Materia Medica: Yarrow

 

SUMMARY

Yarrow has long been known and used as a wound healer, and it is remarkably good at stopping bleeding from a fresh wound, healing tissues, and as a pain relieving and anti microbial dressing for wounds. Achillea is in reference to Achilles, hero of the Trojan Wars in Greek mythology, who used the plant to stop bleeding and to heal the wounds of his soldiers.

MATERIA MEDICA

Latin Binomial: Achillea millefoliium

Common Name(s): Yarrow, Milfoil, Soldier's Wound-wort, Nosebleed plant, Thousand-leaf plant

TCM Name: Ya Luo

Ayurvedic Name: Biranjasipha, Gandana

Family: Asteraceae

Physical Description of the Plant: Yarrow is a rhizomatous, spreading, upright perennial, growing anywhere between 1 to 3 feet tall. The fern-like, aromatic, medium green leaves are alternate, 3 to 6 inches long and deeply-dissected. Flower heads are arranged in dense, flattened, compound corymbs at the top of the stem. Each cluster consists of one or more flower heads, each with 20-25 white ray flowers. In the northern hemisphere flowers will bloom anywhere between April and September. There are approximately 31 species of yarrow.  Cultivars are available with flower colors including pinks, reds, creams, yellows and bicolor pastels.

Habitat: Yarrow is native to Eurasia and is naturalized in temperate zones in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and South America. Common yarrow prefers sunny locations on thin, sandy soils although it can grow in part sun conditions as well. It grows along roadsides, in fields, waste areas, canyon bottoms, sub-alpine zones and even on lawns. 

Harvest and Collection: The aerial parts should be gathered when in flower between June and September.

Parts of the Plant Used: Leaves and flowers

Qualities: Yarrow has a strong sweet scent similar to chrysanthemums. It is drought-tolerant and has been planted to prevent soil erosion. Its roots grow deep and the leaves are rich in minerals. It is a popular companion plant, repelling bad insects while attracting good predatory ones and improving soil quality.

Chemical Constituents:

  • Volatile oils: α- and β-pinene, borneol, bornyl acetate, camphor, α-caryophyllene, 1,8, cineole, eugenol, farnesene, myrcene, sabinene, terpineol, thujone
  • Sesquiterpene lactones: achillin, achillicin, hydroxyachillin, balchanolide, leucodin, millifin, millifolide
  • Tannins
  • Flavonoids: apigenin, luteolin, isorhamnetin, rutin
  • Alkaloids and bases: betonicine (achilleine), stachydrine, achiceine, moschatine, trigonelline
  • Phenolic acids: caffeic, salicylic
  • Coumarins
  • Many samples contain high concentrations of azulenes, up to about 50%, including chamazulene and guajazulene
  • Miscellaneous acetylenes, aldehydes, cyclitols, plant acids

Taste: Bitter, Astringent, Pungent

Actions (Western): 

  • Astringent
  • Diaphoretic
  • Hypotensive
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-microbial
  • Diuretic
  • Bitter Hepatic
  • Radioprotective
  • Antiseptic
  • Antispasmodic
  • Carminative
  • Vasodilator
  • Febrifuge
  • Haemostatic
  • Diuretic
  • Alterative
  • Digestive
  • Tonic
  • Antihistamine
  • Analgesic
  • Expectorant
  • Antiviral
  • Stimulant

Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: 

  • Moves Qi and Blood: angina, chest pain, shortness of breath, abdominal cramping, headaches, vertigo, palpitations, varicose veins, hemorrhoids.
  • Reduces Inflammation/Resolves Dampness: bladder infections, urinary stones, frequent urination, spermatorrhea, leucorrhea.
  • Heals Wounds/Stops Bleeding: wounds, cuts.
  • Tonifies Qi/Releases to the Exterior: measles, chickenpox, flu, colds, fevers. 
  • Meridians: Spleen, Lungs, Kidney

Indications: Yarrow is one of the best diaphoretic herbs indicated for the first stage of acute fevers. Also indicated for acute stage of colds; influenza and upper respiratory conditions such as sinus infections, hay fever; chronic diarrhea and dysentery; intestinal hemorrhage and bleeding hemorrhoids; uterine hemorrhage, profuse protracted menstruation and leucorrhoea. It lowers blood pressure by dilation of the peripheral vessels. It stimulates digestion and tones the blood vessels. As a urinary antiseptic it is indicated in infections such as cystitis. Used externally it will aid in healing wounds. It is considered to be a specific in thrombotic conditions associated with hypertension. As an astringent it is used for spider veins, varicose veins, and nose bleeds. The essential oil can be used topically for scars, stretch marks, and varicose veins.

