Yarrow - Achillea millefolium

Why Get to know this plant:

Very abundant summer perennial flower; you will be sure to find this flower easily.

Traditionally this plant is used as a vulnerary (means heals wounds) applied externally and internally taken it has astringent action that is similar. It dries up excess bleeding, stops excessive uterine bleeding, alleviates menstrual pain that is in the lower back and diffuse not easily felt in one specific place. In fact yarrow is considered a universal regulator of female reproductive function by removing uterine and pelvic congestion. It is a uterine stimulant and brings on a delayed menses. It is contraindicated in pregnancy for its stimulatory action.

The plant is also very useful taken as a tea for digestive issues, particularly if there is slow digestion that results in soft stools, diarrhea and gas. Yarrow can help also by soothing the digestive system by relieving muscle spasms in the intestines and promoting the flow and secretion of digestive juices so that digestion occurs more efficiently. Best results are from long term use.

 

Yarrow grow in grassy areas in many elevations.

Yarrow grow in grassy areas in many elevations.

Where This Plant grows:

Found in grassy areas, including roadsides, fields, water edges and ranges from high hill tops to sea level elevations.

 

How to Identify yarrow:

The flowers are composite and white although sometimes pink or purple. They occur in dense clusters, and are flat across the top. The leaves are dark green, alternate and pinnately divided. The leaves look similar to small ferns. The latin name millefolium speaks to the fact that yarrow has the appearance of a “thousand” little leaves. The flowers are highly aromatic and it resembles chamomile. Achillea flowers from May to October depending on elevation and location.

Identification of yarrow is easy, once you have been able to pick it out, it is very different from other plants.

Identification of yarrow is easy, once you have been able to pick it out, it is very different from other plants.

When conditions are right, the flowers are very aromatic. This is when you should harvest, in the morning, when the plant has been dry (no rain) for several days.

When conditions are right, the flowers are very aromatic. This is when you should harvest, in the morning, when the plant has been dry (no rain) for several days.

From afar, yarrow flowers may look like a plant of the carrot family, such as wild carrot or parsley. Once you train your eye and see the flower cluster properly however, you will notice that they do not spread out in a well spaced sphere like the carrot family does, and you will wonder how you ever once mistook them.

 

Parts Used:

Leaves are slightly more astringent and flowers are slightly more full of flavonoid, (therefore more useful for anti-inflammatory action). Volatile oils can be higher in the leaf but they are much more variable than in the flower. All upper part of the plant (leaves and flowers) are used medicinally.

 

Medicinal Actions:

Tonic Bitter, anti-inflammatory, carminative, spasmolytic, antiphlogistic, diaphoretic, anti-hemorrhagic, antispasmotic, alterative, diuretic, astringent

 

 

 

 

Tips from Experience:

Make sure that you bring scissors or a sharp knife when harvesting as the stem of mature yarrow plants can be quite tough.

Constituents in the plant:

Volatile oils (0.2-1%), Sesquiterpene lactones (achillicin, achillin, achillifolin, millifin, millifolide) 3-5% tannins, Flavonoids (more in flower; rutin, apigenin, leuolin, isohamnetin), Alkaloids (betonicine, stacydrine, achiceine, moschatine, trigonelline), phenolic acids (caffeic, salicylic), coumarins, Betaine

The volatile oil, is what gives yarrow its anti-inflammatory activity. Alkamides also reduce inflammation as well as reduce muscle spasms in gastrointestinal tract. The alkaloid known as achilletin, stops bleeding in animals, it sooths the digestive system by relieving muscle spasms and stimulating digestive juices.

Caution and contraindications:

Do not use yarrow if you are pregnant or have a known allergy to yarrow or another member of the composite family.

 

References:

Hoffman, David. Herbal Medicine.

MacKinnon et al. (2009) Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada. Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton AB. p. 357

Keane, K. (2015) The Standing People: Wild Medicinal Plants of British Columbia. Save our species. p. 46-47

Pojar, J. et al. (1994) Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Lone Pine Publishing. Vancouver, BC.

Mills, S. and Bone, K. (2000) Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh. p. 85