Description: Natural Order, Compositae. Genus ACHILLAE: Involucre ovoid, of unequal, imbricated scales. Rays five to ten, short, pistillate, white. Receptacle flat, chaffy. Achenia oblong, flattened, marginal, without pappus. Perennial herbs common to the pastures of Europe and America, with small corymbose heads that look whitish-gray at a little distance. A. MILLEFOLIUM: Leaves alternate, bipinnate; divisions linear, three to five-cleft, crowded, dentate, mucronate. Stem simple, furrowed, one foot high. Corymb compound, dense, flat. Blooms from July to September.
This plant seems to have been in use from quite ancient times. The whole plant is employed, especially in Europe; but it has received less attention in this country than its positive qualities deserve. It has yielded a so-called active principle named Achilleine; and the flowers furnish an essential oil.
Properties and Uses: It is stimulant and astringent, very positive in quality, moderately slow in action, and yields its virtues to both water and alcohol. The combined qualities are expended on the alvine canal to advantage in chronic dysentery and diarrhea; and also in that feeble condition of the digestive organs known by precarious appetite, passive looseness of the bowels, and consequent nervous prostration. Its influence upon the uterus and renal apparatus is well marked, making it very useful in cases of degenerate leucorrhea, gleet, and incontinence of urine. For all the above purposes, it is best in cold infusion; but a warm infusion acts positively in profuse menstruation accompanied by relaxation, and may be found serviceable in flooding, as it has indeed proved valuable in both spitting and vomiting of blood. The continued use of a warm infusion arouses capillary action on the skin, securing slow perspiration, and elevating the temperature; and it is no doubt by this diversion of the circulation, quite as much as by its astringent qualities, that it relieves hemorrhages. In intermittent fever, a strong decoction of it is said to be equal to quinine as an antiperiodic; but, while it is no doubt of value when the skin is cold and the inner organism relaxed and sluggish, its virtues in this connection should not be overrated, nor praised without discrimination as to the conditions in which it is proper to use it. It is not admissible in any form of the disease where the pulse is hard and quick, or the skin dry and hot, or the mucous surfaces irritable. Its employment should be limited by the conditions of a depressed but not irritable pulse, cold skin, and relaxation of the mucous membranes. With these distinctions in view, the milfoil will be found one of our best remedies. An ounce to a quart of water makes a good infusion, of which a fluid ounce or more may be taken several times a day. Essence of anise disguises its bitterness well.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. A Tincture is made by macerating six ounces of the herb in a quart of diluted alcohol, of which the dose is half a fluid ounce.
II. Achilleine. This may be obtained by boiling any given quantity of the plant in four times its weight of water, straining, clarifying with the white of an egg, evaporating to one-fifth of the original quantity, and allowing the extractive matter to settle twenty-four hours. Filter off the liquid, agitate with a slight excess of hydrated lime, add acetate of lead till a copious precipitate begins to fall, filter, and then saturate the remaining solution with sulphuretted hydrogen, and evaporate to an extract. Mix this extract with the precipitate caught on the filter, and the product is the yellow Achilleine, containing resin and acetate of lead. It is an objectionable preparation, decidedly unfit to use, though doses of five to fifteen grains are praised as antiperiodic.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com