Contraindications/Cautions:  may cause allergic reactions to those sensitive to Asteraceae plants. Some cases of hypersensitivity to yarrow have been reported.

Drug Interactions: Use with caution if you are taking oral contraceptives or any heart or blood pressure medications. 

Dosage: 

  • Tincture: tincture of the fresh flowers and leaves can be kept on hand for first aid. Fresh tincture is also excellent for menstrual flooding and acts quickly, often in a formula with shepherds purse. Take 2-4ml of the tincture three times a day.
  • Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto l-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for l0-l5 minutes. This should be drunk hot three times a day. When feverish it should be drunk hourly.
  • Poultice: apply fresh leaves to wounds or hot tea compresses for bruises, sprains and strains.

Combinations: For fevers yarrow combines 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.

Energetics:  harmonizing - yarrow can be either warming or cooling and is a prime example of an herb with dual energetics  due to its ability to move blood toward the skin or the core of the body as needed, thus regulating heat (Matthew Wood). While its diuretic and diaphoretic properties define it as drying, its ability to stop blood and astringe tissues can actually hold moisture in.

Folklore: Legend has it that Achilles himself used yarrow to heal the battle wounds of his comrades in the Trojan wars. Yarrow is also said to grow around the grave of Confucius. It is said the most effective way to cast the I Ching is by using yarrow straws, as the stems are good for divining the future. It was said that Druids used yarrow stems as a method of weather prediction. The Cherokee, Iroquois and Mohegan Native Americans used yarrow as a digestive aid and to treat a variety of types of swellings.

Homer tells the story of the centaur Chiron, a healer who conveyed herbal secrets to human students and is credited with teaching Achilles how to use yarrow on the battle field to both heal wounds and for its magical healing properties. When used by the goddess Aphrodite the plant becomes a loving herb used in love potions and to heal emotional wounds of the heart.

Flower Essence:  The spiritual and emotional essence of yarrow is one of protection, especially for the emotional field, for those who tend to have leaky energetic and emotional boundaries, and take on others emotions or feel drained by others emotional needs. Yarrow can be the healer of energetic emotional wounds that have left a lasting “energetic breach” where your emotional energy is “bleeding.” Several different kinds of yarrows are used to make the flower essences and have each particular benefits in addition to yarrow’s other protective qualities.. The flower essences also help protect from EMFs and other electromagnetic frequencies from radio, computers or TVs.

Applications:  It encourages blood to move out of where it pools or is stagnant, as well as moving fresh blood into areas that need improved circulation.  Women often use it to modulate heavy menstrual bleeding and support healthy circulation and move stagnation in the uterine tissue.   It is a prime remedy for colds and flus when there is a fever present. It stimulates the body to produce a healthy fever response, encourages sweating and combats infections internally as well.

Recipes

Belgium Wild Beer Recipe

Ingredients

1 gallon water (3.75 L)
 0.2 ounce (2 g) wormwood
0.2 ounce (2 g) common yarrow
0.5 ounce (6 g) fresh ground ivy (creeping charlie)
0.3 ounces (4 g) chopped dried dandelion roots
3-4 crushed stems bitter dock 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) long or 1 to 2 lemons
1 1/4 pounds (680 g) brown sugar
Yeast (wild or commercial)

Instructions

Place the sugar, wormwood, yarrow, dandelion roots and bitter dock stems into a large pot with water (cut and squeeze the lemons if you used them). Bring to a light boil for 30 minutes. Add the fresh ground ivy after 15 minutes of boiling.

Remove from heat and strain the brew into the fermenter then add the yeast. Position the airlock or cover your fermenter with a paper towel or cheesecloth. Let the beer ferment for 10 days. Start counting when the fermentation is active (may take 2 to 3 days with a wild yeast starter). Siphon into swing-top bottles (16 oz - 500ml) and prime them with ½ teaspoon (2g) brown sugar for carbonation. Close the bottles and store somewhere not too hot. The beer will be ready to drink in around 3 weeks.

Scientific Research

Achillea millefolium L. s.l. revisited: recent findings confirm the traditional use. Benedek B1, Kopp B.

