Drugs A - Z
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Generic Name: Yarrow
CategoryHerbs & Supplements
Achillea millefolium, arrowroot, Asteraceae (family), bad man's plaything, carpenter's weed, Compositae (family), death flower, devil's nettle, eerie, field hops, gearwe, hundred leaved grass, knight's milefoil, knyghten, milefolium, milfoil, millefoil, noble yarrow, nosebleed, nosebleed plant, old man's mustard, old man's pepper, polyacetylenes, sanguinary, sesquiterpene lactones, seven year's love, snake's grass, soldier, soldier's woundwort, stanch weed, thousand seal, woundwort, yarroway, yerw.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) has a long history as an herbal remedy applied to the skin for wounds, cuts, and abrasions. The genus name Achillea is derived from the mythical Greek character, Achilles, who reportedly carried it with his army to treat battle wounds. Dried yarrow stalks are used as a randomizing agent in I Ching divination.
Currently, there are no high-quality trials available investigating yarrow. Although a laboratory study demonstrated yarrow's antibacterial effects, one poor-quality study using an herbal combination of yarrow, juniper, and nettle did not find any benefit on plaque or gingivitis inhibition.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Based on laboratory study, yarrow grass water extract showed antibacterial effects on Staphylococcus
aureus. However, human study using a combination formula (including yarrow, juniper, and nettle) found no effect on gingivitis or plaque inhibition. Additional human study is needed in this area.
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Abortifacient (induces abortion), antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, bleeding, blood clots, blood purifier, catarrh, colds, chicken pox, contraceptive, cosmetic uses, cystitis, diarrhea, diabetes, digestion, dyspepsia (upset stomach), eczema, emmenagogue (induces menstruation), fever, hypertension (high blood pressure), insect repellant, measles, piles (hemorrhoid), smallpox, stomach sickness, thrombosis (blood clots), toothache, ulcers, urinary tract health (antiseptic), varicose veins, vision.
Adults (18 years and older):
There is no proven effective dose for yarrow in adults. A rinse with 10 milliliters of mouthwash twice a day for a period of three months as been studied in human volunteers; however, the rinse did not show any beneficial effects on plaque growth and gingival health.
Children (younger than 18 years):
There is no proven effective dose for yarrow in children.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to yarrow (Achillea millefolium), its constituents, or members of the Compositae/Asteraceae family. Cases of allergic contact dermatitis have been described since 1899. There have been reports of occupational asthma and atopic dermatitis from dried yarrow flowers. Yarrow contains sesquiterpene lactones and is often used in patch testing for allergies. Potential side effects of allergy may include skin irritation or light sensitivity.
Cross-reactions between chrysanthemum and yarrow have been reported, and sesquiterpene lactones are thought to be the cause of the cross-reaction and sensitization.
Side Effects and Warnings
There is limited high-quality evidence available describing the adverse effects of yarrow. Yarrow may cause atopic dermatitis or urticaria ("hives") due to its sesquiterpene lactone content. Yarrow may also cause skin irritation or light sensitivity. Use cautiously in patients with photosensitivity.
Use cautiously in patients who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, based on animal study showing reduced fetal weight and increased placental weight. Yarrow has traditionally been used as an Abortifacient (induces abortion), emmenagogue (induces menstruation), contraceptive, and for stimulating uterine contractions.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Yarrow is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women as it has traditionally been used as an abortifacient (induces abortion), emmenagogue (induces menstruation), contraceptive, and for stimulating uterine contractions.
Interactions with Drugs
Based on its coumarin content, yarrow may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
Yarrow may interfere with blood pressure medications.
Potential side effects of yarrow allergy may include phytodermatitis, including irritant plant dermatitis, phototoxic and photo-allergic dermatitis, allergic dermatitis, and airborne contact dermatitis. Caution is advised when taking other photosensitizing agents, as side effects may increase.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Based on its coumarin content, yarrow may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplement that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
Yarrow may interfere with blood pressure agents.
Potential side effects of yarrow allergy may include phytodermatitis, including irritant plant dermatitis, phototoxic and photo-allergic dermatitis, allergic dermatitis, and airborne contact dermatitis. Caution is advised when taking other photosensitizing agents, such as St. John's wort, as side effects may increase.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature, and was peer-reviewed and edited by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): Dawn Costa, BA, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Nicole Giese, MS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Wendy Weissner, BA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital).
BibliographyDISCLAIMER: Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
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;68(5):416-420.
Compes E, Bartolome B, Fernandez-Nieto M, et al. Occupational asthma from dried flowers of Carthamus tinctorious (safflower) and Achillea millefolium (yarrow). Allergy 2006;61(10):1239-1240.
Davies MG, Kersey PJ. Contact allergy to yarrow and dandelion. Contact Dermatitis 1986;14(4):256-257.
Dutkiewicz J, Krysinska-Traczyk E, Skorska C, et al. Exposure to airborne microorganisms and endotoxin in herb processing plants. Ann Agric.Environ Med 2001;8(2):201-211.
Final report on the safety assessment of Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Extract. Int J Toxicol. 2001;20 Suppl 2:79-84.
Hausen BM. A 6-year experience with compositae mix. Am J Contact Dermat. 1996;7(2):94-99.
Hausen BM, Oestmann G. [The incidence of occupationally-induced allergic skin diseases in a large flower market]. Derm.Beruf.Umwelt. 1988;36(4):117-124.
Hausen BM, Breuer J, Weglewski J, et al. alpha-Peroxyachifolid and other new sensitizing sesquiterpene lactones from yarrow (Achillea millefolium L., Compositae). Contact Dermatitis 1991;24(4):274-280.
Jovanovic M, Poljacki M, Duran V, et al. Contact allergy to Compositae plants in patients with atopic dermatitis. Med Pregl. 2004;57(5-6):209-218.
Molochko VA, Lastochkina TM, Krylov IA, et al. [The antistaphylococcal properties of plant extracts in relation to their prospective use as therapeutic and prophylactic formulations for the skin]. Vestn.Dermatol.Venerol. 1990;(8):54-56.
Paulsen E, Andersen KE, Hausen BM. Compositae dermatitis in a Danish dermatology department in one year (I). Results of routine patch testing with the sesquiterpene lactone mix supplemented with aimed patch testing with extracts and sesquiterpene lactones of Compositae plants. Contact Dermatitis 1993;29(1):6-10.
Paulsen E, Andersen KE, Hausen BM. Sensitization and cross-reaction patterns in Danish Compositae-allergic patients. Contact Dermatitis 2001;45(4):197-204.
Schempp CM, Schopf E, Simon JC. [Plant-induced toxic and allergic dermatitis (phytodermatitis)]. Hautarzt 2002;53(2):93-97.
Uter W, Nohle M, Randerath B, et al. Occupational contact urticaria and late-phase bronchial asthma caused by compositae pollen in a florist. Am J Contact Dermat. 2001;12(3):182-184.
Van der Weijden GA., Timmer CJ, Timmerman MF, et al. The effect of herbal extracts in an experimental mouthrinse on established plaque and gingivitis. J Clin Periodontol. 1998;25(5):399-403.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.