(Listen to the Full Episode Here.)

Why “Yarrow is a Hit”: My Intuitive Hunch

I used to keep it quiet that I get intuitive hunches when working with clients. I thought it was commonplace to receive a picture in one’s mind of a specific formulation, supplement, essential oil, or herb when speaking with an individual. I later learned that it wasn’t necessarily something to discuss in mechanistic, conventional science circles. So, to prevent coming off as “woo-woo,” I had decided to keep it under wraps and “stick to the science” when I first started my wellness clinic.

Now, I have embraced these images that appear within my mind. I have learned to effortlessly incorporate them with my medical knowledge to help guide me to select what is best for my clients. It appears I’m not alone. Literature reveals that other physicians have reported that “non-analytic reasoning,” combined with clinical experience, is beneficial to how they practice.

What tends to happen to me now is that I will receive an image of a remedy, jot it down, and then do research to explore the reason why the intervention may work. If the scientific mechanisms and clinical studies match, I will move forward with the suggestion to my client. The results usually humble me, as I’ve come to believe that healing is more than just biochemical pathways and the mechanistic manipulation of body organs.

What’s this have to do with yarrow?

Just recently, I got a nudge to explore yarrow oil for someone struggling with a dermatological issue.

I knew that the herb had healing properties for the skin, but yarrow oil? Really? I never used it alone as a single oil before…

Did the volatile compounds isolated from this plant by the steam distillation process contain something that could aid this person?

I’ve learned a lot from these messages that come “out of the blue” during a client consult.

So, I got really into “the weeds” on the details of yarrow (the herb) and yarrow essential oil.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that yarrow (Achillea millefolium) oil did, in fact, possess soothing properties that could benefit skin health. It also had other characteristics that could be helpful for some other issues my client had.

In this solo episode of the Essential Oil Revolution podcast, I dive deep into the details of yarrow and yarrow essential oil.

During the show, I summarize all the literature I reviewed regarding this herb and its essential oil. I think you’ll be impressed by the many useful compounds that this plant possesses which support a wide range of body systems, especially the skin and digestive tract.

Below is a summary of the research that I reviewed on yarrow and its essential oil that accompanies the podcast.

Initially, I released my findings to my essential oil community members as a video and review article. Now, I’m sharing it with you on the Essential Oil Revolution.

Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium) Essential Oil’s Unique Makeup: At a glance

Yarrow is what I like to term a “blend in a single oil.”

Remarkably, it contains some of the beneficial components found in chamomile, eucalyptus, copaiba, pine, frankincense, and citrus oils.

Below are the topics covered in the rest of the article regarding yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and its essential oil:

  • Botanical information
  • History and traditional uses for yarrow and yarrow essential oil
  • Chemical makeup and other main constituents found in the herb and essential oil
  • The mechanisms of action of yarrow oil’s compounds
  • Applications for yarrow essential oil
  • Potential uses of the oil
  • Safety information


Yarrow Oils’ “Roots” (Yarrow’s Botanical Classification)

Here’s the botanical information on Achillea millefolium: (R, R, R, R, R)

  • Family: Asteracea (daisy)
  • Genus: Achillea
  • Species: Achillea millefolium
  • Common Names: Yarrow, Devil’s nettle, Dog Daisy, Dog Fennel, Old Man’s Pepper, Yarroway, Woundwort, Thousandleaf, Western Yarrow, Milfoil, Angel flower

Achillea millefolium is a perennial plant that was said to be introduced to America from Europe in colonial times. Native to Europe, it has happily found a home in many temperate zones of the world.

Within the genus Achillea there are about 120140 native herbs (species and subspecies) to the Northern hemisphere. Achillea lanulosa is a common species to North America, and is said to be practically identical to Achillea millefolium.


Traditional Uses of Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium)

Yarrow is touted by herbalists to be essential for all herbal first aid kits. (R, R) The vast number of traditional uses for this herb may provide a clue as to why. These include: (R, R, R, R, R)

  • Digestive problems (relating to inflammation and spasms)
  • Liver and gallbladder conditions
  • Menstrual irregularities and bleeding issues
  • Cramps
  • Fever
  • Wound healing (externally, dried or powdered leaves)
  • Appetite enhancer
  • Varicose veins
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Pain
  • Allergies
  • Respiratory issues (pneumonia)

The dark blue essential oil, extracted by steam distillation of the flowers, was historically used as an anti-inflammatory for chest colds and respiratory issues.

The Commission E is a scientific advisory board in Germany that analyzes, reviews, and standardizes traditional herbs. It provides the oversight for proper approval of the use of botanicals medicinally. The Commission E reports the following applications for yarrow:

  • internal use for loss of appetite and digestive ailments
  • externally, in the form of sitz bath or as a compress, against skin inflammation, slow healing wounds, and bacterial or fungal infections

Yarrow Aromatherapy

The fragrance of yarrow essential oil is relaxing, calming, and uplifts mood.

It has been said to be a remedy for the “wounded warrior” and “wounded healer.”


Yarrow Herb’s Active Constituents

Variations in compounds have been found among the species and subspecies of yarrow. It’s secondary metabolites include flavonoids, phenolic acids, coumarins, terpenoids (monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, triterpenes), and sterols. Different parts of the plant are used for specific conditions based on the main active components within them.

