Arnica, a plant that soothes pain

Arnica health benefits

Arnica is a plant that has been used since the Middle Ages and is especially sought after for its many medicinal properties.

Arnica (Arnica montana) is a perennial plant of the Asteraceae family native to the lower mountain regions of Southern Russia, Europe and America.

Arnica, a powerful herb against bruises

Single arnica flower against a green backgroundAn effective remedy against bruises of all sorts, Arnica montana is often used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

Saved by a grassroots campaign

Endangered by intensive cattle raising for which entire fields were fertilized to produce hay, in some areas, like the French Vosges mountain range, arnica might have disappeared completely if not for a vast grassroots eco-campaign. This campaign brought together farmers, harvesters, municipalities, pharmaceutical laboratories and National Park rangers to coordinate how best to manage wild arnica. This group wrote up and signed the “Arnica convention” in 2007.

It aims to set up proper practices regarding the harvest in order to preserve the resource. For instance, it sets up guidelines such as requiring manual pulling up of harvested plants and matching harvest quantities directly to orders placed by laboratories.

Thanks to this convention, Arnica montana is now sustainably collected and blooms again year after year in that specific location of the Vosges.

Health benefits of arnica

Topical use (or external use), is how Arnica is most often applied. It helps treat:

  • hematoma
  • all sorts of inflammation
  • small hemorrhages
  • and painful joints and muscles.

Field of arnicaDuring surgery arnica helps relieve certain types of post-operation pain.

In dermatology, it relieves insect bites and inflammatory cutaneous skin conditions.

  • Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activity, arnica tincture (macerate 7 oz (200 g) flowers in 1 quart (1 liter) 60% alcohol for ten days), used diluted, soothes certain ENT disorders like sore throat, gingivitis and swollen gums or toothaches.
  • It is used as tincture, ointment, oil or gel.
    Watch out: don’t apply it on open wounds, nor around the eyes or mouth.
  • Arnica flower decoctions (â…“ oz (10 g) flowers in 1 quart (1 liter) boiling water) are said to be effective as a treatment against lice.
  • Arnica is only used externally (except in the case of homeopathy).

If ingested, a compound called arnicine, which is highly toxic, can lead to fatal poisoning.

Arnica and homeopathy

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Flower with a view by Stephanie Kroos under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Sun basking in green by xulescu_g under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Field full of arnica by Frank Vassen under © CC BY 2.0
Naturopathy by Kai Reschke under Pixabay license