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Achillea millefolium

Achillea millefolium

[span class=alert]In regards to the Traditional Use and Therapeutic Action sections of Essential Oils, the oils are rated as is standard practice in the French school of aromatherapy and others. The ratings ranked from one (+) to four (++++) with four indicating the highest value, indicate the oil’s therapeutic value from a practicing clinician’s point of view. The French rating system mentioned are obtained from this book reference entitle ‘Les Cahiers Pratiques D'Aromatherapie Selon L'Ecole Francaise’ (Authors: Francine Baudry, Pascal Debauche & Dominique Baudoux). However, further clarification might be required and will be updated once additional information of the rating system is obtained.[/span]

Family Name


Genus Name


Vernacular Name

Common yarrow, milfoil

Original Habitat

Achillea millefolium is native to Europe, northern Asia and North America.[1] It is also presently found abundantly in South America. It is typically found in dry, open sites in a variety of habitats such as grassland, canyon bottoms, glades, roadsides, brush lands and subalpine zones. Yarrow is common in sunny areas on thin, sandy soil or gravely loam.[2]

Plant Part Used

Flowerheads, leaves, stems, and roots.


Available as oil or blended into carrier oils, massage oils and lotions. 


Yarrow oil is extracted from the dried plant part by steam distillation. The oil has a sweet, spicy smell and a light texture. Yarrow oil that is high in chamazulene has a bluish colour. This high chamazulene content produces similar use characteristics as chamomile.[3]

Chemical Constituents

A study of Achillea millefolium growing in Europe identified the following as among those components found in amounts considered to be quantitatively adequate.

Monoterpenes: Alpha-pinene (10%), beta-pinene (8%),camphene (5%), sabinene (12%)
Sesquiterpenes : Chamazulene, dihydroazulenes
Terpenic oxides: Cineole (10%)
Terpenic ketones: Isoartemisia ketone (9%), Camphor (18%) thujones
Lactones: Achilline [4][5]

Changes in the ratio of chemical constituents are relative to habitat [4] [6] and to maturity of the plant with flowering plants having an increasing amount of monoterpenes over sesquiterpenes.[7]

Since the oil of Achillea millefolium exists in a variety of different chemotypes, the camphor chemotype should be used carefully especially for oral use.

Medicinal Uses

Antiallergenic +++
Anticatarrhal ++
Anti-inflammatory and vulnerary +++
Cicatrizing ++
Haemostatic ++
Emmenagogue +
Uterine sedative ++ [8][9][10]

Achillea millefolium has also been found to have antioxidant, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.[10]

Traditional Use

Catarrhal respiratory infections +
Neuritis, neuralgia ++++
Sprains ++
Varicose ulcers +
Dysmenorrhoea, oligomenorrhoea ++
Hepatic and digestive deficiencies +
Renal/ biliary litiasis + [3]

Yarrow oil is often used as a substitute for German Chamomile oil possibly because German Chamomile oil has often been adulterated with yarrow oil.[11] The two oils are similar in colour and odour.[12] Yarrow oil has been used in an external application for tendonitis due to the reported analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.[13]

Its reported use in stress, insomnia and drug detoxification has no clinical support.

Contraindications and Precautions

The oil of Achillea millefolium is considered to be mildly neurotoxic.[13] Avoid use of this oil orally if patient has epilepsy or fever.

Due to the high level of ketones present in this essential oil, it should not be used on babies, children under 5 years, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. The ketones are abortifacient.

This oil of this herb can cause contact dermatitis.[8] It is also thought to cause photosensitivity, but a review of the chemical constituents does not indicate why this would be true.

Large doses may interact with anticoagulants, antihypertensive and antihypotensive medications.[12]



[span class=alert]Keep out of reach of children as oils are highly concentrated.Essential oils are irritating to the eyes.  Avoid contact with eye area.Always dilute essential oils with carrier oil, lotion, cream or gel even when using in diffuser or bath.Essential oils are sometimes prescribed to be used internally, but should only be used internally under professional supervision.[/span]

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   1) Western Herb

  2) Native American Herbs


1.     Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers; 1994.

2.     US. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Washington DC: Range plant handbook; 1937;532.

3.     Tyler V. Pharmacognosy 9th ed. Lea & Febiger; 1998.

4.     Orav A, Arak E, Raal A. Phytochemical analysis of the essential oil of Achillea millefolium L. from various European Countries. Natural product research. 2006;20(12):1082-1088.

5.     Suleimenov YM. Essential Oil Composition of Three Species of Achillea from Kazakhstan. Chemistry of Natural Compounds. 2001;37:447-450.

6.     Peleah E, Pisova M, Ciobanu V. Essential oil composition of Achillea millefolium L. and Achillea coarctata Poir. Moldova Koryo, Terupen oyobi Seiyu Kagaku ni kansuru Toronkai Koen Yoshishu. 2002;46:266.

7.     Jens R, Else BS, Albert HS, Tor-Henning I. Production of yarrow (Achillea millefolium L.) in Norway: essential oil content and quality. J Agric Food Chem. 2000;48(12):6205-6209.

8.     Nemeth E. Biological activities of yarrow species (Achillea spp.). Curr Pharm Des. 2008;14(29):3151-3167.

9.     Candan F. Antioxidant and antimicrobial activity of the essential oil and methanol extracts of Achillea millefolium subsp. millefolium Afan. (Asteraceae). J Ethnopharmacol. Aug 2003;87(2-3):215-220.

10.  Tuberoso CI. Chemical composition and antioxidant, antimicrobial and antifungal activities of the essential oil of Achillea ligustica all. J Agric Food Chem. 28 Dec 2005;53(26):10148-10153.

11.  Tisserand R, Balacs T. Essential oil safety: a guide for health care professionals. New York:Churchill Livingstone; 1995.

12.  Lis-Balchin M. Aromatherapy science. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2006.

13.  Schnaubelt K. Advanced aromatherapy: the science of essential oil therapy. Vermont: Healing Arts Press; 1995.

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