Yarrow. (Achillea Millefolium).

Also see Hool, 1918: Yarrow.

Yarrow is a plant of the genus of the Natural Order Compositas, sexual system, class 19, called Syngenesia; 2nd Order, Polygamia Superflua.

This is a plant having small flowers, or heads of flowers of a Corymbose form; the receptacle covered with small chaffy scales, that is, small bracts. The florets of the ray are female flowers only, and have a short, roundish tongue or lip; they are generally barren and bear no seed. The florets of the disc are hermaphrodite, possessing an irregular number of stamens and pistils, or male and female parts, in each flower, which bear seed or fruit. The tube of the Corolla is flatly compressed, and two-winged. The involucre is imbricated.

The Common Yarrow or Milfoil, Achillea Millefolium (thousand leaves), is a native of Great Britain, but is found in all parts of Europe, and in some parts of North America, where it has been introduced from Europe. It grows on banks, by roadsides, and in dry meadows and pastures. Its stems are from one to three feet high, with, bipinnate leaves, the primal deeply divided, and the segments narrow and crowded. It has white, pink, or rose-coloured flowers, with a strong aromatic smell and bitter taste; the leaves have a bitter aromatic taste, but little smell.

The active principles of Yarrow are four in number, viz., resin, resinoid, alkaloid, and neutral, with an essential oil and traces of sulphur.

The whole plant is used, i.e., roots, stems, leaves, and flowers.

Its properties are astringent, diuretic, stimulant, alterative, deobstruent, laxative, cholagogue, and tonic.

Its employment is in fevers of every type, dysentery, diarrhoea, cholera infantum, dyspepsia, jaundice, piles, profuse bleedings of every description, internal or external; colds, coughs, laryngitis, bronchitis, influenza, inflammations, dropsy, &c.

The Leaves of Yarrow were formerly much used for healing-wounds, and are still so employed by the people of the Highlands of Scotland and parts of the Continent. The expressed juice is a popular Spring medicine with the Germans.

Yarrow is often sown along with grasses intended to form permanent pastures for sheep; and Achillea Moschata (Musk Yarrow) is cultivated in Switzerland for the same purpose.

Achillea Moschata, Achillea Atrata, and Achillea Nana are all natives of the Alps. Thev are very aromatic and bear the names of Genipi and Genipp. The inhabitants value them very highly and use them for making what is called Swiss Tea. They are very tonic and stimulating; as also are Achillea Setacea and Achillea Nobills, both natives of Switzerland and central parts of Europe. Achillea Ageratum, a native of the South of Europe, is used by the French as a vulnerary, and is called Herbe au Charpentier. Achillea Ptarmica or Sneezewort is also a native of Britain. It grows from one to three feet high, with lanceolate leaves, and much larger flowers than our Common Yarrow. It grows in moist pastures, by ditches, and at the edges of cornfields. The root, which is aromatic, is used as a substitute for Pellitory of Spain; the whole plant is pungent and provokes the flow of saliva.

The mode of using the Common Yarrow is by infusion or decoction, alone, or combined with other reliable remedies. It is sometimes slow in its action, but mild, certain, and radical in its operation. No remedy with which I am acquainted is more to be depended upon in chronic affections of the mucous surfaces of the internal organs. Its value in this respect is peculiarly apparent in chronic dysentery, diarrhoea, and other diseases of the bowels. When false membranous formations have occurred in the small intestines, produced by the gradual exudation of plastic lymph, Yarrow may be relied upon for their removal with the greatest confidence. The dose in such cases will be from 2 to 4 ounces of the decoction three or four times a day, about one hour before meals, according to the solubility of the substances of the bowels, which, if greatly constipated, ought first to be relieved by a herbal purgative. The decoction to be given in the above cases may be prepared as follows:—Take 1 oz. of dried or 4 bzs. of the fresh herb, and put into a pan with one quart of cold water, boil down to one pint, strain, and take from 2 to 4 ozs. about one hour before meals. In order to reap its full utility the remedy must be persevered in for some time. Although the decoction of Yarrow alone may be fully relied upon, we may sometimes effect combinations calculated to accomplish the same objects. These may present no apparent advantage, but experience demonstrates them to be profitable, and the following is a favourite formula used by me:—

Yarrow, Dried, 2 ozs.
Ginger, Bruised, 1 oz.

Boil in 4 quarts of water down to 2 quarts; strain and, while hot, add 3 lbs. of Black Treacle.

When cold, take half-a-teacupful 4 times a day before meals. In the treatment of the aforementioned complaints I have seen the most beneficial results from the employment of the above prescription.

I have also caused it to be used with the greatest success in the cure of constipation and piles; but for piles and fistulas, which have an outward appearance, the addition to the above remedy of an outward application (after bathing of the parts affected with warm water, night and morning) of the simple Tincture of Myrrh, and in one minute afterwards applying a little Chickweed Ointment greatly ensures its success. I have recently treated two cases of piles with the above remedies, in which they were accompanied with excessive pain and frequent hemorrhage from the rectum, but after taking and using the above preparation, the patients discharged large quantities of false membrane. After the evacuation of this matter they were attended with an amelioration of the symptoms, and at the present time the sufferers declare themselves well, the bowels being regular, the appetite good, hemorrhage stopped, and the distressing pain so long experienced beneath the sacrum entirely gone.

