Botanical name: Achillea millefolium
© Steven Foster
Parts used and where grown
This prolific plant grows in Europe, North America, and Asia. A number of species are used
as garden ornamentals. The flowering tops of yarrow are used in herbal medicine.
Yarrow has been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
Traditional herbal medicine has used yarrow in three broad categories.1 First,
it was used to help stop minor bleeding and to treat wounds. Second, it was used to treat inflammation in a
number of conditions, especially in the intestinal and female reproductive tracts. Third, it
was utilized as a mild sedative. Some or all of these historical uses occurred in Europe,
China, and India. The ancient Chinese fortune-telling system known as the I Ching first used
dried yarrow stems, then later replaced them with coins.2
A number of chemicals may contribute to yarrow’s actions. The volatile oil, which is
rich in sesquiterpene lactones, and alkamides has been found to have anti-inflammatory
properties in test tube studies.3 4 Animal studies have shown this herb
can reduce smooth muscle spasms, which might further explain its usefulness in
gastrointestinal conditions.5 The alkaloid obtained from yarrow, known as
achilletin, reportedly stops bleeding in animals.6 No human clinical studies have
confirmed the traditional uses of yarrow.
How much is usually taken?
The German Commission E monograph suggests approximately 1 teaspoon (4.5 grams) of yarrow
daily or 3 teaspoons (15 ml) of the fresh pressed juice.7 A tea can be prepared by
steeping 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 grams) of yarrow in 1 cup (250 ml) boiling water for
ten to fifteen minutes. Three cups (750 ml) a day can be taken. A tincture, 1/2–3/4
teaspoon (3–4 ml) three times per day, can be taken. The tea, or cloths dipped in the
tea, can be used topically as needed for minor skin injuries.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
People who take yarrow may occasionally develop an allergy or rash.8 Yarrow
might increase sensitivity to sunlight. Yarrow should not be used to treat large, deep, or
infected wounds, all of which require medical
attention. Yarrow is not recommended during
pregnancy or breast-feeding.9
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions
1. Castleman M. The Healing Herbs. New York, Bantam Books, 1991,
2. Castleman M. The Healing Herbs. New York, Bantam Books, 1991,
3. Zitterl-Eglseer K, Jurenitsch J, Korhammer S, et al. Sesquiterpene
lactones of Achillea setacea with antiphlogistic activity. Planta Med
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. Tewari JP, Srivastava MC, Bajpai JL. Pharmacologic studies of
Achillea millefolium Linn. Indian J Med Sci 1994;28:331–6.
6. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC
Press, 1985, 10–1.
7. 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.
8. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products
Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, 3.
9. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds). American Herbal
Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997,