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Arnica

Botanical name

Arnica, mountain arnica - Arnica montana L.

Family

Composite flower (Asteraceae)

Useful information about the plant

The Arnica genus is mainly distributed in North America, in Europe it is represented by only two species, namely Arnica montana and A. alpina. Of these, only A. montana is used medicinally. It grows in lime-poor forests and mountain meadows and high mountain areas in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe. In ancient sources Arnica is referred to in Old High German by the name of "wolvesgelegena" which over the course of time transformed from Old High German, "wulfilegia" to Low German, "wulferley" and then settled in High German as "woverley" from which the current common name of "Wohlverleih" developed. There is no absolute certainty about this, however. The epithet montana (Latin "montanus" = mountain) refers in any case to the preferred location of the plant in the mountains.
Arnica is an herbaceous perennial, with a 4- to 6- petalled rosette lying flat on the ground. A 20 to 60cm high, decussated leafed, hairy flower stalk grows from the centre at the end of which is/are one or several flower heads, each with 12-20 yolk-yellow to orange florets with up to 100 yellow tubular flowers. Blossom time is June. Wild collections of this highly valued medicinal plant have reduced the stocks and so it has been put under protection. It took massive growing efforts in order to be able to cultivate arnica in fields, but this has in the meantime succeeded.

Medicinally used plant parts (drug)

The dried flower heads are used. The commercially available drug still comes to a small degree from wild collections in Spain and several Balkan countries, but predominantly from domestic crops.

Ingredients of the drug

Arnica flowers contain sesquiterpene lactones (Helena Line, Dihydrohelenaline), flavonoids, caffeoylquinic acids, polyacetylenes and essential oil.

Descriptions of the quality

The quality of the following drugs or drug preparations is specified in the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur):

  • Arnica flowers (Arnica flos)
  • Arnica tincture (Arnica tinctura)

Medical Application

Recognised medical use

For external use for injuries and accidents, e.g. haematoma, sprains, bruises, contusions, oedema, fractures, also with rheumatic muscles and joint pains. Inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat, furunculosis, and inflammation as a result of insect bites, superficial phlebitis (Commission E); externally for bruises sprains and inflammation caused by insect bites, for oral mucositis, aphthous ulcers, for the symptomatic treatment of rheumatic complaints (ESCOP).

Traditional use

No listing for traditional medicinal use (§ 109a).

Medicinal herbal preparations in finished drug products

  • oily extracts of arnica flowers in ointments
  • tincture for compresses and as a component of ointments
  • alcoholic extract of the whole plant into ointments, gels and liquids for external use

Dosage

Prepared drugs: see packaging leaflet;
Tea infusion: only recommended for external use in the form of compresses.
However, this tincture is better suited to a cooling compress diluted 3-times with water. Arnica tincture is diluted 10 times with water for mouthwashes.

Preparation of a tea infusion

Pour 100 ml of hot water over 2g of arnica flowers, let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then strain and leave to cool. Not to be ingested, only use externally in the form of cooling compresses!

Advice

Arnica preparations must be avoided with existing allergies to Compositae (Asteraceae).
There is still no experience on the harmlessness of using arnica during pregnancy or breast-feeding as well as children under the age of 12. As a precaution, this group of people are therefore to be discouraged from treatment with arnica flowers.

Side effects

With prolonged use or in preparations with damaged skin, arnica flowers can cause oedematous dermatitis with the formation of blisters. Arnica may therefore only be applied to unbroken skin. With prolonged use eczema can also develop in uninjured skin.

Interactions

None known.

References

Drug monographs

Commission E, ESCOP, WHO (Vol. 3)

Further reading

Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 91
Schilcher: Leitfaden Phytotherapie, pg. 43
Van Wyk: Handbuch der Arzneipflanzen, pg. 53
Kommentar zum Europäischen Arzneibuch (arnica flower, no. 1391; arnica tincture, no. 1809)

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