Arnica, a plant with the botanical name of Arnica Montana, is part of the Compositae plant family. It is also commonly called Wolf’s Bane, Leopard’s Bane, Mountain Tobacco, Mountain Arnica, Arnica Root, Common Arnica, and Arnica Flower. Arnica is a perennial wildflower that is native to the mountainous regions of Siberia and Europe. In fact, it most likely earned the names of Mountain Tobacco and Mountain Arnica from the fact that it grew wild throughout areas of Switzerland up to 8,500 feet above sea level.
It is also commonly cultivated in areas of North America. The Arnica plant reaches a full height between one and two feet along with a tall stem. It produces large flowers that feature a yellow-and-orange combination of colors and look quite similar to daisies. The leaves that do grow on the Arnica plant are bright green in color. While foliage on the lower regions of the plant have rounded tips, the leaves on the upper portion of the Arnica plant have ragged, toothed edges and are quite hairy on their surface. The stems are also hairy and produce one to three stalks that produce flowers. Both fresh and dried Arnica flowers, as well as rootstock, are used when preparing medicinal formulations.
Arnica flowers contain carotenoids (used during the formation of Vitamin A in the body), flavonoids (offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties), sesquiterpene lactones (antimicrobial active plant chemicals), inulin, and essential oil of thymol (antiseptic). Tannin (astringent) is found in the roots of the Arnica plant. The Arnica plant is noted for having the following capabilities: diuretic (alleviates water retention), diaphoretic (increases perspiration), emollient (soothes and softens), stimulant (invigorates physiological activity), expectorant (encourages the expulsion of mucous), and vulnerary (aids in the healing action of wounds). Arnica is primarily used in topical ointments and formulations designed for external use. It has been included in footbaths, compresses, oils, creams, lotions, salves, tinctures, and gels. Its use as an integral component of topical formulations designed to cure wounds and alleviate the pain of muscle and joint aches began as far back as the sixteenth century.
Arnica offers antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and decongestive properties that are present when it is included in topical formulas. Arnica is a popular medicinal additive for the treatment of physical injuries involving muscle aches, sprains, joint pain, post-operative bruises, minor wounds, stomach muscle aches, and inflammation caused by insect bites. It has even proven useful in treating superficial phlebitis. Arnica’s ability to stimulate blood flow and increase its circulation beneath the skin enhances the healing of bruises, while also reducing the time it takes for wounds to heal. Several clinical studies have led to results prove the multi-functional capabilities attributed to the inclusion of Arnica in specific formulations designed to speed recovery from certain ailments.
In addition to its medicinal uses, Arnica has been included in treatments designed to alleviate feelings of depression and emotional distress. On a spiritual level, Arnica is carried in healing sachets to restore emotional balance and restore a sense of tranquility. It can also be burned to achieve the same results.
A few cautionary statements should be considered when deciding to use products containing Arnica. First, oral ingestion of Arnica may lead to problematic side effects. Excessive oral intake of Arnica can lead to weakness, dizziness, heart irregularities, vomiting, stomach irritation, mucous membrane irritation, and nervousness. Therefore, it is best to use it topically to avoid medical issues. In severe cases of over-ingestion, fatal results can occur. Homeopathic remedies should make use of diluted forms of Arnica that are nearly undetectable.
Second, topical solutions containing Arnica should not be used on broken, cut, or damaged skin as it may create additional problems. Arnica commonly infuses a sensation of warmth to the skin upon application, partly due to its ability to stimulate circulation and blood flow. While topical products containing Arnica are generally safe to use, it is possible that skin experiencing blisters, acne, peeling, eczema or similar types of issues may experience unwanted irritation during prolonged use of any topical solution containing Arnica. Some people may experience hypersensitivity to this herb and should discontinue its use immediately. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may want to consult their physician prior to using beauty solutions or medical products containing this ingredient.