Yarrow is my favourite herb to clear acne and I also find it great to hydrate the skin. It is an extremely versatile medicinal herb that has a centuries-old history in herbal medicine. It is said that the genus name Achillea is drawn from the name Achilles, a Greek war hero who used Yarrow to heal the wounds of his soldiers; the old Icelandic name is actually Achilles’ herb.
I love to make medicine with freshly-harvested Yarrow. I use fresh Yarrow flowers and leaves to make a tincture (herbs extracted in alcohol) which means that I make the tincture on the same day as I pick the Yarrow in the wilderness. This Yarrow tincture is then blended with other tinctures to become the Acne Healing Extract, my bestselling product in Iceland. I also infuse fresh Yarrow in oil to make the Bliss Healing Balm, another very popular product in Iceland. Last but not least I make a Yarrow herbal infusion to use in all of my moisturisers and I also dry it for tea which I commonly dispense to my patients.
- Botanical name: Achillea millefolium
- Parts used: flowers and leaves
- Action: astringent, diaphoretic, lowers fever, anti-inflammatory, lowers blood pressure, relieves muscle spasms, diuretic, cholagogue, hepatic, emmenagogue, antibacterial, prevents bleeding, anthelmintic, heals wounds and strengthens the circulatory system.
- Used for: acne, wound healing, bleeding, skin disorders, colds, flu, sore throat, fevers, blood pressure, urinary tract infections, diarrhoea, inflammation in the digestive system, regulating mensturation, menstrual pain, arthritis, varicose veins, phlebitis and hemorrhoids.
- Preperations: tea, tincture, essential oil, infused oil, poultice, suppository, cream, ointment.
Yarrow has a broad anti-bacterial, antiseptic and antimicrobial action. It is also highly anti-inflammatory and especially effective against acne, spots and blemishes. Fresh Yarrow flowers and leaves made into a tincture are the main ingredients in my Acne Healing Extract. I also use Calendula and Arctic Thyme in the Acne Healing Extract. I find combining all three gives the best result. One of the active ingredients in Yarrow are flavanoids which are known to have powerful antioxidant effects. That effect, coupled with the anti-inflammatory and antibicrobal action makes Yarrow an excellent hydrating skincare herb and the reason I choose to use it in the following moisturisers:
Yarrow is traditionally used to stop all kinds of bleeding, both internal and external, as well as for healing wounds and skin disorders; it is known to be especially good for old sores that heal badly. All of this is an excellent reason to include the anti-inflammatory Yarrow in the Bliss Healing Balm which is used as an intensive healing treatment for dry, inflamed and irritated skin. Bliss Healing Balm has been tried and tested on Icelanders for the last 10 years and has become known as very effective for wound healing, itching, insect bites, diaper rash, sore nipples, stretch marks, vaginal yeast infection, hemorrhoids and cold sores.
Yarrow has been used for centuries in herbal medicine and is one of the most all-round medicinal herbs there is. It is traditionally used for colds and flus, childhood diseases and as a remedy for the digestion. Yarrow is also well known as a woman’s herb and is for example used to regulate periods and period pain as well as many other women’s issues. It is considered to balance the blood and as an anti-inflammatory herb it has long been popular for arthritic conditions. If you would like to read about Yarrow in detail, you will find more information in my book about Icelandic herbs and their medicinal uses.
In vitro tests on Yarrow have shown its antibacterial and antiviral properties.1-4 Research on Yarrow has also shown it to reduce bleeding 9 and several research trials have shown the antioxidant effects of Yarrow.4-8
- Frey FM, Meyers R. Antibacterial activity of traditional medicinal plants used by Haudenosaunee peoples of New York State. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Nov 6; 10(1):64. [Previous Epub.]
- Kotan R, Cakir A et al. Antibacterial activities of essential oils and extracts of Turkish Achillea, Satureja and Thymus species against plant pathogenic bacteria. J Sci Food Agric. 2010 Jan 15; 90(1):145-60.
- de Sant’anna JR, Franco CC et al. Genotoxicity of Achillea millefolium essential oil in diploid cells of Aspergillus nidulans. Phytother Res. 2009 Feb; 23(2):231-5.
- 2005. WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants. Vol. 4. World Health Organization, Geneva.
- Kintzios S, Papageorgiou K et al. Evaluation of the antioxidants activities of four Slovene medicinal plant species by traditional and novel biosensory assays. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2010 Nov 2; 53(3):773-6. Epub 2010 May 20.
- Potrich FB, Allemand A et al. Antiulcerogenic activity of hydroalcoholic extract of Achillea millefolium L.: involvement of the antioxidant system. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Jul 6; 130(1):85-92. Epub 2010 Apr 24.
- Raudonis R, Jakstas V et al. Investigation of contribution of individual constituents to antioxidant activity in herbal drugs using postcolumn HPLC method. Medicina (Kaunas). 2009; 45(5):382-94.
- Csupor-Löffler B, Hajdú Z et al. Antiproliferative effect of flavonoids and sesquiterpenoids from Achillea millefolium s.l. on cultured human tumour cell lines. Phytother Res. 2009 May; 23(5):672-6.
- Santos AO, Santin AC et al. Activity of an essential oil from the leaves and flowers of Achillea millefolium. Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2010 Sep; 104(6):475-83.
Anna Rósa is a medical herbalist and author of the bestselling book Icelandic Herbs and Their Medicinal Uses. She is the founder of Anna Rósa Skincare and a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists in UK, which is the oldest herbalist institute in the world, founded in 1894.