Arnica (Arnica montana)

Arnica (Arnica montana)
Compositae Composite family

Parts Usually Used: Flowers, rootstock

Description of Plant and Culture

Arnica is a perennial plant; the horizontal, brown, branched rootstock sends up a slightly hairy, simple or lightly branched stem that reaches a height of 1-2 feet. Basal leaves are oblong-ovate and short-petioled; upper leaves are smaller and sessile. Each plant has 1 to 9 large, yellow, daisy-like flowerheads, 2-2 1/2 inches wide, whose rays are notched on the outer tips. The flowers appear from June to August.

Arnica is also commonly called leopard’s bane. The arnica plant has a bright yellow, daisy-like flower that blooms around July. Preparations made from the flowering heads have been used in homeopathic medicine for hundreds of years. It is popular in Germany and over 100 drug preparations are made from the plant. Arnica is a perennial that is protected in parts of Europe.

Medicinal Properties: Diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, stimulant, vulnerary

The active components in arnica are sesquiterpene lactones, which are known to reduce inflammation and decrease pain. Other active principals are thymol (an essential oil), flavonoids, inulin, carotenoids and tannins.

Arnica works by stimulating the activity of white blood cells that perform much of the digestion of congested blood, and by dispersing trapped, disorganized fluids from bumped and bruised tissue, joints and muscles.

Uses: Arnica is used externally mostly. Used as a salve or tincture, helps heal wounds, bruises, arthritis, and irritations. Only very dilute solutions of the tincture should be used (the herb can cause blistering and inflammation). Used as a poultice but not often. Native Americans used the ointment for stiffened, cramped muscles, poor appetite, hair loss, and arnica tincture to open wounds and gashes, sprains. It is typically rubbed on the skin to soothe and heal bruises, sprains, and relieve irritations from trauma, arthritis and muscle or cartilage pain. Applied as a salve, arnica is also good for chapped lips, irritated nostrils and acne.

Arnica is known to stimulate blood circulation and can raise blood pressure, especially in the coronary arteries. The plant is used externally for arthritis, burns, ulcers, eczema and acne. It has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities that can reduce pain and swelling, improving wound healing.

Part Used: Extract of the blossoms

Formulas or Dosages: Use professionally prepared remedies when possible.

Infusion: use 1 tsp. dried flowers with 1/2 cup boiling water. Take in 3 equal portions during the day for diaphoretic, diuretic, or expectorant action.

External wash: steep 2 heaping tsp. flowers in 1 cup boiling water. Use cold.

Tincture: use a dilute solution of 1 to 2 tbsp. to a cup of water.

Ointment: heat 1 oz. flowers in 1 oz. olive oil or lard in a water bath (in a double boiler) for a few hours. Strain through several layers of cheesecloth.

Warning: One reference cautions not to use arnica on broken skin. This herb can cause blistering and inflammation. An irritant to the stomach and intestines, can cause serious damage to the heart; and fatalities from poisoning have been reported.

Arnica should not be used for any purpose without medical supervision.

Toxicity: The internal use of Arnica is not suggested. It can cause vomiting, weakness, increased heart rate and nervous disturbances.


American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, pg., 283.
The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, pgs., 130-131, 146-147, 180.
Healing Plants, by Mannfried Pahlow, pgs., 141-142.
The Herb Book, by John Lust, pgs., 101-102, 477, 478, 490, 529.
Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible, by Earl Mindell, pgs., 43-44.
Herb Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, pgs., 132, 163. I
ndian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, pgs., 15-17.
The Nature Doctor, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; pgs., 12, 26, 27, 33, 50, 120, 122, 129, 135, 139, 144, 152, 186, 324-325, 349, 358, 384, 395. The Rodale Herb Book, edited by William H. Hylton, pgs., 351-352.
Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, pg., 75.
The Yoga of Herbs, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, pg., 193.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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