Materia Medica – Yarrow


Achillea millefolium L. (Asteraceae)

Also known as: Gandana, I-chi-kao, Milfoil, Millefoil, Noble Yarrow, Nosebleed, Old Man’s Pepper, Soldier’s Woundwort, Stanchgrass, Thousand-leaf, Common Yarrow, Western Yarrow, Knight’s Milfoil, Herbe Militaris, Sanguinary, Devil’s Nettle, Devil’s Plaything, Bad Man’s Plaything, Yarroway, Plumajillo (Little Feather), and Thousand-seal



Yarrow is a bushy flowering plant that can reach up to 3 feet tall and spreads prolifically. It’s leaves are fragrant, silvery-green, fern or feather-like and velvety to the touch. It’s flowers form in tight clusters and can range in color from white, to yellow, to pale pink.

-Parts Used: Aerieal (leaves and flowers)

-Habitat and Cultivation: Grows pretty much everywhere from wastelands to meadows. Can be found in any temperate region and is native to most of North America. Prefers an arid climate. Flowers from late May to early June in southern states, and mid July through mid September in northern states. Enjoys full sun to partial shade and is highly drought resistant. Does not tolerate very wet soil.

-Harvesting: Cut stalk halfway down during the summer, when in bloom.



Alkaloids, coumarins, flavanoids, salicylic acid, sesquiterpene lactones, polyacetylenes, volatile oil (consisting of azulene, caryophyllene, eucalyptol, pinene, and borneol), triterpenes, and tannins


Actions and Energetics

-Actions: Diaphoretic, astringent, tonic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, stimulant, vulnary, styptic, and aromatic

-Energetics: cooling and drying, but conversely can be warming, bitter, pungent/aromatic. A great ally for inner turmoil as it balances “opposing forces within”.



Wounds, burns, ulcers, topical inflammation, diarrhea, dysentery, cramps, internal infections, fevers, flus, cold symptoms, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, phlebitis, thrombosis, high blood pressure, cystitis, bladder pain, joint pain, acne, bruising, menstrual cramps, muscle tension, toothache, amenorrhea, abscesses, and snake bites



Infusion, tincture, salve, compress, poultice, essential oil, flower essence, fresh


Contemporary Use

-Antimicrobial – Barel S, Segal R, Yashphe J:The antimicrobial activity of

the essential oil from Achillea fragrantissima. Journal of Ethnopharmacology

1991, 33:187-191. PubMed Abstract

-Anti Hypertensive – B.somanadhan et al., Journal of Ethnopharmacology 1999,65,103.

-Anti-inflammatory – Tunón H, Olavsdotter C, Bohlin L:Evaluation of anti-inflammatory activity of some Swedish medicinal plants:Inhibition of prostaglandin biosynthesis and PAF

-induced exocytosis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 1995, 48:61-76. PubMed Abstract

-Antioxidant – Antioxidant and antimicrobial activity of the essential oil and methanol extracts of Achillea millefolium subsp. millefolium Afan. (Asteraceae). Candan F, Unlu M, Tepe B, Daferera D, Polissiou M, Sökmen A, Akpulat HA. J Ethnopharmacol. 2003 Aug;87(2-3):215-20.

-Anti-nociceptive – Pires JM, Mendes FR, Negri G, Duarte-Almeida JM, Carlini EA:Antinociceptive peripheral effect of Achillea millefolium L. and Artemisia vulgaris

L.: Both plants known popularly by brand names of analgesic drugs Phytotherapy

Research 2009, 23:212-219. PubMed Abstract

-Anti-cancer – Tozyo T, Yoshimura Y, Sakurai K, Uchida N, Takeda Y, Nakai H, Ishii H:Novel antitumor sesquiterpenoids in Achilleamillefolium. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin

1994, 42:1096-1100.

-Abortifacient – Boswell-Ruys CL, Ritchie HE, Brown-Woodman PD Preliminary screening study of reproductive outcomes after exposure to yarrow in the pregnant rat. Birth Defects

Res B Dev Reprod Toxicol. 2003 Oct;68(5):416-20.


Folklore and Traditional Uses

-Some stories tell that Achilles discovered this herb that he used it to stop the bleeding of his wounded soldiers.

-Yarrow was known to be associated with the devil and was used for divinitory purposes as well as casting spells.

-It has also been used in China for thousands of years along with the I Ching to tell the future.

-Yarrow reminds us that healing deep wounds is a marathon, not a sprint and it behooves us to protect the soft parts of ourselves during this process.

-Yarrow helps us to regulate our creative energy flow and draw from sources around us, so as not to become depleted.

– She is strongly associated with the planet Venus and is a symbol of enduring love.


Precautions and Contraindications

Pregnancy, photosensitivity with prolonged use is possible. Queen Anne’s Lace and Poison Hemlock are often mistaken for common Yarrow and can be quite poisonous.

Combinations and Similar Herbs

With Blessed Thistle: digestion/female tonic

-With Sage: digestion, support liver, increase bile flow, anxiety, menstrual tonic

-With Lavender: gas, bloating, promotes restful sleep

-With Calendula: wound healing, hypertension, hemorrhoids

-With Motherwort: premenstrual and menstrual tonic

-With Corn Silk: urinary tract infection

-With Peppermint (and Elderflowers): diaphoretic

-With Hyssop and Blessed Thistle: peripheral circulation

-With Olive Leaves: improves circulation and immunity


Medicine Message

Yarrow is an herb of deep healing, but also one that protects us when our shields may be down. She has an angelic presence and casts an aura of safety and purity around those who ask for her aid. She fortifies us for the long journey inward. Her work is to keep the balance between light and dark, knowing that both reside within and are equally necessary. Yarrow’s love is strong and everlasting.