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Yarrow Notes
Achillea millefolium, L. (Asteraceae)
by Philip Charpentier, Herbalist
v1.2 - Oct 2007
Identification
Aabout 20% of yarrow encountered in the wild is pinkish in color. Occasionally, the red garden variety grows in the wild, as well.

Parts Used
The whole above-ground flowering plant, not just the leaves, since they contain too much prunasine (see Compounds, below). The leaves by themselves could leave you with a serious bout of tachycardia. The root can be used too, but I find it very difficult (if not sometimes impossible) to pull the root of a plant in the wild, and much prefer the plant be allowed to spread.

Dosage
It is important to follow the age-related dosage chart below when determining dosage of yarrow.

Preparation Notes
Caution: The tea has to be well-filtered with a cloth, to avoid getting the miniature pappi stuck in the throat from an insufficiently filtered infusion. For eye-wash preparations, special care must be taken to filter out all of the plant matter or the eye could get scratched.

Make small quantities of tea for immediate use. After one hour, Yarrow tea or decoction blackens.

For preparation with alcohol or in combination with other psychoactives, see Alternative Uses, below.

The following are not all the chemical compounds contained in Yarrow essential oil; just the most important ones are mentioned here.

  • Matricine: colorless precursor of the blue azulene and chamazulene which are obtained during the distillation process. Anti-allergic, anti-infection, soothing, slightly narcotic.
  • Alpha-pinene: actually closely related to some male Noctuid moth hormones, Caryophylene, Borneol and its optical isomer 1,8 cineol, which are powerful anti-inflammatory compounds.
  • Terpineol (as in pine trees)
  • Thujone:narcotic, epileptic in high dosages.
  • Dehydro-matricaria-esters: a chain of carbons alternately linked with a single and a treble bond: psychodysleptic.
  • Other acetate alkaloids: very often harmless to man, very bitter and as such excellent for fevers, non-lesion bound intestinal/stomach problems, and as anti-anorexic: achilleine, stachydrine, marrubine.
  • Tannins, Flavonoids: enhance vitamin C absorption, strongly anti-cancer, HIV inhibiting.
  • Inuline: (a compound I would like to do a page on) anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-bronchitis, bronchodilator, immune stimulator, anti-HIV, anti-tuberculosis, etc.
  • Coumarins: blood-building in low dosage, haemolytic in high dosages (anti vitamin K effect) and narcotic.
  • Saponines: steroid structure that is mucolythic. Present in minute amounts.
  • Potassium salts, vitamin C, vitamin K: the chlorophyll of Yarrow is very similar in structure to Vitamin A.
  • Cyanogenic glycosides: bronchodilator, heart depressor, the reason not to use the leaves only. Care must be taken when combining with other plants high in cyanogenic compounds.

Yarrow in (European, Mediterranean, and Middle-Eastern traditional) medicine and how it should be applied in modern day medicine and herbalism:

  1. Fever: One handful per cup, drink warm, eventually sweetened with honey or brown cane sugar. You can add Urtica leaves and Taraxacum root and leaf. In tincture: combine equal parts Urtica leaf tincture, Taraxacum root and leaf tincture, Yarrow tincture, and Angelica tincture into a flask. Maximum dosages: 50 drops for adults, 10 drops for children, up to five times per day.
  2. Antiseptic: In cream for wounds, abrasions, internal and external. In poultice. Also used together with Calendula officinalis.
  3. Eye infections: Use as chamomile, in compresses, against eye inflammations. Must be very well filtered. Beware of the little flowers contacting the eyeball directly as they can scratch.
  4. Wide spectrum antibiotic
  5. Antihaemorhagic
  6. Regulates menstrual cycle: 20 drops, twice per day from beginning of one menses during 2 full cycles.
  7. Gynaecological regulator: With Petroselinum crispum and red wine against female and male sterility! Used for 60 days, 20 drops twice daily for 2-3 months.
  8. Obstetric: One week before labor, two cups of tea per day made with one handful of Yarrow & two spoonfuls of Rubus idaeus.
  9. Post-birth tiredness and depression: Yarrow tincture with Cannabis sativa tincture + Hops tincture.
  10. Hemorrhoids: Internally 20 drops twice per day. Externally in poultice or cream (add 5 grams of Calendula tincture and 1 gram of Bryony tincture)
  11. Promotes secretions of pancreas, gut and liver
  12. Anti-abortificant
  13. Anti-diarrhea
  14. Anti-dysentery
  15. Ulcers in stomach and duodenum: Treating ulcers with yarrow requires a more complex regimen and users should consult their herbalist for help with stomach ulcers.
  16. Crohn's disease (Consult your Herbalist)
  17. Involuntary loss of urine
  18. Rheumatism, arthritis (Consult your Herbalist)
  19. Powerful spasmolytic for cramps
  20. Nipple-care at lactation
  21. Recovery of spine surgery
  22. Paralysis without nerve section
  23. Toughening footsoles
  24. Wounds

Yarrow should be considered the most potent ingredient in any combination therapy, not for its strictly medicinal virtues, but for its synergic qualities, which are especially potent.