A 2011 review article on yarrow states:

…a wide range of chemical compounds have been isolated, mainlyisovaleric acid, salicylic acid, asparagin, sterols, flavonoids, bitters, tannins, and coumarins.

Different parts of the plant have been used in traditional medicine…

The aerial parts of the plant are used for phlegm conditions, as a bitter digestive tonic to encourage bile flow, and as a diuretic.

The alkaloids extracted from the leaves of yarrow (Achillea millefolium) are reported to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity.


Achillea Millefolium (Yarrow) Essential Oil Compounds

The variability in yarrow essential oils’ composition is also widely recognized. In one analysis of 40 samples of A. millefolium, only 50% of them met the criteria for the European Pharmacopoeia (which regulates standards for drugs in Europe). These differences are likely related to the many species within Achillea, distillation methods, geographic location, and substitutions made in manufacturing.

Overall, the volatile oils of Achillea species contain plentiful monoterpenes; however, there are also reports of high levels of sesquiterpenes. Over 95100 compounds have been found in the steam distillation product. A 2004 research article comparing the compounds in different species of Achillea stated:

Among them, the largest number of components (149 compounds) were found in the oils of A. millefolium, A. pannonica and A. collina.

Some of these molecules include: (R, R, R, R, R, R, R)

  • Oxides: 1,8-cineole
  • Esters: neryl acetate, benzyl benzoate, bornyl acetate
  • Ketones: camphor, artemisia ketone
  • Alcohols: borneol, geraniol, farnesol, linalol
  • Monoterpenes: alpha and beta pinenes, limonene, sabinene
  • Sesquiterpenes: chamazulene, beta-caryophyllene, germacrene D, terpin-4-ol, y-terpinene
  • Lactone: artemisia lactone

One 2008 review states, “According to the literature the pharmacological effects are mainly due to the essential oil, proazulenes* and other sesquiterpene lactones, dicaffeoylquinic acids and flavonoids. Synergistic actions of these and other compounds are also supposed.”

*Proazulenes are derivatives formed from the sesquiterpenes, such as achillicin. (R, R, R, R)

Actions of Yarrow Essential Oils Compounds

As a class of compounds, sesquiterpenes possess calming properties. They may promote our health by protecting us from harmful microbes, acting as antioxidants, and assisting in cellular repair. There is also some evidence that these compounds can contribute to neurological health due to their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Monoterpenes are within the terpene class. They are the main constituents of all the essential oils. They are attributed to many of the “anti-“actions of essential oils.

The diverse benefits of monoterpenes and their pharmacological actions can be summarized in the abstract below (bold emphasis and parenthesis mine):

Monoterpenes, the major components of essential oils, belong to the group of isoprenoids containing ten carbon atoms. Being widely distributed in the plant kingdom they are extensively used in cuisine and human health care products. Studies have shown that both natural monoterpenes and their synthetic derivatives are endowed with various pharmacological properties including:

antifungal, antibacterial, antioxidant, anticancer, antiarrhythmic (heart rhythm balancer), anti-aggregating, local anesthetic, antinociceptive (pain relieving), anti-inflammatory, antihistaminic and anti-spasmodic activities.

Monoterpenes act also as regulators of growth, heat, transpiration, tumor inhibitors, inhibitors of oxidative phosphorylation (a cellular metabolism pathway), insect repellants, feline and canine attractants and antidiabetics.



Distinct Actions of Specific Compounds in Yarrow Oil (Achillea Milliform)

limonene (a cyclic monoterpene) has evidence for enhancing cellular repair, being anti-proliferation of certain cell lines, supporting metabolism, balancing cholesterol, and enhancing breast health and overall wellness.

a-and b-pinene (monoterpenes) can support our defense and repair system and possess stress relieving effects.

Limonene and the pinenes are both phytoncides (aromatic molecules derived from trees). They play a role in reducing stress and improving health, as demonstrated in several studies regarding the benefits of “forest bathing.” Results indicated improvements in measurements of immune markers (white blood cells) and the stress hormone, cortisol.

1-8 cineol (oxide) is a constituent that dominants the makeup of many eucalyptus oils and is found in rosemary oil. It is known for supporting respiratory health and is linked to enhancing cognitive function and memory.

chamazulene (a sesquiterpene) is a compound found in chamomile species and has been studied in vitro to be anti-inflammatory. It was also reported to decrease the production of oxidative stressors (via suppressing iNOS) that can cause cellular and biological havoc in the body. These actions may explain its pain-relieving properties. Chamazulene is the compound that is credited for promoting skin health. (It is also the component that tends to give certain essential oils their blue hue.)

beta-caryophyllene is a terpene (sesquiterpene) that is a dietary cannabinoid, most often associated with copaiba and black pepper. This compound interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), an underappreciated regulator of a variety of biochemical processes and major functions of the body. One small study found that inhalation of beta-caryophyllene increased alpha and theta waves on a brain EEG. This helped to demonstrate its relaxing, antidepressant, and anti-anxiety effects.


