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Yarrow Introduction

Yarrow is a popular perennial herb. Although it is often used as a garden ornament, it exhibits unique medicinal properties. Yarrow has a rich history in traditional herbal medicine. For centuries, this herb was used as a healing agent to many cultures located in Europe, Asia, and Northern America. It is suggested that its genus name, Achillea, may have even been derived from “Achilles,” one of the mightiest Greeks to fight in the Trojan War. In the poet Homer’s work, Iliad, it was fabled that Achilles treated the most severe of wounds with yarrow. It is no wonder then why ancient Europeans referenced yarrow as Herba Militaris, or the military herb. [1] This particular use for yarrow continues today.

There are a variety of chemical constituents found in yarrow that help to provide an explanation to its miscellaneous health benefits. Numerous flavonoids, oils, phytosterols, and triterpenes, have been credited for its supposed therapeutic applications. [2] In fact, these biologically active compounds found in yarrow have proven so effective as to be previously listed in the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). The national Pharmacopeias of various countries act as the commission and official authority for dietary supplements, over-the-counter prescriptions, and other health care products manufactured and sold within its borders. The Austrian, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Indian, Swiss, and Romanian governments currently recognize yarrow as an effective supplement, and have added this herb to in their own respected Pharmacopeias. [3]

Yarrow Information

Yarrow is available in a number of delivery forms. Among it most available and popular forms are; capsules, tablets, tinctures, and liquid extracts. Dried and fresh yarrow sources are also available and may be used in teas and specific external applications, such as sitz baths. Yarrow is often made available through various topical solutions as well, for even greater flexibility in its external usage.

The entire yarrow plant is used in the manufacturing processes used to develop yarrow-based nutritional supplements. There is an added emphasis placed upon the harvesting of the flowers, leaves, and stems of the plant. These areas of the plant contain the most active and beneficial of all chemical constituents found in yarrow.

Yarrow Uses

Wound Care

Historically, the most popular uses of yarrow are within its ability to heal soft tissue. As previously stated, these supposed healing properties result from the many chemical constituents that compose the plant. Test-tube studies have indicated that certain alkamides and sesquiterpene lactones found in yarrow exhibit certain anti-inflammatory properties. [4, 5] These anti-inflammatory properties have also been used in various synergistic combinations, even being added to mouthwash, assisting in gum-inflammation caused by different conditions of the mouth. [6] This use has, however, proven quite ineffective.

Yarrow has a potent astringent affect when applied topically. A particular alkaloid of yarrow, achilletin, has proven so beneficial in mammalian study, as to completely stop the bleeding of open wounds. [7] By shrinking and tightening up the mucous membranes surrounding the affected area, the topical application of yarrow may speed up the natural healing process of damaged skin. Yarrow-based washes have also been used to shrink hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and to treat vegetative pelvipathia. [8]

Biliary disorders

German study has suggested that the many flavonoids in yarrow may promote gastrointestinal (GI) secretion. [9] In fact, the flowers of the yarrow plant are actually licensed as a medicinal tea in Germany. Flavonoids from yarrow may not only increase salivary and acidic secretions of the GI tract, they may also constitute a relaxation of muscles located in the digestive system. This may prove especially useful for persons suffering from stomach cramps induced by sickness, and/or females suffering from menstrual cramps.


Yarrow is a popular additive in many cold and flu preparations worldwide. It is used as febrifuge and diaphoretic in numerous dietary supplements targeted at the reduction of both fever and flu symptoms. Febrifuge and diaphoretics are defined as agents that provide a reduction of fever and assist with an increase in bodily perspiration. The most popular herbs used in combination with yarrow include; peppermint leaf, echinacea herb, and elderflower.


Certain publications from noted herbalists suggest that yarrow may be equally effective at promoting menstruation, and may also possess beneficial antispasmodic, and hypotensive properties. [10] These results are promising, but more human research is necessary to support these findings.

