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A review on phytochemistry and medicinal properties of the genus Achillea

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  • Received 30 Apr 2011; Revised 2 July 2011; Accepted 2 July 2011

1Saeidnia S., *1Gohari AR., 1Mokhber-Dezfuli N, 2 Kiuchi F.
1 Medicinal Plants Research Center, Faculty of Pharmacy, Tehran University of Medical
Sciences, Tehran, Iran. 2 Faculty of Pharmacy, Keio University, 1-5-30 Shibakoen, Minato-ku,
Tokyo 105-8512, Japan.

Abstract

Achillea L. (Compositae or Asteraceae) is a widely distributed medicinal plant throughout the world and has been used since ancient time. Popular indications of the several species of this genus include treatment of wounds, bleedings, headache, inflammation, pains, spasmodic diseases, flatulence and dyspepsia. Phytochemical investigations of Achillea species have revealed that many components from this genus are highly bioactive. There are many reports on the mentioned folk and traditional effects. Although, the medicinal properties of Achillea plants are recognized worldwide, there are only one review article mainly about the structures of the phytochemical constituents of Achillea. The present paper reviews the medicinal properties of various species of Achillea, which have been examined on the basis of the scientific in vitro, in vivo or clinical evaluations. Various effects of these plants may be due to the presence of a broad range of secondary active metabolites such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, coumarins, terpenoids (monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, triterpenes) and sterols which have been frequently reported from Achillea species.

Keywords: Achillea, Asteraceae, Bioactive compounds.

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INTRODUCTION

The genus Achillea L. belongs to Asteraceae (Compositae), the largest family of vascular plants. Asteraceaeous plants are distributed throughout the world and most common in the arid and semi-arid regions of subtropical and lower temperate latitudes. Achillea contains around 130 flowering and perennial species and occurs in Europe and temperate areas of Asia and a few grow in North America. These plants typically have hairy and aromatic leaves and flat clusters of small flowers on the top of the stem. Since these flowers have various colors, a number of species are popular garden plants (14). The basic chromosome number of this genus is X=9 and most of the species are diploid with great ecological ranges from desert to water-logged habitats (5).

The name of Achillea is referred to the Achilles in the literary Trojan War of the Iliad who used yarrow to treat the soldiers’ wounds (6). The majority of the Achillea species are as the medicinal plants which have therapeutic applications (4). There are few review papers on the different aspects of Achillea as a noteworthy and medicinal genus. Recently, Si and co-authors (7) published a review article mainly about the structures of phytochemical constituents and a brief section of biological properties of Achillea (7). Literature reviews show that there are many reports on pharmacological, immunological, biological and other therapeutic activities of these valuable herbs which are reviewed in this article.

Traditional usages 

Since Achillea genus is widespread all over the world, its species have been used by local people as folk or traditional herbal medicines. Bumadaran is a popular name for several species of Achillea in Persian language. They are reported as tonic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic and emmenagogic agents and have been used for treatment of hemorrhage, pneumonia, rheumatic pain and wounds healing in Persian traditional literature (89).

In Spanish-speaking New Mexico and southern Colorado, A. millefolium L. is called plumajillo, or “little feather”, because of the shape of the leaves. Native Americans and early settlers used yarrow for its astringent qualities that made it effective in wound healing and anti-bleeding (10).

Achillea species are the most important indigenous economic plants of Anatolia. Herbal teas prepared from some Achillea species are traditionally used for abdominal pain and flatulence in Turkey (11). Dioscorides also used Achillea for dysentery, whether associated with cholera or other causes, which killed as many soldiers as did steel and lead. In terms of Chinese medicine, Achillea can be said to have three main actions: clear Exterior Wind (diaphoretic), Tonify Deficiency (tonic) and clear Heart Phlegm (anti-hypertention) (12).

Many of these therapeutic usages have been confirmed by new experimental and clinical studies. The consumption of herbal teas from different species of Achillea, especially for treatment of the gastrointestinal tract, is common in folk medicine (13). However, there are still several unknown aspects of Achillea plants that need more attention.

Phytochemical constituents 

Phytochemical investigations of Achillea species have revealed that many components from this genus are highly bioactive. The first anti-spasmodic flavonoids, cynaroside I and cosmosiin II (Scheme 1) were isolated from A. millefolium L. (14), and the first natural proazulene, achillicin III (Scheme 2) was identified from the genus Achillea (15). Literature search shows that the, flavonoids, terpenoids, lignans, amino acid derivatives, fatty acids and alkamides such as p-hydroxyphenethylamide IV (Scheme 2) have been identified in Achillea species. The main constituents of the most species have been previously reviewed (7). Therefore, in this article some other minor or rare compounds and especially their medicinal or industrial usages which have been less described are reviewed. Among them,alkamides, the lipophilic and nitrogen containing compounds, are responsible for insecticide, anti-inflammation and some immunological activities of Achillea and Echinacea plants (16). The genus Achillea comprises flavored species which produce intense essential oils. The volatile oils of Achillea contain monoterpenes as the most representative metabolites. However, there are reports on high levels of sesquiterpenes compared with monoterpenes (1718). There are several pharmacological actions which have been mostly attributed to the presence of azulenogenous sesquiterpene lactones in the essential oil of Achillea. Results of studies have indicated that tetraploid species are accumulating proazulenes such as achillicin III (Scheme 2) (19).Except for the essential oil constituents, yarrow (A. tenuifolia Lam.) seeds consist of the high oil content which is rich in linoleic acid, an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid. This makes yarrow seed as a potential source of edible oil for human consumption (20). Recently, A. millefolium has been introduced as a new source of natural dye for wool dyeing due to the presence of the flavonoids, luteolin V and apigenin VI (Scheme 1). A. millefolium was found to have good agronomic potential as a natural dye in Iran (21). In the plant kingdom, hydroxycinnamoyl conjugates of quinic acid represent common end metabolites of the shikimate-phenylpropanoid pathway, and feruloylcaffeoylquinic acid derivates VII have been isolated only from two species of genus Achillea so far (22). From the aerial parts of Achillea species, proline VIII, stachydrine IX, betonicine X, betaine XI and choline XII have been isolated as the major nitrogen containing compounds (Scheme 2) (2324). Betaines, containing the permanent positive charge on the quaternary ammonium moiety, belong to an important class of naturally occurring compounds that function as compatible solutes or osmoprotectants (25). These compounds have shown immunosuppressive activity in the experimental animals (2627).

Reference:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3232110/

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