Synergism and Essential Oils

The sum is greater than the isolated parts regarding the compounds found in plants. This concept is referred to as synergism. It means that botanicals tend to provide more benefits than their isolated components. This is because the constituents in herbs and essential oils are designed to provide balance to our biochemistry.

Unlike medications, which are meant to enhance or block a specific chemical pathway, essential oils intelligently move to the receptors in our body that need attention. They display an “inner knowing” of what direction our molecular processes need to shift.

Studies with Yarrow Oil

The following is an overview of some rodent and mechanistic studies with yarrow oil.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) in rodents: one study found, “Yarrow oil mitigated UC symptoms and regulated the inflammatory cytokines secretion via regulation of NF-KB and PPAR-a pathways in the mice model…”

Humoral immunity: high percentages of sesquiterpenes and the presence of proazulene in A. millefolium were believed to account for beneficial effects on humoral immunity in a rodent study.

A review from The School of Aromatic Studies reported additional actions of yarrow oil, including:

Antifungal (skin) and Anti-parasiticidal: yarrow oil exhibited strong activity against skin fungus and parasites in a few studies:

Other research indicates the essential oil of various Achillea millefolium ssp. to have strong activity against dermatophytes (Falconieri et al., 2011) and antiprotozoal activity against parasites found in the blood and lymph such as Leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania amazonensis (Santos et al., 2010) and inhibits parasite growth in American trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness known as Chaga’s disease) (Santoro et al., 2007)

Skin Supporting: yarrow oil was reported to downregulate melanin and was effective on melanoma (skin cancer) cells. (The scientific mechanism, for the cerebral type, is via “suppressing tyrosinases activity through the regulation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling pathways in melanocyte stimulating hormone (a-MSH) treated melanoma cells…”)

Antimicrobial: yarrow oil “showed antimicrobial activity against Streptococcus pneumoniae, Clostridium perfringens, Candida albicans, Mycobacterium smegmatis, Acinetobacter lwoffii and Candida krusei (Candan et al, 2003).”


Potential Uses of Yarrow Essential Oil

Based on its constituents and activity in laboratory studies, yarrow essential oil may be beneficial for the following applications:

Breast health– due to the clinical data on limonene and breast health.

Skin health – due to its ability to remedy skin fungus and its interaction with the melanin pathway. Yarrow oil extracts were also found to decrease inflammation and have positive benefits on skin pH in vivo.

Respiratory, Musculoskeletal, Gastrointestinal, Genitourinary, Gynecological, Circulatory, and Wellness Support – due to its antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antifungal, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmodic components.


Common Suggested Applications of Yarrow Oil

Diffuse several drops of yarrow oil in your diffuser or inhale it from the bottle for its stress-relieving and cellular health properties.

Apply yarrow oil diluted to the skin for enhancing beauty, as needed for aches and pains, and overall body system support.


Safety/ Toxicity of Yarrow Oil

I wasn’t able to find safety concerns for yarrow oil when properly diluted and used in appropriate amounts. (Please follow label directions when using essential oils.)

The School for Aromatic Studies reported:*

  • Cautions (dermal route): Tisserand and Young (2014) suggest a dermal maximum 4.5%, Canada 3% (Health Canada) (Tisserand and Young, 2014).
  • Cautions (oral route): Oral maximum 2 mg/kg/day.

In my experience from reading the literature, most safety issues reported with oils usually result from applying isolated, high doses of singular compounds (and attribute that to the essential oil), improper use, and accidental overdose.

*Note: This link brings you to a dilution chart. About 5ml = 1 tsp. A 5% dilution would be about 5-7 drops of oil/tsp depending on how thick the oil is.


Summary on Yarrow Oil

I feel yarrow and its essential oil would be welcome additions to many individuals’ natural medicine toolkits.

  • Yarrow, the herb, has the most evidence for skin and digestive health, according to the Commission E.
  • Yarrow oil possesses many beneficial compounds that support a wide range of body systems. It contains constituents that benefit cellular health, act as antioxidants, are antimicrobial, and have inflammatory modulating properties.

I tend to incorporate it more in blends into my practice. I will now be using it more as a single oil.

Listen to the episode on yarrow oil on the Essential Oil Revolution podcast here.

Have you used yarrow oil? What are your results?

Please support the show by subscribing and providing a rating and feedback on your favorite podcast player. This is a no-cost way to spread the word and to help us stay in alignment with what you want. It also ensures we keep providing you with the best guests and essential oils information!

Naturopathic Medicine and Holistic Resources for Hormonal and Mood Support

  • Free resources and more education on essential oils and mind-body wellness are available to you here.
  • Love essential oils and want to learn more from a science-based, consumer-friendly, and intuitive perspective? Check out my membership community that includes my online essential oils database.

Stay Connected! Sign-up for my weekly newsletter.


References Cited






















Grab My Free Guide to Using Essential Oils & Access My Naturopathic Wellness Newsletter

If your a seasoned oiler or brand new….

Grab this guide with information on essential oils and access to future health and wellness topics.

Learn How Naturopathic Medicine and Mind-Body Wellness Can Help You

Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)

This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.

Thanks Pixabay and Canva.