Azulene in Yarrow – How It Works

Yarrow is full of delightful smelling volatile oils including the beautiful blue azulene. This is a treasure that has been with humanity for a long time. It was discovered 500 years ago after an astute chemist decided to figure out why chamomile essential oil was blue. In 1863, another chemist Septimus Piesse discovered that wormwood and yarrow share the same blue color in its make up as all three shared the same chemical.  Piesse named the chemical azulene (pronounced: as-you-lean).  It’s sea blue color comes from a chomophore that they share as part of the molecule. Years later, scientists noted that eucalyptus and Artemisia species such as mugwort and wormwood also makes azulene. Yarrow remains the reigning champion of production for this aromatic compound.

The stunning blue color of azulene is only one of the wonders of this aromatic hydrocarbon. It has analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. approximately 50% of blue yarrow essential oil is azulene making it a strong ally for healers. The essential oil is non-toxic and considered a non-irritant but it does contain sesquiterpene lactones which can trigger allergic in some people. It is wise to test a small amount first. Even without an allergic reaction, it is best to use blue yarrow in small, diluted doses. This essential oil is for external use only.

The essential oil known as “blue yarrow” has more azulene than both blue chamomile and blue tansy essential oil. Other yarrow essential oils will have a greener or yellowish tint and are still excellent for use as an anti-inflammatory aid. It is useful in a simple skin spray of witch hazel with a few drops of blue yarrow. The disadvantage of using blue yarrow instead of yellow or green yarrow is that, although stronger, it can stain clothing. Remember that essential oils are condensed forms of volatile oils and must be used with caution near the mouth or eyes.

When researching information on the wound healing properties of azulene, do not limit yourself to azulene only from yarrow. German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has been extensively studied as a source of this hydrocarbon. Inflammation is reduction is the key to healing here. Azulene releases the histamine in tissue which in turn calms irritation and allows the body to heal damage. This is how yarrow spreads itself so widely across the medical field. Inflamed sinuses, angry wounds, and painful tissue respond well to pulling histamine out of aggravated areas. This is why yarrow facial steams, direct poultices, salves, infused oils and tinctures are favorites for clinical herbalists and lay herbalists alike.


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