Yarrow Dosages

There are no established dosages for the supplementation of yarrow. In European countries however, yarrow use is often calculated by weight (based on a 150 lb. adult). This calculation is considered safe for both adults and children. [11] Children are recommended to obtain no more than one-third of an adult dose. Typical adult dosages range from 4.5 grams per day of cut herb, or 3 grams of cut flowers. [12] Below are examples of various preparations, dosages, and administrations:

  • Teas: 1 - 2 grams in 150 milliliters of water, steeped for 10 - 15 minutes. Recommended three times, drunken between meals.
  • Pressed juice (directly from fresh herb): 1 teaspoon; also recommended three times daily between meals.
  • Fluid extracts: In the ratio of 1:1 grams per milliliter- 3 - 6 milliliters daily.
  • Tincture: 1:5 (g/ml), 15 milliliters per day.
  • Topical application: over-the-counter creams, following exact directions from individual manufacturer.
  • Sitz bath: soak 10 - 20 minutes in a dilution of 100 grams of yarrow per 5 gallons of warm/hot water.

Yarrow Toxicities and Precautions

Yarrow Toxicities and Precautions

There are mixed reports regarding the possible side effects of this herb. One particular study has reported users experiencing symptoms of diarrhea, GI distress, drowsiness, and excessive urination when taken “mega” doses of this herb. [13] Other sources suggest that yarrow is a safe dietary supplement when taken in moderation, and when following manufacturer guidelines.

Because yarrow is a member of the plant family containing chrysanthemums, daisies, and ragweed; anyone allergic to these plants is advised not to supplement with products containing yarrow. Allergic reactions in the form of rashes, and an increased sensitivity to sunlight have been documented in these individuals. [14] The administration of yarrow is also contraindicated for women who are pregnant. It has been suggested that yarrow may cause the uterus to relax, therefore, possibly resulting in a miscarriage. [15] There are, however, no known restrictions for women during periods of lactation.


1. Grieve, M. 1967. A Modern Herbal, Vol. 2. New York; London: Hafner Publishing Co. 863-865.

2. Chandler, R.F. et al. 1982. Herbal remedies of the Maritime Indians: sterols and triterpenes of Achillea millefolium L. (Yarrow). J Pharm Sci 71(6): 690-693.

3. Karnick, C.R. 1994. Pharmacopoeial Standards of Herbal Plants, Vol. 2. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications. 150.

4. Muller-Jakic B, Breu W, Probstle A, et al. In vitro inhibition of cyclooxygenase and 5-lipoxygenase by alkamides from Echinacea and Achillea species. Planta Med, 1994; 60:37-40.

5. Zitterl-Eglseer K, Jurenitsch J, Korhammer S, et al. Sesquiterpene lactones of Achillea setacea with antiphlogistic activity. Plant Med 1991; 57:444-6.

6. Van der Weijden GA, The effect of herbal extracts in an experimental mouthrinse on established plaque and gingivitis. J Clin Periodontol. 1998; 25(5):3099-410.

7. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 10-1.

8. Wichtl, M. and N.G. Bisset (eds.). 1994. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers.

9. Braun, R. et al. 1997. Standardzulassungen f r Fertigarzneimittel-Text and Kommentar. [In German] Stuttgart: Deutscher Apotheker Verlag.

10. Bradley, P.R. (ed.). 1992. British Herbal Compendium, Vol. 1. Bournemouth: British Herbal Medicine Association.

11. White L, Mavor S. Kids, Herbs, Health. Loveland, Colo: Interweave Press; 1998:22, 43.

12. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:233-4.

13. Anon. Final report on the safety assessment of yarrow (Achillea millefolium) extract. International Journal of Toxicology. 2001; 20(Suppl 2):79-84.

14. McGuffin, M., C, Hobbs, R. Upton A. Goldberg. 1997. American Herbal Product Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

15. Newall, C.A., L.A. Anderson, J.D. Phillipson. 1996. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press.