February 01, 2023
Latin Name: Arnica montana
Part Used: Flower head
Plant Description: Perennial with yellow, daisy-like flowers that appear in July-August, growing to 1-2 feet tall. Endemic to Europe, where it grows wild from Norway to the Balkans and from Spain to Ukraine. Found in moist, grassy meadows in the hills and mountains of northern and central Europe and Siberia, and sparsely in the Northwestern United States.
History & Cultural Significance: St. Hildegard of Bingen (1078-1179), a German nun known for her keen observation of nature and physiology, wrote about the healing properties of the Arnica montana plant in the 12th century. Since at least the 16thcentury, mountain people in that area have used it to relieve muscle aches and bruises.
Use: Applied topically to the skin as a cream, ointment, liniment, salve, or tincture, Arnica is used to soothe sore muscles, reduce inflammation and heal wounds and is often used for injuries such as sprains and bruises.
Actions: Anti-inflammatory, vulnerary
Constituents: Sesquiterpene lactones (arnifolin, arnicolides, helenalin); flavonoids (eupafolin, patuletin, spinacetin); volatile oil (containing thymol and various ethers of thymol); miscellaneous (phenolic acids, coumarins, resins, bitters (arnicin), tannins, carotenes.
Safety Considerations: This herb should not be taken internally as it is potentially toxic due to the toxicity of the sesquiterpene lactones it contains. However, homeopathic preparations are safe to be taken internally when used according to homeopathic directions. Topical applications of arnica may cause an allergy in the form of painful, itchy, inflammatory changes to the skin in some people.
Formulator's Notes: While sourcing this herb, I noted that the Mexican Arnica (Heterotheca inuloides) is widely available commercially, while Arnica montana is less available with a significantly higher price point. Curious as to why, I did a little poking around and learned that although the anti-inflammatory properties have been recognized in both species, Arnica montana has stronger active ingredients than its Mexican counterpart, hence its higher commercial value. For this reason, I have chosen to only work with Arnica montana and source it from trusted suppliers. Arnica montana is infused in high oleic sunflower oil at a ratio of 1:5.
Sources: Hoffman, D. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, Vermont, Healing Arts Press, 2003.