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Arnica as an Herb

Arnica plant as an herb

Arnica, also commonly known as Mountain Tobacco or leopard's bane, has a bright yellow, daisy-like flower that blooms around July. The flowering heads have been used in preperations for homeopathic medicine for hundreds of years.

Arnica is popular in Germany and over 100 drug preparations are made there from the arnica plant.

Arnica as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

Arnica has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s and remains popular today. The medicinal parts of Arnica are the ethereal oil of the flowers, the dried flowers, the leaves collected before flowering and dried, the roots, and the dried rhizome and roots.

Arnica gel has a soothing effect. People with sensitive skin especially appreciate it as it is very gentle. The gel will help alleviate muscle pain, stiffness and swelling. It is unscented and praaben-free. The cooling effect gives fast pain relief. The gel is not sticky nor greasy and is quickly absorbed by the skin.

Arnica is used in the form of the whole herb, cut herb or herb powder for infusions, extracts, and tinctures; gel, oil and poultice for external application.

Arnica Herbal Remedies

  • The active components in arnica are known to reduce inflammation and decrease pain.
  • Arnica stimulates the activity of white blood cells that perform much of the digestion of congested blood, and by dispersing trapped fluid from bumped and bruised tissue, joints and muscles.
  • Arnica can stimulate blood circulation and raise blood pressure, especially in the coronary arteries.
  • Externally Arnica is used for arthritis and rheumatism, blunt injuries, burns, ulcers, eczema and acne, improved wound healing in addition to reducing irritation and swelling.
  • Arnica 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.
  • For sore feet a foot bath of hot water containing 1/2 ounce of the tincture cab bring about great relief.
  • Applied to the scalp it is said it will make hair grow.
  • In Russian folk medicine, Arnica is used to treat uterine hemorrhaging.

Preparations

Topical preparations of arnica may be prepared as follows:

  • Tincture: a 1:10 tincture prepared with 70 percent ethanol
  • Arnica cream and ointments: 20 to 25 percent tincture or a maximum of 15 percent arnica oil made from one part dried arnica flower head and five parts vegetable oil
  • Compresses: tincture diluted 3 to 10 times with water
  • Poultices: tincture diluted 3 to 10 times with water
  • Mouthwash: tincture diluted 10 times with water (should not be swallowed)

When used topically or in a homeopathic remedy, arnica does not interact with any conventional medications.

Culinary Uses of Arnica

The flower heads are aromatic; the taste is bitter and irritating. Not generally used, nor is it recommended for any culinary purposes.

Arnica Flower Head

Cautions

Arnica should not be taken internally without direct medical supervision, except in dilute form as a homeopathic remedy, because side effects may be severe. It can cause dizziness, tremors, and heart irregularities. It may also irritate mucous membranes and cause stomach upset.

When using arnica topically, never place on an open wound without a doctor's supervision.

Repeated applications may produce severe inflammation. Some people are particularly sensitive to the plant and many severe cases of poisoning have resulted from its use, especially if taken internally.

Drug Interaction: Drug Interactions: The coumarin componant may theoretically interact with warfarin, resulting in an additive anticoagulant effect.

Sources

University of Maryland Medical Center, Bolognia Dermatology, 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Saunders; 2012, Auerbach. Wilderness Medicine, 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby; 2011 and PDR for Herbal Medicines.

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