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What is yarrow? What is it used for?

Yarrow is a small but very adaptable plant found throughout Europe, Asia and North America. Many species and subspecies have categorized; however, many of these are used as ornamental plants for gardens and do not contain much in the way of medicinal properties. The above-ground parts (leaves, stems and flowers) are used in herbal remedies.

Yarrow has been used by many cultures for hundreds of years. Native Americans used yarrow to treat fevers and colds, and to reduce swelling and bruising. Other cultures have used it to improve digestion, treat inflammation and reduce reproductive tract infections.

Several compounds contained in yarrow give the plant its healing properties. Its volatile oil has been shown to be a potent anti-inflammatory. Animal studies have found that yarrow can reduce muscle spasms, easing some gastrointestinal conditions. Another substance found in yarrow, achilletin, reportedly stops minor bleeding in animals; however, this effect has yet to be duplicated in humans.

How much yarrow should I take?

The German Commission E recommends 4.5 grams of fresh cut yarrow daily, or three teaspoons of fresh pressed yarrow juice. A tea can be made by steeping 1-2 teaspoons of cut yarrow in one cup of boiling water for 10-15 minutes; up to three cups a day can be drunk.

What forms of yarrow are available?

Many Asian markets and specialty stores sell fresh cut yarrow or dried harrow. It is also available as a tincture, extract or infusion.

What can happen if I take too much yarrow? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Some people may develop an allergy or rash to yarrow; if this happens, you should stop taking the product immediately. It should not be used to treat large, deep or infected wounds that require medical attention, and it should not be taken by women who are pregnant or lactating. At the time of this writing, there are no know drug interactions with yarrow.

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  • 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.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997:3.
  • 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(1):37—40.
  • Tewari JP, Srivastava MC, Bajpai JL. Pharmacologic studies of achillea millefolium linn. Indian J Med Sci 1994;28(8):331—6.
  • Zitterl-Eglseer K, Jurenitsch J, et al. Sesquiterpene lactones of achillea setacea with antiphlogistic activity. Planta Med 1991;57(5):444—6.


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