WARNING

Never use Yarrow leaf alone. Its chlorophyll a is very similar to Vitamin A precursors in structure, plus leaf alone contains too much HCN to be used without the flowery summits.

Yarrow alcohol preparations enhance and stimulate menstruation.

Smoke
The leaf can be smoked as a tobacco substitute. The flowers are not smoked because they have a nauseating smell and taste, as chamomile flowers do.

Added to cannabis in a joint, yarrow markedly increases the effect after the second joint. A persistent, slight pressure on the temples makes it unpleasant for some people.

Drink
I'm not into booze, but alcohol drinkers seem to love the following alcohol drink recipes.

Yarrow doesn't work on its own from the start. Yarrow waits for the very first signs of very slight inebriation, and then drags you into its world.

  1. Minimum Punch
  2. 1 bottle of strong, dark red wine.
    Add 75 grams-100 grams of brown cane sugar.
    Fill bottle loosely with flowering Achillea, but don't cram it tightly.
    Seal and let it macerate for three weeks.
    Suitable for 2 people.

  3. Heavier Recipe
  4. 1 bottle of 40% schnaps/Jenever.
    Add 150 grams of sugar.
    Fill loosely with flowering Achillea (don't cram).
    Seal and macerate for eight days.
    Maximum Dose: 3 glasses is reasonable limit. LD 50 would be around 8 small booze glasses.

  5. Ten Ton Bomb
  6. Bottle of pure alcohol (min. 90% proof).
    Fill with Achillea.
    Add 20 grams of powdered cannabis.
    Macerate for 3 weeks.
    Add 400 grams of water, 150 grams of sugar, and shake daily for 3 days until the sugar is completely dissolved, then filter and press.
    Maximum Dose: 2 glasses, 3 tops.

Effects of Yarrow & Alcohol
(condensed from my Workbook)

I tested the above recipes on more than 30 herbalists and 40 working colleagues at various dosages.

The results can be described in two ways.
Those who had previous experience of narcotic plants immediately distinguished the effect of the narcotic from alcohol.

The confirmed drinkers can be divided in two groups: one group would ask for more, the other turned on me as if I were the devil!

The first glass of recipe 3 ('Ten Ton Bomb') went down smoothly. Comments were on the fine taste and the fact it didn't scorch the throat. The more experienced drinkers immediately said this was treacherous stuff.

Once the slight tilt of the first glass works on the brain, the second is served: this second glass will alter the mood and behavior of the non-experienced drinker. They will either fall half-asleep with flashing visions once they close their eyes, or they will become vocal, as with Hemp rather than alcohol. There is beginning psycho-dyslepticism even in more experienced drinkers.

After the third glass all voluntary drinkers, except for one, had become fully stoned-drunk, with very obvious lack of coordination in movements and will.

At my office my boss and my five colleagues were all knocked out during very warm weather after 2 glasses (schnaps dosage). A third glass was refused by both women, drunk by all the men. Two fell asleep with very obvious REM.

Two weeks later, my boss took my bottle from the local stash and drunk 8 glasses at work. He had to be carried to his car, entirely catatonic, and recovered slowly after being drive two hours to his home. He went to bed and slept until the next morning, never mentioning what he'd seen. This is however, very dangerous and close to a potentially lethal dose.

Experienced psychonauts compared it with a powerful breed between cannabis and absinthe.

I added cannabis, and later I made a combination drink based on a maceration of Artemisia absinthium flowery summits with Achillea, flowering plant. The taste of absinthe was strongly reduced, but the drink is more than just powerful.

With frequent use, care must be taken to protect the liver. In high concentration alcohol diluted to 50 or more proof, the thujone of absinthe will mix with the traces of thujone from Yarrow, but you also have to consider the highly toxic (in chronic use) artemisia and iso-artemisia ketone which can eventually induce tumors of the liver.

Used infrequently (only a few times per year), it should not present problems for people with otherwise healthy livers.


Revision History #
  • version 1.1 - Jan 2002 - Philip Charpentier - original article.
  • v1.2 - Oct 22, 2007 - Erowid - changed "cyanogenic heterosides" to "cyanogenic glysocides", deleted prunasine as specific constituent glycoside.