritated vaginal walls, hematuria, gastric and intestinal atony, atonic amenorrhea, menorrhagia.
1909: Felter and Lloyd: ACHILLEA – YARROW
History – Yarrow is a common wayside herb, and is also found growing wild in fields, pastures and waste places throughout the central portions of North America and Europe. It flowers from May to October, during which time it should be gathered (preferably during July), and after rejecting the coarser stems, should be carefully dried. The weight, after drying, is but 15 per cent of the amount collected. The leaves are more astringent than the flowers, the latter being more aromatic than the former. The American plant is said to be more valuable than the European species. Achillea was known to the ancients. Pliny states that the generic term, Achillea, was named from Achilles, a physician, who was one of the first to use a species of this plant as a vulnerary. Yarrow is sold by the native herbalists of India, like rosemary, where it is used as abitter an din medicated vapor baths for fevers (Dymock). The Italians employed it in intermittent fevers, and in the Scottish highlands it is made into ointment for wounds. According to Linnaeus the Dalecarlians used it as a substitute for hops in the making of ale, believing it to impart to it intoxicating qualities. Both Stahl and Haller used this plant extensively.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage – Yarrow possesses slightly astringent properties, and is tonic, alterative and diuretic, in infusion. Its use in chronic diseases of the urinary apparatus, is especially recommended by Prof. J. M Scudder. It exerts a tonic influence upon the venous system, as well as upon mucous membranes. It has been efficacious in sore throat, hemoptysis, hematuria, and other forms of hemorrhage, where the bleeding is small in amount, incontinence of urine, diabetes, hamorrhoids with bloody or mucoid discharges, and dysentery; also in amenorrhoea, flatulency and spasmodic diseases, and in the form of injection in leucorrhoea with relaxed vaginal walls. Prof. T. V. Morrow made much use of an infusion of this berb in dysentery. Given in half-drachm doses of the saturated tincture, or 20-drop doses of specific achillea, it will be found one of our best agents for the relief of menorrhagia.
The active principle, Achillein, has been employed in France and other portions of Southern Europe, as a substitute for quinine in the treatment of intermittent fevers. It has also been employed by French physicians to restore arrested lochial discharges.
Of infusion (3i to Aqua Oj), 1 to 2 fluid ounces; specific achillea, 5 to 30 drops; volatile oil, 5 to 20 drops. All preparations of achillea are rendered more pleasant to the taste by the addition of a few drops of oil of anise.
Specific Indications and Uses -To relieve urinary irritation, strangury, urinary suppression; relieves irritation in incipient Bright’s disease, capillary relaxation, leucorrhoea with relaxed and irritated vaginal walls, hematuria, gastric and intestinal atony, atonic amenorrhoea, menorrhagia.
Indications: Vesical, renal and urethral irritation; leucorrhea; menorrhagia, and atonic amenorrhea, piles with discharge of bloody mucous, suppression of lochia, hematemesis and hemoptysis. Achillea millefolium is alterative, diuretic, and slightly astringent.
Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.