THOUSAND-LEAF (Achillea millefolium)
Alternate names are milfoil, yarrow or common yarrow, sanguinary, nosebleed plant, staunchweed, and soldier’s woundwort.
Botany: A perennial herb with a simple stem bearing aromatic bipinnately parted and dissected leaves, giving a lacy appearance. It grows up to about 1m high. Flowering heads (capitula) grow in a flat-topped corymb (3–5 cm in diameter), small, pedunculate, varying in colour from white to pink, magenta and red. It is native to Eurasia and naturalised in North America.
The part used is the entire flowering aboveground herb. ‘Herba Millefolii’ consists of the whole or cut, dried flowering tops or aerial parts collected during the flowering season of Achillea millefolium.
History and/or folklore: The generic name came from the legend that Achilles staunched the bleeding wounds of his soldiers with yarrow. In less hygienic days, a cobweb was placed over a wound to arrest the flow of blood and to help it coagulate, and a fine network of yarrow leaves might well achieve the same effect. In the language of flowers, the Victorians assigned the meaning “war” to yarrow. It has been used for treating battle wounds for many generations.
Biochemistry: Yarrow contains about 0.1 – 1.4% volatile oil that is composed of azulene, α- and β-pinenes (mainly β-), caryophyllene, borneol, terpineol, cineole, bornyl acetate, camphor, sabinene, iso-artemisia ketone, and other compounds (including a trace of thujone). Other constituents reported include lactones, flavonoids (e.g. rutin), tannins, resin, coumarins, saponins, sterols (e.g., β-sitosterol), alkenes, fatty acids (linoleic, palmitic, oleic acids, etc.), sugars, alkaloids or bases, and amino acids.
Achillea millefolium botanical extract
Achillea millefolium botanical extract
Yarrow is useful as an external astringent for the treatment of the skin diseases, abscesses and wounds. Externally, as an ointment it is soothing for cuts and abrasions. It is a good cleanser for oily skin. It can be used in a facial sauna on oily skin to remove blackheads, cleanse and stimulate the skin. In a face pack it will help to minimize large pores and improve the texture of the skin. It will also help to heal spots and pimples and generally improve the complexion. It can be used as a hair rinse, where it helps to clear mild cases of dandruff. An infusion can also be used to make an effective lotion for chapped hands and provides a soothing and relaxing bath soak.
Hypersensitivity to the plant: Yarrow may cause contact dermatitis in certain individuals (direct contact with the crude drug or its preparations may cause hypersensitivity reactions of the skin or mucosa, such as rash, and formation of vesicles and pruritus in sensitive individuals).
THYME (Thymus vulgaris)
Botany: There are many species and varieties of thyme (100 to 400). The most commonly used is Thymus vulgaris. It is an erect evergreen sub-shrub with numerous white hairy stems and a woody fibrous root. It grows up to about 45 cm high. It is native to the Mediterranean region (Greece, Italy, and Spain), and is extensively cultivated in France, Spain, Portugal Greece and the USA.
History and/or folklore: A sprig of thyme was said to give knights in the Middle Ages the gift of courage, and was given to them by their ladies. A term of endearment was telling someone that they smelled of thyme. Greeks and Romans would burn quantities of thyme in their rooms to fumigate them. It was grown in the bee gardens of the Greeks for flavouring the honey, used by the Romans in cheese making, and planted in medieval monastery gardens.
Thyme oil is usually extracted from the plant variety Thymus vulgaris. It is produced from the dried or partially dried leaves and flowering tops by water and steam distillation. Two commercial varieties of thyme oil are recognized from this plant, red and white.
Red Thyme essential oil
White Thyme essential oil
The red thyme oil is a crude distillate and has a high oil percentage. The white thyme oil is derived by re-distilling the red oil and yields a lower oil percentage. The value of thyme oil depends a lot upon the phenols it contains. Red thyme oil has a higher amount of phenols and is therefore more expensive.
Biochemistry: Common thyme contains 0.8-2.6% volatile oil consisting of highly variable amounts of phenols, monoterpene, hydrocarbons, and alcohols (e.g. linalool, α-terpineol, and thujan-4-ol each of which can be the major component and constitute up to 80% or more of the volatile oil). Thymol is normally the major phenolic component in common thyme with carvacrol being only a minor component. Other constituents present include tannins, flavonoids, hydroxyjasmone glucoside, acetophenone glycosides, polysaccharides, and caffeic, rosmarinic, labiatic, ursolic, and oleanolic acids.
Thyme oil (Thymus vulgaris essential oil)
Thyme oil is reported to have strongly fungicidal and antibacterial properties. Antimicrobial activity is mainly due to thymol and carvacrol, with the former being more potent. It is also antiviral. The most frequently studied activity of thyme is the antioxidant effect of the volatile oil, and its main constituents. Free radical scavenging has a protective effect against DNA damage. Thyme oil and thymol have been demonstrated to have anti-oxidative activity on dehydrated pork. The labiatic acid present in thyme also has anti-oxidative properties.
It is used for joint pain, backache and sciatica in a hot bath. Thyme baths are said to be helpful for rheumatic problems, bruises, swellings and sprains. A salve made from thyme oil has been used for shingles. It is also employed as a deodorant and local anaesthetic.
It is used in toothpastes, soaps, detergents, creams, lotions, and perfumes (with a maximum concentration of 0.8% of the red type reported in perfumes).
Red thyme oil has been reported to be non-irritating, non-sensitising, and non-phototoxic to human skin but severely irritating to mouse and rabbit skin when applied undiluted.
Thyme oil has mildly local irritant properties.