Family: Compositae, Achillea millefolium L.

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium L., is native to Europe and Asia and naturalized in North America. Also known as milfoil, thousand-leaf, green arrow, wound wort, nosebleed, and yarroway, this perennial herb can reach heights of 0.6 meters. The flowers are white, pink, or reddish, and the leaves are divided into many segments.

The reported life zone of yarrow includes most of the temperate zone, and the plant grows wild along roadways and in fields and pastures. Often considered a weed, yarrow is a hardy perennial and grows on many soil types if there is adequate drainage. Tops of the plant are collected when the plant is in flower, from early to late summer. Maximum oil content is found in dried buds and flowers (2.3-196).

The chemical constituents of yarrow include a volatile oil comprised of azulene and, in smaller amounts, caryophyllene, eucalyptol, - and -pinene, and borneol (2.3-196). Lactones, such as achilleic or aconitic acid, and achillene are also present, as are tannins, caledivain, and alkaloids (11.1-136). The proazulene content can be used to separate chemotypes.

Many Achillea species, differing in growth, flower color, and leaf shape, are available for ornamental purposes as border plants and in rock gardens. Dried flowers can be utilized in flower arrangements. Leaves and flowers have a bitter, astringent taste when used in culinary applications. Yarrow has been used in the manufacture of beer and can be found as an ingredient in herbal teas (11.1-50). Yarrow oil has been traditionally used in hair shampoos (11.1-96).

As a medicinal plant, yarrow and other Achillea species have been used as antispasmodics, astringents, carminatives, diaphoretics, stimulants, and tonics. In addition, yarrow has been used against colds, cramps, fevers, kidney disorders, toothaches, skin irritations, and hemorrhages, and to regulate menses, stimulate the flow of bile, and purify the blood. Chinese herbal medicine specifies the use of Achillea sibirica Ledeb. for stomach ulcers, amenorrhea, abdominal cramps, abscesses, snakebites, traumatic falls and bleeding, and to reduce inflammation (11.1-10). The alkaloids present in yarrow have decreased the required blood clotting time in rabbits (11.1-136). Extracts of yarrow exhibit antibiotic activity and may also act as antineoplastic drugs (7.2-51, 7.8-37). Contact with yarrow has been reported to cause dermatitis (7.8-1).

Yarrow is generally recognized as safe in beverages only if the finished beverage is thujone-free (21 CFR section 172.510 [1982].

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997