Yarrow

Scientific Name(s): Achillea millefolium L.; Family: Asteraceae (daisies)

Common Name(s): Yarrow , thousand-leaf , mil foil , green arrow , wound wort , nosebleed plant

Uses

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of yarrow to treat any condition. However, yarrow has been used to induce sweating and to stop wound bleeding. It has also been reported to reduce heavy menstrual bleeding and pain. It has been used to relieve GI ailments, for cerebral and coronary thromboses, to lower high blood pressure, to improve circulation, and to tone varicose veins. It has antimicrobial actions, is a natural source for food flavoring, and is used in alcoholic beverages and bitters.

Dosing

A typical dose of yarrow herb is 4.5 g/day for inflammatory conditions. However, there are no modern clinical studies to validate this dose.

Contraindications

Yarrow is contraindicated in individuals with an existing hypersensitivity to any member of the Asteraceae family. Use in epileptic patients is contraindicated.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects (eg, emmenagogue, abortifacient). 1 , 2 Avoid use of yarrow's volatile oil during pregnancy.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Contact dermatitis is the most commonly reported side effect.

Toxicology

Yarrow is generally not considered toxic.

Botany

The name yarrow applies to any of roughly 80 species of daisy plants native to the north temperate zone. A. millefolium L. has finely divided leaves and whitish, pink, or reddish flowers. It can grow up to 3 feet in height. This hardy perennial weed blooms from June to November. Golden yarrow is Eriophyllum confertiflorum . 3 , 4

History

Yarrow is native to Europe and Asia and has been naturalized in North America. Its use in food and medicine is ancient, dating back to the Trojan War, around 1200 BC. 5 In legend, Achilles used it on the Centaur's advice, hence the name. In classical times, yarrow was referred to as “herba militaris” because it stopped bleeding wounds received in war. 4 Yarrow leaves have been used for tea, and young leaves and flowers have been used in salads. Infusions of yarrow have served as cosmetic cleansers and medicines. Sneezewort leaves ( A. ptarmica ) have been used in sneezing powder, while those of A. millefolium have been used for snuff. 1 Yarrow has been used therapeutically as a “strengthening bitter tonic” and astringent. Chewing fresh leaves has been suggested to relieve toothaches. 5 , 6 Yarrow oil has been used in shampoos for a topical “healing” effect.

Chemistry

As many as 82 constituents have been identified in the essential oil of which yarrow yields 1%. 7 Some of these components include linalool, sabinene, allo-ocimene, azulene, eugenol, menthol, alpha-pinene, borneol, cineole (less than 10%), limonene (less than 11%), camphor (18% to 21%) and chamazulene (up to 50%). 4 , 5 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 Quantitative determination of chamazulene and prochamazulene has been performed. 11 , 12 Tetraploid species contain azulene, while hexaploid and octaploid species do not. 7 , 13 The precursors of azulene in the tetraploid species A. millefolium ssp. collina Becker are prochamazulenes that confirm the genera Matricaria , Artemisia and Achillea are closely related. 14

Sesquiterpene lactones, including alpha-peroxyachifolid and others, have been determined. 15 , 16 Sesquiterpenoids, achimillic acids A, B, and C, and alpha-methylene sesquiterpene lactones have also been isolated from yarrow. 17 Two guaianolide-peroxides from the plant's blossoms have been found. 18 Other triterpenes and sterols identified in yarrow include beta-sitosterol, alpha-amyrin, stigmasterol, campesterol, cholesterol, beta-amyrin, taraxasterol, and pseudotaraxasterol. 19

Flavonoids present in yarrow include apigenin, artemetin, casticin, luteolin, and rutin. 7 , 10 The alkaloids achiceine, achilletin, betaine, betonicine, choline, moschatine, stachydrine, and trigonelline have been found in yarrow. 5 , 10 Among the amino acids are alanine, histidine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, and lysine. 5 , 10 Fatty acid constituents include linoleic, myristic, oleic, and palmitic. Other acids found are salicylic, ascorbic, caffeic, folic, and succinic. 10

Other components found in yarrow include polyacetylenes, coumarins (± 0.35%), tannins (3% to 4%), and sugars (dextrose, glucose, mannitol, sucrose). 7 , 10 The constituents of yarrow have been reviewed in detail. 20

Uses and Pharmacology

Yarrow is used as a sudorific (to induce sweating). It is also classified as a wound-healing herb because it stops wound bleeding. 6 It has been used for this purpose for centuries and is a component in some healing ointments, lotions, and percolates or extracts. 4 , 7 Its healing and regenerating effects have been reported when used as a constituent in medicated baths to remove perspiration and remedy inflammation of skin and mucous membranes. 7 , 21 , 22 One study reports wound-healing properties of yarrow oil in napalm burns. 23

Chamazulene, a constituent in yarrow essential oil, has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties. In animal studies, this anti-inflammatory activity has been demonstrated using mouse and rat paw edema models. 10

