encyclopedia

Arnica

Scientific Names:    

Arnica montana L. [Fam. Asteraceae]    

     
Forms:    

Dried and whole flower heads or individual ligulate and tubular florets of arnica species; arnica flower extracts in creams and oils.    

Message:     

– Abscesses
– Antiseptic
– Breast Tenderness
– Bruises
– Contusions
– Dislocations
– Edema (fracture-related)
– Fractures
– Inflammation (mouth and throat)
– Injuries
– Insect bites
– Mastalgia
– Muscle Soreness
– Phlebitis
– Rheumatism
– Skin inflammation
– Sores
– Sprains
– Wounds     
     
    
Overview:    

Arnica, Arnica montana L. [Fam. Asteraceae], was originally found wild in Europe, southern Russia and central Asia. It is a perennial herb with yellow aromatic flowers having a slightly bitter and spicy taste. Arnica is considered one of the oldest and most important drug plants of Europe. Arnica was once used to treat colds, fevers, sore throat, infection, upper respiratory conditions and in folk tradition it was a remedy for heart problems, uterine bleeding, fatigue, boils, insect bites and inflamed veins. It is no longer recommended for internal use for these conditions as ingestion may result in convulsions, cardiac arrest, and even death. As an external treatment, arnica is safe although it may cause skin irritation or inflammation. It is particularly useful for bruises, sprains, lacerations and contused muscles. In a recent study it was found that Arnica montana extract is used in almost 100 cosmetic formulations across a wide range of product types. Extractions of Arnica montana were tested and found non-toxic in acute toxicity tests; they were not irritating, sensitizing, or phototoxic; and they did not produce significant ocular irritation. Clinical tests of extractions failed to elicit irritation or sensitization, yet Arnica dermatitis, a delayed type IV allergy, is reported in individuals who handle arnica flowers. From the literature, more than 35 references with more than 100 cases of contact dermatitis could be cited; in most cases sensitization was induced by self-treatment with tincture of Arnica, not with arnica creams. A study of 443 consecutive patients found that 5 subjects (approximately 1.13%) reacted to arnica, 9 (approximately 2.03%) to marigold and 18 cases (approximately 4.06%) reacted to the Compositae mix. A recent double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trial with 130 patients found that a homeopathic preparation of Arnica did not significantly prevent post-operative hematomas compared to placebo.    
     
    
Active Ingredients:    

Arnica's main active constituents are: 0.5-1% volatile oil; arnicin; the crystalline phytosterol, arnisterol. Arnica extracts contain: fatty acids, especially palmitic, linoleic, myristic, and linolenic acids, essential oil, triterpenic alcohols, sesquiterpene lactones, sugars, phytosterols, phenol acids, tannins, choline, inulin, phulin, arnicin, flavonoids, carotenoids, coumarins, and heavy metals.    
     
    
Suggested Amount:    

Warning: Not for internal use!
Poultice: Pour hot water over 1-2 teaspoons (2-3 grams) of Arnica, steep ten minutes, then strain. Soak linen or cellulose wadding in the infusion and then place on affected region. Change poultice several times per day.
If skin becomes inflamed discontinue use.     
     
    
Drug Interactions:    

None known.    
     
    
Contraindications:    

Avoid if you have arnica allergy.
Not to be used if skin is broken.     
     
    
Side Effects:    

Because of the toxic sesquiterpene lactones oral use should be avoided.
Do not use for extensive periods of time. Prolonged use on damaged skin may cause edematous dermatitis with the formation of pustules, eczema, and necrosis.
Warning: May cause nausea, vomiting, gastroenteritis intervenes, cardiac arrest, coma, and death if taken internally in large doses.     
     
    
References:     
     
Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J 2000. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Copyright American Botanical Council. Publ. by Integrative Medicine Communications, 1029 Chestnut Street, Newton, MA 02464. Pp. 7-9.
 
Duke, J. 1997: The Green Pharmacy, The Ultimate Compendium of Natural Remedies from the World's Foremost Authority on Healing and Herbs. Pp. 122-23; 126; 507-8; 187. Rodale Press.
 
Hausen BM. 1980. [Arnica allergy]. Hautarzt. 1980 Jan; 31(1): 10-7. Review. German.
 
Reider N, Komericki P, Hausen BM, Fritsch P, Aberer W. 2001. The seamy side of natural medicines: contact sensitization to arnica (Arnica montana L.) and marigold (Calendula officinalis L.). Contact Dermatitis. 2001 Nov; 45(5): 269-72.
 
Wichtl M (ed). 1994. Arnica radix – Arnica root. In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). CRC Press, Stuttgart.