External Applications in Anthroposophic Nursing

Yarrow Liver Compress

Kind of substance

Yarrow tea from the entire, flowering plant (without the roots)

Guiding principle for the application

Moist-hot liver compresses can support liver function, so that unpleasant effects of an encumbered liver (such as sleep disorders, depression, lack of motivation and liver pain) can be beneficially influenced.

Guiding Principle for the substance


  • Anxiety (see example case 1)
  • Lack of appetite during chemotherapy (see example case 5)
  • Subacute sclerosing cholangitis (see example case 6)
  • Depression (see example cases 1–4)
  • Exhaustion (see example cases 1–4)
  • Lack of taste during chemotherapy (see example case 5)
  • Skin diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Sleep disorders (see example cases 1 & 2)
  • Digestive complaints and poor digestion (cramps, gas, nausea) (see example case 1)
  • Disquiet (see example cases 1–4)


There is also an Instructional video for this compress

The time of day for the treatment depends on the indication
When applying this compress keep in mind that:

  • the upper body usually tapers down to the waiste
  • this part of the body has to be able to move with the patient’s breathing

This means that the compress cloths need to lie closely, without hampering the breathing: Guide the compress cloths diagonally up from the waist, mould them to the body with your hands, without an extra pull

  • Outer cloth
  • Intermediate cloth
  • Inner cloth
  • An aid for wringing out the hot compress: perhaps rubber gloves, a piece of cloth
  • Hot water bottle filled hot, de-aired
  • Medium-sized basin
  • Yarrow tea: scald 1 tbsp. yarrow (leaves with flowers) with 1/2 litre of boiling water, let it steep for only 3–5 minutes, then immediately strain into a thermos (it becomes greenish when left to stand). The colour of the compress solution is decidedly golden yellow to slightly green when it is ready.

  • Lay the outer and intermediate cloths onto the bed at the level of the upper abdomen
  • The patient lies down on it
  • Fold the inner cloth to liver size. Length: from the spine forwards to nearly the front middle. Width: from the umbilicus to the start of the chest
  • Pour the compress solution into the basin
  • Immerse the folded inner cloth in the compress solution, wring it out well. The patient turns his/her upper body slightly to the left. Initially fan the body with the hot cloth, until the heat is bearable, then place it on the liver, beginning at the spine and continuing to the front. The solar plexus and spine remain free.
  • Mould the intermediate cloth over the inner cloth from each side, then quickly wrap the outer cloth around everything
  • Place the hot water bottle on the right side, cover the patient, including the shoulders and feet
  • After 30 minutes, remove the compress and the hot water bottle, cover this part of the body again (e.g., pull down the T-shirt that had been pushed up)
  • Another 30 minutes of post-treatment rest

  • If possible, the patient should stand up after the post-treatment rest. Exception: the compress precedes the night’s rest.
  • Rinse out the inner cloth and hang up all of the cloths to dry

Has worked well for many patients
  • 1 x daily to 2 x weekly
  • In general the compress should be applied in the morning (to strengthen the liver’s upbuilding activity, above all in cases of general fatigue)
  • Apply after lunch: in cases of indigestion
  • Apply in the evening: for sleep disorders and depression

Onset of effect
Often with the first application, sometimes also only after a few days or weeks
Length of therapy
Depending on the therapeutic goal, the compress may be applied over several weeks
Other recommended therapies
  • The yarrow liver compress can also alternatively be applied as an oil compress
  • When a yarrow liver compress does not appear to be possible, due to too much exhaustion, medication should be used to establish a basis

  • Take care with emotionally unstable patients, especially at the start of therapy, as well as with patients who are exhausted and have too little strength
  • In cases of acute hepatitis the temperature of the compress should be lessened

Do not use in cases of:
  • Acute abdomen
  • Acute inflammation
  • Sudden stomach pain of unknown origin
  • Fever
  • Suspected inner bleeding

Instructions to download

Case example

Example case 1
A 35-year-old female patient arrived at the clinic with a major depressive episode, but not suicidal. She suffered from difficulty in sleeping through the night, anxiety and unrest, after losing her job and being left by her partner.
Abdominal cramps, flatulence, nausea and lack of appetite added to her lack of strength.
A midday yarrow liver compress was applied. Her bowel functions returned to normal after the second treatment, her ability to sleep through the night improved. Her anxiety and unrest diminished. She received a total of 6 applications.

Example case 2
A 42-year-old female patient with mammary cancer on the left side came for further treatment.
For a year she had been dealing with moderate depression, pain, unrest and difficulty in sleeping through the night.
She received 15 yarrow liver compresses during her 3-week stay.
The first applications caused profuse sweating, the warmth generated was too much for her. Since she was able to relax very well during the post-treatment rest and then sleep, the compresses were continued.
Overall the patient recovered well and was discharged free of complaints.

Example case 3
A 39-year-old female patient dealing with major professional demands had been suffering for 5 months from moderate depression, with various psychosomatic symptoms, such as unrest, nervousness and lack of strength.
She received a total of 16 yarrow liver compresses after lunch. She often fell asleep during these treatments. Another effect was an improvement in the quality of sleep. She felt enjoyment again and was able to allow feelings.
She learned how to apply such compresses during her in-patient stay, in order to be able to continue them independently at home.

Example case 4
A 55-year-old female patient was admitted as an in-patient with psychogenic depression.
Her complaints had already lasted for 2 years: agitation, negative thoughts and hopelessness, as well as physical tiredness.
She received 16 yarrow liver compresses during the course of a 4-week stay.
The warmth that spread throughout her body during the treatments was very pleasant to her. She became drowsy and slept for a while afterwards. These experiences engendered in her a positive attitude towards life, security, hope and courage.

Example case 5
A 40-year-old male patient with seminoma suffered from strong nausea, lack of appetite, ageusia and tiredness during the first two cycles of chemotherapy. From the third cycle onwards he was given a daily yarrow liver compress, which he tolerated well. No more lack of appetite or changes to his sense of taste occurred. The patient continued with the compresses at home and reported continuing improvement.
(Source: Bruchner N, Schier J. Schafgarbe-Tee-Leberwickel bei Chemotherapie-assoziierten Beschwerden bei einem 40-jährigen Patienten mit Seminom – eine Kasuistik. Der Merkurstab 2016;69(2):134-138.)

Example case 6
A male patient with primary sclerosing cholangitis and corresponding changes in the liver, who was well stabilized over many years with anthroposophic measures, voluntarily ended his anthroposophic treatment after about 15 years of therapy in order to heal himself exclusively through meditation. This led to a dramatic decompensation within a few months. When the patient went back to the doctor at his wife’s urging, he showed severely advanced liver failure. With an increase in weight from 77 to 91 kg, he had developed massive edema, especially in the area of his trunk and legs, which were correspondingly swollen and full of open, inflamed areas.
Since the patient first had to be convinced by the doctor of the need for medical and clinical treatment, the doctor ordered a yarrow liver compress as a mild first measure. The compress was applied immediately in the nursing practice. After the compress was administered and the patient had rested for half an hour, he went home accompanied by his wife. After a few hours, intensive fluid excretion began, with the skin of both legs also secreting significantly; the tension and pain in his legs subsided. The wife now administered a daily yarrow liver compress and after 4 days – “overnight”, according to the patient – the swelling in his legs had subsided and the open areas healed. In the further course of his recovery, he was again stabilized to the point where he could have a liver transplant.


Red., MM


  • Fingado M. Compresses and other therapeutic applications. A handbook from the Ita Wegman Clinic. Edinburgh: Floris Books; 2012.
  • Pelikan W. Healing plants. Spring Valley: Mercury Press; 1997.
  • Sommer M. Healing plants. Herbal remedies from traditional to anthroposophical medicine. Edinburgh: Floris Books; 2014.