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YARROW

Legend has it that yarrow (Achillea millefolium) was named after Achilles, the Greek mythical figure who used it to staunch the bleeding wounds of his soldiers. Popular in European folk medicine, yarrow has traditionally been used to treat menstrual ailments and bleeding hemorrhoids. Like chamomile, its distant botanical relative, yarrow is also a common herbal remedy for bloating, flatulence, and mild gastrointestinal cramping.

Plant Description

Yarrow flourishes in a sunny and warm habitat, and is frequently found along meadows and roadsides, as well as on dry, sunny slopes. It grows as a simple, erect, and hairy stem that reaches a height of 0.1 to 1.5 meters. The entire plant (with the exception of the fruit) is draped in white, silky hairs. Growing from underground runners are tough, angular, horizontal stems that bear flowers.

Yarrow blooms between June and September. The flowers are typically white, but either pink or pale purple flowers are common in mountain areas. The petals are densely arranged in flattened clusters, and the leaves look like feathers.

Parts Used

The following parts of yarrow are used for medicinal purposes.

bulletFlowers
bulletWhole herb
bulletAbove-ground parts

Medicinal Uses/Indications

Yarrow is used to treat the following conditions and symptoms.

bulletLoss of appetite
bulletDigestive complaints
bulletLiver and gallbladder conditions
bulletMenstrual irregularities
bulletSpasm
bulletInflammation
bulletHigh blood pressure

Yarrow is also used to produce sweat, reduce fever, prevent hemorrhaging, induce menstruation, stimulate the liver's production of bile, stimulate flow of bile to the duodenum (part of the small intestine), and as an antibacterial astringent. Traditional uses of yarrow also include external applications for wound healing and skin inflammations, and as a sitz bath for pain and cramps in the lower female pelvis and for liver ailments.

Available Forms

Yarrow is available in the following forms.

bulletDried or fresh herb
bulletLiquid extract
bulletTincture
bulletFlowers

How to Take It

The following are recommended doses for yarrow.

bulletDried herb: 2 to 4 g in infusion or capsules three times per day
bulletExtract (1:1, 25% ethanol): 1 to 4 ml three times per day
bulletTincture (1:5; 40% ethanol): 2 to 4 ml three times per day
bulletYarrow flowers, or equivalent preparations: 3 g per day as infusion (tea)
bulletSitz baths: 100 g yarrow per 20 liters (5 gal) of water

Precautions

While yarrow is considered free of adverse side effects when administered in recommended therapeutic doses, some people have allergic reactions to this plant. If you are pregnant, do not use yarrow. If you are breastfeeding, be sure to avoid excessive use.

Possible Interactions

No harmful drug interactions have been reported.

Supporting Research

Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998:223-224.

Bradley P, ed. British Herbal Compendium. Vol. I. Dorset, Great Britain: British Herbal Medicine Association; 1992:227-229.

Chandler RF, Hooper SN, Harvey MJ. Ethnobotany and phytochemistry of yarrow, Achillea millefolium, Compositae. Econ Botany. 1982;36:203-223.

Goldberg AS, Mueller EC, Eigen E, Desalva S. Isolation of anti-inflammatory principles from Achillea millefolium (Compositae). J Pharm Sci. 1969;58:938-941.

Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Vol. II. New York, NY: Dover; 1971:863-865.

Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 1998:604-606.

Kudrzycka-Bicloszabska FW, Glowniak K. Pharmacodynamic properties of oleum chamomillae and oleum millefolii. Diss Pharm Phamacol. 1966;18:449-454.

Moskalenko SA. Preliminary screening of far-Eastern ethnomedicinal plant for antibacterial activity. J Ethnopharmacol. 1986;15:231-259.

N/A

Newall C, Anderson L, Phillipson J. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:271-273.

Schulz V, Hansel R, Tyler V. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physicians' Guide to Herbal Medicine. 3rd ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer; 1998:182-183, 239

Shipochliev T, Fournadjiev G. Spectrum of the antiinflammatory effect of Arctostaphylos uva ursi and Achillea millefolium.Probl Vutr Med. 1984;12:99-107.

Thomson WA. Medicines from the Earth: A Guide to Healing Plants. Maidenhead, England: McGraw-Hill Book Company; 1978:61.

Tyler V. The Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies. 3rd ed. Binghampton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press; 1993:83-85.

Copyright 2000 Integrative Medicine Communications

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein