Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

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Yarrow Summary

Yarrow is one of the most important herbs in Western herbal medicine. It has a wide range of actions, some of which are broad enough to cover a range of seemingly unrelated conditions. The intensely bitter flavour of yarrow makes it hard to mask, but is also a source of its medicinal qualities.

Yarrow is used externally as a styptic. In WWII soldiers carried small sacks of powdered yarrow to place into gunshot wounds to stop the bleeding. In modern times, yarrow makes for a great emergency herb on hikes through the Rocky mountains of North America or by carrying some in a first aid pack when on the trail.

Internally yarrow is used for its bitter component, and to break a fever through its diaphoretic actions.

 

+ Indications

  • Kidney disorders
  • Urinary stones
  • Sores
  • Skin rashes
  • External bleeding of any kind
  • Fever
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Colds, especially in the commencement of fevers and cases with obstructed pirsperation
  • Influenza, especially with fevers
  • Weak appetite
  • Stomach cramps
  • Flatulence
  • Gastritis
  • Enteritis
  • Wounds

+ Contraindications

Still compiling research.

Herbal Actions:

  • Bitter
  • Antioxidant
  • Emmenagogue
  • Diaphoretic
  • Astringent
  • CNS stimulant (Mild)
  • Hypoglycemic
  • Antispasmodic
  • Antinociceptive
  • Antinflammatory
  • Vulnerary
  • Hemolytic
  • Hepatoprotective
  • Antilithic
 

What Is Yarrow Used For?

Yarrow is used topically to treat wounds and stop bleeding through hemostatic chemicals contained in the leaves. It is used on skin rashes and eruptions.

Internally, yarrow is useful for breaking fevers, inducing sweating, treating kidney disorders, stomach cramps and indigestion, enteritis, hyperglycemia, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, poor appetite, and infection of influenza.

 

Traditional Uses

+ Western Herbal Medicine

Traditionally, yarrow was used as a styptic and vulnerary, and was especially useful in times of war by the soldiers. some of its common names reflect this use very well such as "Soldiers wound wort", and "Knights milefoil". The famous herbalist Gerard suggests that yarrow was used by Achilles to stanch the bleeding of his soldiers [5, 6]. This may be why the herbs botanical name is Achillea millefollium. He also suggested its use for headaches, to stop nosebleeds, and for tootheaches [14].

Culpeper suggested it is "drying and binding" and suggested a pultice of yarrow for trating piles, and an ointment of the leaves for wounds [14].

In the 17th century it's leaves were used in salads despite it's highly bitter taste [5].

A wash was used to prevent baldness and treat bleeding piles by making a strong decoction of the whole plant [5].

+ Traditional Chinese Medicine

Yarrow is considered to be cooling and drying. It stimulates the liver and regulates the flow of Qi. It is generally used for inflammatory, and digestive conditions and releasing stagnant Qi [14].

 

Weekly Dose

Part Used

Whole herb

Family Name

Asteraceae

Distribution

North America

Europe

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Constituents of Interest

  • Sesquiterpene lactones
  • A volatile oil
  • Achilleic acid

Common Names

  • Yarrow
  • Nosebleed
  • Soldiers woundwort
  • Kights milfoil
  • Herbe militaris
  • Thousand weed
  • Bloodwort
  • Devils nettle
  • Staunchweed
  • Devils plaything
  • Plumajillo

CYP450

  • Unkown

Quality

  • Unknown

Pregnancy

  • Unknown

Taste

  • Unkown

Duration of Use

  • Unknown
 

Botanical Information

As part of the Asteraceae family of plants, Achillea is just one of 1911 genera of plants. It's contained within the Anthemideae tribe which includes other such members as mugwort, wormwood, tarragon, Roman chamomile, and gonospermum.

 

Other Common Names

Yarrow, Nosebleed, Milfoil, Old Man's Pepper, Soldiers Woundwort, Knights Milfoil, Herbe Militaris, Thousand Weed, Bloodwort, Staunchweed, Devils Nettle, Devils Plaything, Yarroway, Plumajillo.

 

Harvesting, Collection, and Preparation:

Yarrow is easy to cultivate in temperate climates, and has a tendency to become a garden weed.

Yarrow can be collected, dried, and powdered to keep on hand for any cuts or wounds in which first aid treatment requires the stoppage of blood.

 

Pharmacology and Medical Research

+ Diabetes

The beta-cells of the pancreas, are the source of insulin for the human body, damage to these cells, will result in diabetes, which in turn has a wide range of negative health implications. Protecting these cells, or reducing the damage occurring here through the use of herbs such as Achillea millefolium could be an important control method and treatment option for this widespread and ultimately fatal disease.

Yarrow extract was shown to protect the pancreatic beta-cells from damage. This action was found to be at least partly due to it's ability to decrease the mRNA gene expression of IL-1-beta and iNOS, which itself exerts most of its actions through the inflammatory pathway Nf-kB [1]. IL-1-beta has been found to play a significant role in the destruction of these important beta-cells in the body, and as such blocking its interaction with its corresponding receptors has become a therapeutic strategy at a preclinical level so far [2].

+ Antioxidant

Oxidative damage is a normal part of metabolic processes, however, the inability to manage these free radicals, overproduction of free radicals, exposure to external oxidant substances, or regulation mechanism failure can lead to damage to cellular DNA, lipids, and proteins within our body. This can result in a wide range of conditions such as Alzheimers, Parkinsons disease, diabetes, and atherosclerosis [6].

Achillea millefolium contains a variety of directly antioxidant constituents such as flavonoids, and the sesquiterpene lactone achilloline A. These compounds scavenge free radicals throughout the body, which reduces the cellular damage and degradation that naturally occurs with free radical species. Achilloline A was studied more closely to investigate its antioxidant actions more specifically in the astrocytes of the nervous system. It was found that achilloline A was able to act by inhibiting microglial activation, modulate MAPK activity, and reduce reactive oxygen species levels in the microglial cells [3]. This shows a significant ability for achilloline A to protect the astrocytes of the nervous system, mainly through antioxidant, and free radical preventative actions.

Achillea millefolium also possess antioxidant effects through indirect means, such as through an inhibition of inflammatory triggering interleukins and iNOS [1].

+ Antispasmodic

Achillea millefollium hydroalcoholic extract was shown to inhibit the contraction of smooth muscle of the ileum in rats. This action was noted to be through a blockade of voltage dependent calcium ion channels [4].

 

+ Constituents List

[5, 16]

  • Sesquiterpene lactones
    • Achillolide A
  • Volatile oil [14]:
    • Tricyclene (0.27%)
    • alpha-Pinene (9.41%)
    • Camphene (6.02%)
    • beta-Pinene (7.13%)
    • Sabinene (12.35%)
    • Borneol acetate (2.1%)
    • 1,8-Cineole (9.59%)
    • gamma-terpinene (3.71%)
    • Limonene (1.71%)
    • Isoartemisia ketone (8.6%)
    • Borneol (2.55%)
    • Camphor (17.79%)
    • Chamazulene (Trace amounts)
  • Achellein
  • Achilleic acid
  • Resin
  • Tannin
  • Gum
  • Phenolic compounds
    • flavonoids
    • mono- and diglycosides of apigenin, luteolin and quercetin.
    • lignins
    • Aglycons

+ The main constituents in the genus Achillea includes:

Phenolic compounds: quinnic acid, malic acid, tr-aconitic acid, gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, protocatechuic acid, tannic acid, tr-caffeic acid, vanillin, p-coumaric acid, rosmarinic acid, rutin, hesperidin, hyperoside, 4-OH benzoic acid, salicylic acid, myrecitin, fisetin, coumarin, quercetin, naringenin, hesperitin, luteolin, kaempferol, apigenin, rhamnetin, chrysin [6].

 

Clinical Applications Of Yarrow:

Yarrows intensely bitter principles make it useful for any applications of a standard bitter, including indigestion, hepatobiliary stimulation, stimulating appetite, and treating a range of skin conditions.

Yarrow is also useful as a diaphoretic in the treatment of viral or bacterial infection to break a high fever. It is a popular herb for some viral infections such a influenza by direct antiviral effect. It is also a popular herb for muscle tightness and spasms for its antispasmodica activity.

