Arnica, sometimes commonly known as Mountain Tobacco, Leopard’s bane, or Wolfsbane, is a perennial plant in the Asteraceae family found most commonly at higher elevations in full sun. It’s lightly branching, hairy, stem typically grows 1-2 feet in height and bears a basal rosette of oblong ovate hairy leaves with slightly toothed margins, and smaller, opposite and sessile leaves at branching nodes. It has a creeping blackish rhizome, and bears several summer blooming daisy-like flowers with bright yellow flowers whose rays are notched on the outer tips.
Flowers, roots, leaves
Arnica is primarily an externally used anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and vulnerary herb. Internally arnica can be toxic, although some herbalists use arnica to stop internal bleeding, and as a diaphoretic, expectorant, diuretic, and for cardiac issues. However, in external applications, it’s one of the best herbs to speed the healing of bruises and sprains. It’s toxic flowers contain chemical compounds that stimulate circulation while reducing inflammation, making it one of the best herbs for reducing swelling in joints and for rheumatic pain, as well as for treating any pain and swellings of the skin and underlying muscle tissues, as long as the skin is not broken. Arnica makes a good ingredient for herbal baths and balms to apply to irritate skin, swellings, and chapped lips and nasal passages. It can also be used as a poultice on the abdomen for intestinal pains. Recent research has also shown that arnica has immune stimulating potential.
The European variety of arnica was traditionally used internally in Russian folk medicine to stop bleeding, boils, inflammation of the genitals, heart weakness, to stimulate the central nervous system, reduce cholesterol, and promote bile. The German philosopher Goethe recorded taking arnica internally in European folk medicine to ease angina also recorded it. However, internally it is toxic even in low doses, so it is best to avoid unless prescribed by a herbalist or homeopathic practitioner.
Flavor Profile and Energetics
Warming and heating, pungent, can increase Pitta and decrease Kappa and Vata.
Do not use internally, as Arnica can be toxic. Externally, as needed in lotions, poultices, compresses, oils, and creams. 2 teaspoons of dried flower per cup of water is a good standard measure for external applications. The tincture must be diluted, as at full strength it can cause occasional skin blistering. Use oil liberally on unbroken skin as needed.
For first aid purposes, combining with Witch Hazel and Calendula adds an astringent, vulnerary, and antiseptic element. Infuse into sesame or olive oil for external muscular/skeletal applications.
Do not use internally without medical supervision.
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