COMPOSITAE = ASTERACEAE
There are more than 150 species of yarrow, widespread around the world, but the one most commonly used as medicinal plant is yarrow.
It is a perennial by its rhizome with erect stems often unique or little branched, leaves alternate finely cut (giving the appearance of many small leaves) and the inflorescence in slightly convex capitules which gather from 10 to 30 small flowers (or florets) white or pink, sometimes tinged with yellow or purple.
Yarrow is widespread in the majority of temperate (even cold) Northern Hemiphere countries ; it is found in the wild or cultivated in gardens.
It has been introduced in South America and the Pacific (Australia and New Zealand).
Yarrow is known as a medicinal plant in all regions where it is found (even Neanderthals used it!): The parts used in herbal medicine are flowering tops and their essential oil and leaves.
Some people with allergies to asteraceae are also allergic to yarrow.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
LEAVES AND FLOWERS OF YARROW
Yarrow does not contain any important pharmacological substance that is specific to it, but several classes of active compounds that are interesting for their properties, especially in combination:
- sesquiterpene lactones (example: guaianolides, germacranolides),
- bitter compounds (some act on the hepatic activity or digestion), considered as anti-inflammatory and potential source of new drugs including antileukemics,
- flavonoids slightly antispasmodic (especially smooth fibers), analgesic when they lift the spasm pain and for some, hormonal regulators,
- anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and healing tannins,
- essential oil,
- betonicin or achilléine, hemostatic and possible adjuvant to antibiotic treatments by its ability (in vitro) to counter the appearance of bacterial resistance.
Yarrow is studied in many countries (especially in Asia) and the list of potential medicinal properties of this plant or its extracts is interesting:
- anti-spasmodic (and therefore often analgesic) genital, digestive and respiratory (antitussive),
- anti-hypertensive and anti-asthmatic by action on beta adrenergic receptors,
- diuretic and urinary disinfectant,
- anti-inflammatory, scavenger of free radicals,
- hemostatic (antihaemorrhagic topically), astringent and antiseptic, wound healer
- and maybe slightly anxiolytic
ESSENTIAL OIL OF YARROW ACHILLEA MILLEFOLIUM
The essential oil of yarrow has a fairly variable composition depending on the geographical origin of the plant, its growing conditions or the fact that they are varieties or even subspecies.
- it is dominated by sesquiterpenes, some of which, when present, give it a beautiful and rare dark blue color,
- it contains antiseptic terpenes and terpenols (pinene, sabinene, linalool) as well as eucalyptol (1-8 cineole), respiratory antiseptic and eupneic.
- but it also contains camphor and ketones which limits its use internally because this fraction of the essential oil is neurotoxic (and epileptogenic), possibly hepatotoxic or carcinogenic and probably abortive.
The concentration of the plant in essential oil is low, which allows a safe use of yarrow, whole plant or in the form of powder, infusion or aqueous decoction, alcoholic tincture, fresh plant juice.
TOPICAL USE OF YARROW, Achillea millefolium
Wounds even with bleeding, nosebleeds (epistaxis).
This is the classic use, a little outdated for the commonplace wound but useful in case of bleeding nose that has difficulty stopping or is recurrent.
The juice of the leaves or decoction is used in direct application (topically).
For nose bleeding the rolled leaf and slightly crushed is put as a "plug" inside the bleeding nostril.
This nasal dressing is kept for several hours before being carefully removed.
INTERNAL USE of yarrow, Achillea millefolium
- digestive SPASMS from the colon (large intestine), stomach (sometimes quite painful), or bile ducts (pain in the gallbladder, spasm of the sphincter of oddi)
- MENSTRUAL PAIN or DYSMENORRHEA are sometimes sensitive to yarrow but not in case of endometriosis,
- BANAL CYSTITIS, especially in women, without fever and with non-purulent urine and in the absence of hematuria (blood in the urine),
- HEPATIC INSUFFICIENCY . One can also try yarrow in case of digestive disorders related to a deficiency of the activity of the liver: slow digestion of the fats, digestive migraine, pasty mouth and saburral tongue with bad breath.
Other indications are possible but less documented : in case of hypertension, asthma, as anxiolytic or to reduce joint pain.
Examples of dosage:
Yarrow can be used fresh, dry or in the form of extract including alcoholic tincture easy to achieve at home because this plant has no significant toxicity (except its essential oil).
- INFUSION (5mn) or DECOCTION (15mn), example: 40 to 50g dry flowering tops with some leaves or 150 to 200g of fresh plant in a liter of hot water or boiling water for the decoction.
A cup of infusion 2 to 4 times a day especially for spasmodic disorders.
The decoction is rather intended for external use, cleaning wounds but also topically on contused areas, chronic ulcers.
- ALCOHOLIC TINCTURE, usually at 1/10 but can be done at 1/5: local application on wounds or by mouth: 30 to 50 drops 3 to 4 times a day.
Ready-made preparations of yarrow extract, sometimes in combination with other medicinal plants, are available commercially, follow their dosage indication.
ESSENTIAL OIL OF YARROW Achillea millefolium
We do not recommend this essential oil internally.
In external use it is healing, combines with other essential oils to treat damaged skin, small skin infections recurring (neck, rubbing areas).
Contraindicated in pregnant or breastfeeding women
CULTIVATION of YARROW
Yarrow is a plant of full sun very little demanding on the quality of the ground but which does not support soils waterlogged and undrained .
It can colonize very degraded areas and improve the soil thanks to these rather deep roots.
It is propagated by sowing, or by using rhizome fragments.
It is a plant that can become invasive.
There are decorative varieties with different flowers colors.
It would be repellent for some crop pests but would attract ladybugs.
YARROW, HEALING, ANTIHAEMORRHAGIC AND ANTISPASMODIC
Yarrow is known since antiquity as a healing plant and to treat wounds and stop bleeding.
it is also a non-toxic antispasmodic plant that cures digestive and genital spasms.
It is moderately diuretic and disinfectant.
Its potentially toxic essential oil is only for external use.
Copyright 2019 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel