Mountain Arnica “Wolf's Bane” “Leopard’s Bane” “Mountain Tobacco”
Updated: Feb 18
Arnica Montana, Atlantica, Acaulis
Family: Asteraceae (daisy family)
Description: Arnica is an herbaceous perennial with leaves that form a basal rosette from which emerges a one- to two-foot stalk with orange-yellow flowers. The arnica plant
blooms in June–July, sometimes until the middle of August. It grows in moist, sandy, acid soils with an adequate drainage, mostly in pinewoods or mixed forests, sometimes in meadows Arnica is divided into three main subspecies: Arnica Montana (Siberia, Scandinavia, Central Europe), Atlantica (France, Spain,Portugal), Acaulis (North America)
Arnica Montana is endemic to Europe, where it is relatively widespread, growing wild from Norway to the Balkans and from Spain to Ukraine. The material of commerce is obtained, for the most part, from wild collection in Romania
The first documentation of the use of Arnica as a medicinal plant in Europe dates from the 1500s. Folklore: people learned the value of Arnica by observing mountain goats, who would clamber to find the Arnica plant after falling or stumbling. Following the animals’ lead, locals began to apply the herb for bruises, mostly in the form of external salves or steeped in teas. This explains its German name, Fallkraut or “fall herb.” It is well known for it’s healing properties throughout many cultures including to Native Americans.
Nutritional Values: Flavonoids: betuletol, eupafolin, flavonol glucuronides, hispidulin, isorhamnetin, luteolin, patuletin, spinacetin, tricin, 3,5,7,-trihydroxy-6,3',4'-trimethoxyflavone, kaempferol, quercetin, kaempferol and quercetin derivative, jaceosidin, and pectolin-arigenin. Isomeric alcohols include arnidiol and foradiol. Terpenoids: arnifolin, arnicolide, and the sesquiterpenes helenalin (and derivatives) and dihydrohelenalin. The pseudoguaianolide ester helenalin methacrylate has been isolated from the flowers. The quantity of sesquiterpene lactones varies widely among species and geographical location, making standardization of preparations difficult. The European Pharmacopoeia recommends a minimum sesquiterpene lactone content of 0.4% in A. Montana preparations used as herbal medicines.
Amines: betaine, choline, and trimethylamine. Coumarins include scopoletin and umbelliferone. Carbohydrates, such as mucilage and polysaccharides.
Volatile oils: thymol, fatty acids, arnicin, caffeic acid, carotenoids (alpha- and beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein), phytosterols, resin, tannins, lignans, and anthoxanthine.
Arnica flowers and roots have been used for hundreds of years as an herbal medicine. It’s used topically to relieve swelling, muscle pain and stiffness, spasms, bruising, inflammation, arthritis, rheumatism, scars, acne, pain from sprains, strains, fractures, headaches, burns, and insect bites. It’s an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antimicrobial. Orally it’s used for throat infections, gingivitis and ulcers of the mouth. It protects against certain toxins, including harmful bacteria in foods. Arnica oil is used in perfumes and some cosmetic products, such as anti-dandruff lotions and hair tonics. It is also used as an ingredient in some foods and historically has also been smoked like tobacco (not recommended).
Though the flowers are the primary parts used medicinally, the dark brown, cylindrical rhizomes are also sometimes used.
Topical: Steep flowers in water and cool then apply to skin with a cloth, or dilute essential oil in a carrier oil such as olive oil and massage into muscles.
Orally: Steep flowers in water and cool then rinse and spit it out. Swallowing it can cause side effects; see warnings section of this article.
Internally: Tablets are available to treat headaches and other aches and pains. Use as directed. It is also an ingredient in foods and sweets. Not recommended to use in doses higher than what is used in foods.
Arnica contains a compound called helenalin, which may cause allergic reactions in people with sensitivity. If you develop a mild rash while using arnica oil, you are probably helenalin-sensitive and should stop using the oil.
Arnica is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken internally in the amounts commonly found in food or when applied to unbroken skin short-term. The Canadian government, however, is concerned enough about the safety of arnica to prohibit its use as a food ingredient.
Amounts that are larger than the amount found in food are LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. In fact, arnica is considered poisonous and has caused death. When taken by mouth it can also cause irritation of the mouth and throat, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, shortness of breath, a fast heartbeat, an increase in blood pressure, heart damage, organ failure, increased bleeding, coma, and death.
Arnica might slow blood clotting. Taking arnica along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
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