 

Cautions:

Non-toxic and non-irritating. Some reports of hypersensitivity and skin inflammations after using yarrow.

Sensitivities have been reported [16]

Avoid thujone containing varieties during pregnancy [16]

 

Author

Justin Cooke, BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated November 2018)

 

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References:

  1. Zolghadri Y, Fazeli M, Marzieh Kooshki M, Shomali T, Karimaghayee N, Dehghani M. (2014). Achillea Millefolium L. Hydro- Alcoholic Extract Protects Pancreatic Cells by Down Regulating IL- 1β and iNOS Gene Expression in Diabetic Rats. Int J Mol Cell Med. Vol 3(4) 262

  2. Grishman EK, White PC, Savani RC. (2012). Toll-like receptors, the NLRP3 inflammasome, and interleukin-1beta in the development and progression of type 1 diabetes. Pediatr Res. 71:626-32.

  3. Elmann, A., Telerman, A., Erlank, H., Ofir, R., Kashman, Y., & Beit-Yannai, E. (2016). Achillolide A Protects Astrocytes against Oxidative Stress by Reducing Intracellular Reactive Oxygen Species and Interfering with Cell Signaling. Molecules, 21(3), 301. doi:10.3390/molecules21030301

  4. Moradi, M., Rafieian-Koupaei, M., Imani-Rastabi, R., Nasiri, J., Shahrani, M., Rabiei, Z., & Alibabaei, Z. (2013). Antispasmodic effects of yarrow (Achillea millefolium l.) extract in the isolated ileum of rat. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, 10(6), 499. doi:10.4314/ajtcam.v10i6.19

  5. A Modern Herbal. (1931). Yarrow. Retrieved from http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/y/yarrow02.html

  6. Agar, O., Dikmen, M., Ozturk, N., Yilmaz, M., Temel, H., & Turkmenoglu, F. (2015). Comparative Studies on Phenolic Composition, Antioxidant, Wound Healing and Cytotoxic Activities of Selected Achillea L. Species Growing in Turkey. Molecules,20(10), 17976-18000. doi:10.3390/molecules201017976

  7. Karabay-Yavasoglu, N.U.; Karamenderes, C.; Baykan, S.; Apaydin, S. (2007). Antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activities and acute toxicity of Achillea nobilis subsp. neilreichii extract in mice and rats. Pharm. Biol. 2007, 45, 162–168.

  8. Al-Hindawi, M.K.; Al-Deen, I.H.S.; Nabi, M.H.A.; Ismail, M.A. (1989). Anti-inflammatory activity of some Iraqi plants using intact rats. J. Ethnopharmacol. 26, 163–168.

  9. Ghasemi, P.A.; Koohpayeh, A.; Karimi, I. (2009). Effect of natural remedies on dead space wound healing in wistar rats. Pharmacogn. Mag. 5, 433–436.

  10. Akkol, K.E.; Koca, U.; Pesin, İ.; Yilmazer, D. (2011). Evaluation of the wound healing potential of Achillea biebersteinii Afan. (Asteraceae) by in vivo excision and incision models. J. Evid. Based Complement. Altern. Med. doi:10.1093/ecam/nep039.

  11. Temamogullari, F.; Hayat, A.; Baba, F. (2009). Effects of Yarrow Extract on Wound Healing in Rabbits. J. Anim. Vet. Adv. 8, 1204–1206.

  12. Yaeesh, S.; Jamal, Q.; Khan, A.U.; Gilani, A.H. (2006). Studies on hepatoprotective, antispasmodic and calcium antagonist activities of the aqueous-methanol extract of Achillea millefolium. Phytother. Res. 20, 546–551.

  13. Karamenderes, C.; Apaydın, S. (2003). Antispasmodic effect of Achillea nobilis L. subsp. sipylea (O. Schwarz) Bässler on the rat isolated duodenum. J. Ethnopharmacol. 84, 175–179.

  14. Battaglia, S. (2003). The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Brisbane, Australia: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy. (Pg 276-277).

  15. Lawless J. (1992). The encyclopedia of essential oils. Element books limited, Great Britain.

  16. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a.: Churchill Livingstone. (Pg. 471-473).