Abstract

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium L. s.l.) is traditionally used in the treatment of inflammatory and spasmodic gastro-intestinal disorders, hepato-biliary complaints and inflammation. Now we could show that the flavonoids mediated the antispasmodic properties of yarrow, whereas the dicaffeoylquinic acids caused the choleretic effects. Moreover, we observed an in vitro-inhibition of human neutrophil elastase, a protease involved in the inflammatory process, by extracts and fractions from yarrow, which suggests additional mechanisms of antiphlogistic action. The presented results confirm the traditional use of yarrow.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17704978

Minireview on Achillea millefolium Linn. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23959026 Akram M.

Abstract

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium L.) is an important medicinal plant with different pharmaceutical uses. A. millefolium has been used for centuries to treat various diseases including malaria, hepatitis and jaundice. A. millefolium is commonly prescribed to treat liver disorders. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory agent and is a hepatoprotective herb. A. millefolium is considered safe for supplemental use. It has antihepatotoxic effects also. It is prescribed as an astringent agent. It is prescribed in hemorrhoids, headache, bleeding disorders, bruises, cough, influenza, pneumonia, kidney stones, high blood pressure, menstrual disorders, fever, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteoarthritis, hemorrhagic disorders, chicken pox, cystitis, diabetes mellitus, indigestion, dyspepsia, eczema, psoriasis and boils

Radioprotective Effect of Achillea millefolium L Against Genotoxicity Induced by Ionizing Radiation in Human Normal Lymphocytes Somayeh Shahani1 , Mostafa Rostamnezhad2,3, Vahid Ghaffari-rad2,3, Arash Ghasemi4 , Tayyeb Allahverdi Pourfallah5 , and Seyed Jalal Hosseinimehr2

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4674217/pdf/10.1177_1559325815583761.pdf

Abstract

The radioprotective effect of Achillea millefolium L (ACM) extract was investigated against genotoxicity induced by ionizing radiation (IR) in human lymphocytes. Peripheral blood samples were collected from human volunteers and incubated with the methanolic extract of ACM at different concentrations (10, 50, 100, and 200 mg/mL) for 2 hours. At each dose point, the whole blood was exposed in vitro to 2.5 Gy of X-ray and then the lymphocytes were cultured with mitogenic stimulation to determine the micronuclei in cytokinesis-blocked binucleated cell. Antioxidant capacity of the extract was determined using free radicalscavenging method. The treatment of lymphocytes with the extract showed a significant decrease in the incidence of micronuclei binucleated cells, as compared with similarly irradiated lymphocytes without any extract treatment. The maximum protection and decrease in frequency of micronuclei were observed at 200 mg/mL of ACM extract which completely protected genotoxicity induced by IR in human lymphocytes. Achillea millefolium extract exhibited concentration-dependent radical-scavenging activity on 1,1-diphenyl-2-picryl hydrazyl free radicals. These data suggest that the methanolic extract of ACM may play an important role in the protection of normal tissues against genetic damage induced by IR.

References: 

https://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/yarrow-plant.html

http://spiraeaherbs.ca/yarrow-herb-achillea-millefolium-a-herbal-materia-medica/

https://shamanaflora.com/2015/09/12/la-medicina-plant-wisdom-yarrow-achillea-millefolium/

https://www.whiterabbitinstituteofhealing.com/herbs/yarrow/

https://www.thealchemistskitchen.com/blogs/blog/64323523-yarrow-ancient-herb-of-healing-protection-and-power

http://www.himalayawellness.com/herbalmonograph/milfoil.htm

https://theherbalacademy.com/yarrow-materia-medica/

http://www.ediblewildfood.com/belgium-wild-beer.aspx

https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/

Moore, Michael, Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, http://www.swsbm.com/ManualsMM/MatMed5.pdf

Fetrow, Charles & Juan Avila (2000).  The Complete Guide to Herbal Medicines.  New York, NY: Pocket Books.

Ody, Penelope (1993).  The Complete Medicinal Herbal.  New York, New York: Dorling Kindersley.

Gladstar, Rosemary (2012).  Medicinal Herbs. A beginner's guide. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

Groves, Maria Noel (2016).  Body into Balance.  North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

Thayer, Samuel (2006). Forager’s Harvest. Birchwood, WI: Forager’s Harvest.

Foster, Steven (1993). Herbal Renaissance. Layton, UT: Peregrine Smith Books.

McIntyre, Anne (2010).  The Complete Herbal Tutor.  London, England: Hatchet Company.

Wood, Matthew (1997). The Book of Herbal Wisdom. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books.