Animal data

The yarrow component achilleine arrests internal and external bleeding. 4 IV injection (0.5 g/kg) in rabbits has decreased blood clotting time by 32%. Hemostasis persisted for 45 minutes with no toxic effect. 4 Achilletin has also reduced coagulation time in canines. 5

Yarrow helps regulate the menstrual cycle and reduces heavy bleeding and pain. 4 , 10 It has been used as an herbal remedy for cerebral and coronary thromboses. 10 Yarrow has also been used to lower high blood pressure, improve circulation, and tone varicose veins. 4 , 5

Antispasmodic activity of yarrow has also been documented, probably caused by the plant's flavonoid fractions 4 , 10 or azulene. 10 Yarrow has relieved GI ailments such as diarrhea, flatulence, and cramping. 7 Yarrow's antimicrobial actions have also been documented. In vitro fungistatic effect from the oil has been proven. 22 The oil has also exhibited marked activity against S. aureus and C. albicans . 25 Another report discusses antistaphylococcal activity from yarrow grass extract. 26 Antibacterial actions have also been demonstrated against B. subtillus , E. coli , Shigella sonnei , and flexneri . 10 One report found yarrow's sesquiterpenoids, achimillic acids, to be active against mouse leukemia cells in vivo. 17 Other actions of yarrow include: Growth inhibiting effects on seed germination caused by constituents phenylcarbonic acids, coumarins, herniarin, and umbelliferone, 27 marked hypoglycemic and glycogen-sparing properties 28 and CNS-depressant activity and sedative actions in mice. 10 Yarrow is a natural source for food flavoring and is used in alcoholic beverages and bitters. 10 Thujone-free yarrow extract is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in beverages.

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of yarrow for any condition.

Dosage

A typical dose of yarrow herb is 4.5 g/day for inflammatory conditions. However, there are no modern clinical studies to validate this dose.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects (eg, emmenagogue, abortifacient). 1 , 2 Avoid use of yarrow's volatile oil during pregnancy.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Contact dermatitis is the most commonly reported adverse reaction from yarrow. Guaianolide peroxides from yarrow have caused this reaction, 18 as have alpha-peroxyachifolid, 16 10 sesquiterpene lactones, and 3 polyines. 15 A Danish report evaluates routine patch testing in 686 patients to determine sensitivity to compositae plants and their sesquiterpene lactones. Terpinen-4-ol, a yarrow oil component, has irritant properties and may contribute to its diuretic actions. 10

Toxicology

Thujone, a known toxin and minor component in the oil, is in too low a concentration to cause any health risk. 10 Yarrow is not generally considered toxic. 5 , 10

Bibliography

1. Brinker FJ. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions . 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications; 1998.
2. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD, eds. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals . London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
3. Seymour ELD. The Garden Encyclopedia . Wise, 1936.
4. Chevallier A. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants . New York, NY:DK Publishing 1996;54.
5. Duke J. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press Inc. 1989;9-10.
6. Loewenfeld C and Back P. The Complete Book of Herbs and Spices . London: David E Charles 1979.
7. Bisset N. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals . Stuttgart, Germany: CRC Press 1994;342-44.
8. Merck Index, 10th edition. Rahway: Merck and Co. 1983.
9. Verzar-Petri, et al. Herba Hun 1979;18:83.
10. Newall C, et al. Herbal Medicines . London, England: Pharmaceutical Press 1996;271-73.
11. Verzar-Petri G, et al. Sci Pharm 1977 Sep 30;45:220-34.
12. Falk AJ, et al. Lloydia 1974;37:598.
13. Verzar-Petri G, et al. Planta Med 1979;36:273.
14. Hausen B, et al. Contact Dermatitis 1991;24(4):274-80.
15. Rucker G, et al. Pharmazie 1994;49(2-3):167-69.
16. Tozyo T, et al. Chem Pharm Bull 1994;42(5):1096-100.
17. Rucker G, et al. Archiv Der Pharmazie 1991;324(12):979-81.
18. Chandler R, et al. J Pharm Sci 1982 Jun 71:690-93.
19. Chandler R. Can Pharm J 1989 Jan;122:41-43.
20. Koerber G. Seifen, Oele, Fette, Wachse 1969 Dec;95:951-54.
21. Gafitanu E, et al. Revista Medico-Chirurgicala A Societatii de Medici Si Naturalisti Din Iasi 1988;92(1):121-2.
22. Taran D, et al. Voenno-Meditsinskii Zhurnal 1989;(8):50-52.
23. Popovici A, et al. Rev Med 1970;16(3-4):384-89.
24. Kedzia B, et al. Herba Polonica 1990;36(3):117-25.
25. Molochko V, et al. Vestnik Dermatologii I Venerologii 1990;(8):54-56.
26. Detter A. Pharmazeutische Zeitung 1981 Jun 4;126:1140-42.
27. Molokovskii D, et al. Problemy Endokrinologii 1989;35(6):82-87.
28. Paulsen E, et al. Contact Dermatitis 1993;29(1):6-10.

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