Aromatic perennial growing to 1 ft (30 cm). Has downy egg-shaped leaves and bright yellow daisy-like flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Arnica grows in mountain woods and pastures in central Europe, the Pyrenees, Siberia, Canada, and the northwestern U.S. Its flowers are harvested when in full bloom; the rhizomes after the plant has died back in autumn.
Arnica contains sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids, a volatile oil that includes thymol, mucilage, and polysaccharides.
History & Folklore
Arnica has been used extensively in European folk medicine. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), the German philosopher and poet, drank arnica tea to ease his angina in old age.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Best known as an effective ointment and compress for bruises, sprains, and muscle pain, arnica improves the local blood supply and accelerates healing. It is anti-inflammatory and increases the rate of reabsorption of internal bleeding. Generally the plant is now taken internally only at a homeopathic dilution, principally for shock, injury, and pain. If taken as a decoction or tincture, it stimulates the circulation and is valuable in the treatment of angina and a weak or failing heart, but it can be toxic even at low dosage and thus is rarely used in this way.
In North America A. fulgens is used.
Do not take internally. Do not apply arnica preparations to broken skin. External use may cause dermatitis. Arnica is subject to legal restrictions in some countries.