In all cases of bleeding, whether from the lungs, stomach, or bowels, Yarrow will not fail you, but it is improved by the addition of Bur-Marigold.

Yarrow has also obtained a well-merited fame in the treatment of typhoid and other fevers. Its employment is admissible when more irritating remedies would be objectionable. In typhoid fever and dysentery its action seems to be peculiar and specific. It not only regulates the functions of the liver, but also corrects and restores the secreting powers throughout the extent of the alimentary canal. The mucous membrane of the stomach and bowels comes under its special control, the entire organism acknowledges its sanative power, and the whole glandular system, including the skin, partakes of its healthful action. When the patient is brought under the constitutional influence of Yarrow, the skin, which was before hot, dry, and constricted, becomes soft, moist, and flexible; expectoration is also made easy, arterial excitement is lessened, and the patient, restless, wakeful, and delirious, becomes calm and rational, and inclined to sleep. Such are the general constitutional influences of Yarrow when administered in acute diseases. In the treatment of typhoid and other fevers, when cholagogues and laxatives are indicated, Yarrow should be administered in average doses of from one to three ounces every two hours, with now and again a little tea made from Mountain Flax (Purging Flax), until sufficient action has been produced.

One great advantage possessed by Yarrow is its tonic power. It never debilitates, but on the contrary invigorates, while it deterges or removes the disease. The evacuations produced by taking strong doses of Yarrow always give evidence of a sanative influence having been exercised over the secretive functions.

In mild cases of dysentery, diarrhoea, cholera infantum, and fevers, a few strong doses of Yarrow will, if administered early, bring about a well-assimilated faecal discharge in a few hours with an abatement of the disease.

In the treatment of all febrile complaints, Yarrow may be beneficially compounded with Angelica in the following proportion:—Angelica, 1 oz.; Yarrow, 1 oz.; simmer in one quart of water down to 1 pint, and when cold give in 2-oz. doses every 2 hours until relief is found.

In all intestinal disorders connected with or originating from a deranged action of the liver, Yarrow is one of the most efficient and reliable remedies known, but I find from experience that when the patient is labouring under obstinate constipation of the bowels, and a cold, inactive condition of the system generally, the use of Yarrow should be preceded by a full cathartic dose of Mountain Flax, as by so doing relief will be sooner ensured.

In the treatment of Dyspepsia dependent upon hepatic derangement, Yarrow will be found a reliable auxiliary, and the same is true in relation to Jaundice, as it acts in a general and not in a specific manner, soothing the irritability, removing obstructions, promoting secretion and depuration, and imparting tone and vigour to the various organs and functions of the body.

Yarrow has been found serviceable in the removal of worms, being given in 2-oz. to 4-oz. doses every night and morning. It may be advantageously combined with other vermifuge remedies, such as Tansy leaves and flowers, or Male Fern powdered root or leaves, as although it is sometimes instrumental in expelling them, its chief value lies in the power of correcting the action and giving tone to the bowels after the worms are removed, thus obviating the condition favourable to their generation.

Yarrow is also an admirable auxiliary remedy in the treatment of Bronchitis, Laryngitis, and other affections of the respiratory organs. It is a safe and certain resolvent, acting in an especial manner upon the mucous membrane, hence it is of great service in all affections of those surfaces.

In chronic inflammation of the bladder, leucorrhoea, and the diseases incident to delicate females, Yarrow will be found a serviceable remedy.

The value of Yarrow in the treatment of gravelly affections cannot be too highly esteemed, as its alterative and diuretic influences act most effectually in the removal of uric acid deposits and other calculous formations. In almost all affections of the kidneys and bladder it may be beneficially employed, as it resolves mucous deposits and deterges and heals abraded mucous surfaces. In dropsy, stranguary, haematuria, gout, and rheumatism it is a valuable auxiliary agent, and may be combined with Sea Holly, Buchu Leaves, Uva Ursi, Pellitory of the Wall, Golden Rod, etc. Its utility in the last-mentioned diseases is owing to the power of resolving the viscidity of the secretions and promoting renal depuration.

Such are some of the uses to which this common herb may be put. If anyone should think its virtues overdrawn, we say, "Try it for yourself." Dr. Coffin was fond of relating the story of the Quaker who, being asked what was good for a bad cold, replied, "Drink a pint of Yarrow tea made strong, go to bed, put a hot brick to thy feet, and thou wilt surely be well in the morning!" Several more diseases were named to which he made the same reply, and we think our friend was right, it is indeed difficult to say in what complaints it may not with some advantage be employed. It is one of the commonest wayside herbs, and as useful as it is common. If the Botanic practice contained no other, its adherents would be better off than their allopathic brethren with all their minerals.

Common Plants and their Uses in Medicine was written by Richard Lawrence Hool, F.N.A.M.H., in 1922.