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Common Yarrow

Scientific Name: 
Achillea millefolium
Native Name(s): 
Northern Paiute: wada'a-kwasi (Kelly 1932); wodaa kwasiba (Couture et al. 1986); tosi tonig (Fowler 1989); tosiotnigadu (Fowler 1989); todze-tonga (Train et al. 1957:19-20); toe-tee-tone-ga (Train et al. 1957:19-20)
Klamath: Läl-wäl'-säm (Coville 1897)

Achillea millefolium is a perennial herb that grows to 3 feet tall. Stems arise from well-developed rhizomes. The roots are horizontal rhizomes. The leaves are 0.5 to 3 cm wide and 3 to 15 cm long. The leaves are lanceolate in shape, bipinnately compound, are evenly distributed along the stems and are larger near the middle and bottom of the stem. The leaves also have a strong medicinal smell when crushed. The inflorescence has a flattened dome shape containing 10 to 20 whitish to yellowish-white ray flowers. It blooms from May to June.

Identification Tips
Achillea millefolium is distinguished by its white to pink ray and disk flowers that are strongly scented.

Starch granules
Achenes from A. millefollium are starch deficient, much like other members of the Asteraceae.


Achillea millefolium commonly grows in meadows, wetlands, shrublands, the mildly disturbed soil of grasslands and in open canopy forests.


Achillea millefolium is widely distributed across North America.


The primary uses of Achillea millefolium are medicinal. Leaves may be crushed and used topically to treat swelling, sores, and aches. The roots may be dried or boiled and consumed to relieve ailments associated with the throat, kidneys, and stomach.

As medicine
Northern Paiute: "As an alternate treatment [to reduce swellings], one might apply the mashed leaves of bawa'ntizua (Chaenactis douglasii H. and A.) or of the wada'a-kwasi' (squirrel-tail; Achillea millefolium var. lanulosa Piper)." (Kelly 1932:196)  

Northern Paiute: "A wash for sore eyes was made by soaking the leaves of wada'a-kwasi' in water." (Kelly 1932:197)

Northern Paiute: "For toothache, the leaves of wada'a-kwasi' were chewed; or the roots of tüba'süp were roasted, dried, pulverized, and the powder dampened and rubbed on the face." (Kelly 1932:197)

Northern Paiute: "[In regards to tosi tonig (possibly yarrow, Achillea millefolium) as it was used for medicine] The plant called tosi tonig is used for flu or a cold in the chest.  The root is boiled and the liquid drunk.  The patient keeps covered in a warm room.  No cold water is drunk.  For a sore throat a small piece is chewed and the saliva is allowed to flow down the throat.  For cuts and sores, pulverize the root and smear it on the cut or sore.  For kidney trouble, boil one cup of root in one gallon of water.  Drink the liquor.  For a cough in the early stages, soak the leaves for a few hours before using.  Also in taking the sweat bath, sprinkle the hot rocks with the soaked leaves...The plant has leaves like carrots.  It grows 2 or 4 ft in height.  It is found near mountain streams.  It is gathered in early summer and dried and preserved." (Fowler 1989:128-129)

Northern Paiute: "[In regards to tosi tonig (possibly yarrow, Achillea millefolium) as it was used for medicine] The plant called tosiotnigadu has leaves like carrots and grows 1 to 2 ft high.  It grows on the mountains.  There is a great deal of this on Peavine at Reno.  Dry the root and then chew it raw.  It is good for colds." (Fowler 1989:129)

Klamath: "The spring plant collecting area was a highly significant part of the larger seasonal round.  At specific sites, the roots of various species were collected...Medicinal plants collected for their leaves included sagebrush, yarrow, and showy penstemon." (Couture et al. 1986:154)

Northern Paiute: "A poultice of mashed leaves is applied on swellings or sores…or as a compress for headaches…also the boiled leaves serve as a poultice for collar sores on horses…A solution of boiled leaves is used as a wash for fevers…or, when strained, as drops for sore eyes...The leaf decoction...or in quantities of less than a teaspoon at a time over a period of several hours, for headaches...In a single instance it was reported that the green leaves could be chewed to relieve toothaches...but in many localities the Paiutes and the Shoshones prefer the root for that purpose, the more common method being to insert a small portion in the tooth cavity.  Another method is to mash the root so that the pulp can be inserted in the hollow tooth or else placed along the inflamed area.  In one community the root is dried and pulverized before using...Sometimes the roots are boiled and the hot solution used as a wash along the jaws to relieve the pain of the toothaches...Some of the Indians believe the continued use of the root will kill the nerve of an ulcerated tooth...The root is sometimes used for colds, or when boiled the solution is taken for gas pains and is believed to be good for the kidneys...The entire plant can be boiled and used as a poultice for pains or for sores...or the mashed green plant serves as a dressing to reduce swellings...The solution from the plant is used as a liniment or as a wash for sores or rashes...It also serves to disinfect cuts and saddle sores in horses...The plant decoction is taken internally, a cupful twice daily, as a blood tonic after childbirth, and for bladder ailments...The crushed green plant was smelled to relieve headaches." (Train et al. 1957:19-20)  

Klamath: "Läl-wäl'-säm.- Yarrow, a weed common in meadows and pastures in the Eastern United States, and, from the evidence of its occurrence even in very remote and unsettled parts of the plains and from the statements of the Indians, unquestionably native in our Northwest.  Many years ago, before the building of mill and irrigation dams, when the salmon ran up Williamson and Sprague rivers and the Indians were in the habit of drying them, it was their custom, after a fish was split open, to lay in the body cavity a yarrow stem with its leaves and flowers still attached.  This treatment, by holding the fish open, hastens the drying process and prevents the decomposition that would be likely to follow if the walls were allowed to collapse.  My informant knew of no special significance attached to the use of this particular plant and of no special adaptability it had for this purpose, except that it did not give the dried fish such a bad taste as some other plants." (Coville 1897:105)


Distribution Map: