Anxiolytic-like effects of acute and chronic treatment with Achillea millefolium L. extract

J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Mar 6;140(1):46-54. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.11.047. Epub 2011 Dec 6.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Achillea millefolium L. (Asteraceae), known as yarrow ("mil folhas"), has been used as folk medicine for gastrointestinal disorders, inflammation, anxiety, and insomnia.

Aim: To evaluate the potential anxiolytic-like effect of hydroalcoholic extract of Achillea millefolium L. in animal models.

Methods: The present study evaluated the effects of the hydroalcoholic extract from the aerial parts of Achillea millefolium L. in mice subjected to the elevated plus-maze, marble-burying, and open-field tests. Additionally, the GABA(A)/benzodiazepine (BDZ) mediation of the effects of Achillea millefolium was evaluated by pretreatment with the noncompetitive GABA(A) receptor antagonist picrotoxin and the BDZ antagonist flumazenil and by [(3)H]-flunitrazepam binding to the BDZ site on the GABA(A) receptor.

Results: Achillea millefolium exerted anxiolytic-like effects in the elevated plus-maze and marble-burying test after acute and chronic (25 days) administration at doses that did not alter locomotor activity. This behavioral profile was similar to diazepam. The effects of Achillea millefolium in the elevated plus-maze were not altered by picrotoxin pretreatment but were partially blocked by flumazenil. Furthermore, Achillea millefolium did not induce any changes in [(3)H]-flunitrazepam binding.

Conclusion: The results indicate that the orally administered hydroalcoholic extract of Achillea millefolium L. exerted anxiolytic-like effects that likely were not mediated by GABA(A)/BDZ neurotransmission and did not present tolerance after short-term, repeated administration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achillea*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety / drug therapy*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Benzodiazepines / pharmacology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • GABA Agents / pharmacology
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Components, Aerial
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • GABA Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Benzodiazepines