Achillea. U. S. 1870.—The flowering tops of Achillea Millefolium L. Milfoil, or yarrow is a perennial herb, very common both in Europe and America. It is from a foot to eighteen inches in height, and is specifically distinguished by its doubly pinnate, downy, minutely divided leaves, with linear, dentate, mucronate divisions, from which it derived the name of milfoil, by its furrowed stem and involucre, and by its dense corymbs of whitish flowers, which appear throughout the summer, from June to September. The whole herb has medicinal properties. Achillea nobilis, L., and A. moschata Jacq., or Iva of Europe, are sometimes used as substitutes for A. Millefolium.
Both the flowers and leaves of A. Millefolium have an agreeable, though feeble, aromatic odor, which continues after drying, and a bitterish, astringent, pungent taste. The aromatic properties are strongest in the flowers, the astringency in the leaves. The plant contains a blue volatile oil, tannin, and a peculiar principle, achillein, which was discovered by Zanon. (Ann. Ch. Ph., lviii, 21.) As analyzed by von Planta (Ann. Ch. Ph., civ, 1870) its formula is C20H38N2O15. It occurs in a brownish-red mass of a strongly bitter taste, soluble in water, more feebly in alcohol, and not at all in ether. Achilleic acid, also discovered by Zanon, is affirmed by Hlasiwetz to be identical with aconitic acid. The oil, which may be obtained separately by distillation with water, has a beautiful azure-blue color, and the peculiar flavor of milfoil. Schimmel & Co. (Ber. d. Chem. Ges., 1894, p. 50) found its most important constituent to be cineol, C10H18O. The high boiling blue portion is probably identical with the assulein of chamomile oil. Ivain, C24H42O5, has also been isolated; it occurs as a dark-yellow resinous mass, insoluble in water, readily soluble in alcohol, and producing an intensely bitter solution.
The active principles of the drug are extracted both by water and alcohol. Milfoil is a mild aromatic sudorific tonic and astringent. Pappi states that achillein given in divided doses up to from thirty to seventy-five grains (2-5 Gm.) causes marked irregularity of the pulse. The infusion is sometimes used in acute suppression of the menses. The dose of achillea is thirty to sixty grains (1.9-3.9 Gm.); the volatile oil has been used in doses of ten to fifteen minims (0.6-1.0 mil).
The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.