Arnica

Arnica CO2 & with Sunflower

a bottle of Arnica CO2
Arnica CO2 & with Sunflower

Introduction & Synopsis ~ Arnica is an introduced plant in the United States that was used in Europe as a painkiller, is now used in gels and products specifically to relieve aches and pains of overused joints and muscles.

Common Name/Latin binomial ~ Arnica, Arnica montana, or mountain tobacco or Leopard’s bane has many species (up to 34), subspecies, and varieties. Montana means ‘of the mountain’ and not from Montana.

Other Names and Background  ~ the common names listed above are also used for other plants, and in the case of Arnica spp., it is best to use this simple descriptor, Arnica, rather than any of the so-called common names that people often use.

Family ~ Asteraceae, Compositae, is a very large and widespread family of flowering plants. In terms of numbers of species, the Asteraceae are rivaled only by the Orchidaceae. herbaceous plants (Sunflower) , shrubs, and trees (such as Lachanodes arborea is one) distributed throughout the world. The plants are characterized by their composite flower heads and one-seeded achene fruits

Both Arnica and Sunflower are members of this family and includes lettuce, daisies, sunflowers, chrysanthemums, asters, marigolds, zinnias, asters, chamomile, chicory, sage, tarragon, ragweed, thistle, sagebrush, yarrow and much more.

photo of Arnica flowers and Sunflowers
bristly Arnica and blooming Sunflower

Arnica flowers and Sunflowers

History of the Plants ~ As early as the 16th century, Arnica was traditionally used in Europe as an anti-inflammatory for the treatment of aches and sprains.

Countries of Origin & Extraction  ~ Arnica is indigenous to north and central Europe and is now grown organically in several countries; the flowers are dried, and then solvent-extracted by supercritical fluid extraction with natural carbon dioxide. There are no solvent residues, no inorganic salts, no heavy metals, no reproducible microorganisms. This CO2 extract is standardized with organically grown sunflower oil to a constant content of 3.5 to 4.5% sesquiterpene lactones with a small amount of essential oil, waxes, resins, and sunflower oil.

            Some Arnica is gathered from the wild in Canada, but commercial production of the native and/or European species is also being fostered in several regions.

            Arnica cordifolia is found throughout the western United States, in high mountains and coniferous forests. This was  used by native Americans normally as an herbal mash or compress and applied to swellings and bruises.

General Description of Plant habitat and Growth ~ The Arnicas (genus Arnica) are relatively simple to identify. They are the only genus of yellow-rayed composites that regularly have opposite, simple leaves (not divided into leaflets) and hair-like (capillary) bristles topping the fruits. These features are easy to see without magnification.

Endangered ~ In 2020 an article in the PLOS ONE journal stated that “Populations of Arnica montana, a characteristic species of nutrient poor grasslands in Central Europe, have been deteriorating over the last decades, especially in lowland regions. Population size has been declining and signs of sexual reproduction are scarce. “Where once there had been large stable populations there is now small or none. The soil has become nutrient rich which diminishes the number of seedlings.”

Organoleptics ~ This product is a thick, viscous, brownish red paste with a mild pleasant scent that is slighty spicy, floral, and vegetative and is quite pleasant to smell.

General Properties of Arnica and Sunflower in Skin Care ~ Arnica is an anti-inflammatory and is used with Sunflower seed oil. This vegetable oil has many fine qualities; especially that it is light in texture, supremely adaptable for delicate skin care, it is inexpensive, it is locally grown, and usually grown without pesticides and fungicides as the flowers are high in the air and well-away from soil borne fungus or bugs, it is adapted to dry-farming and thus ecologically and earth friendly, and your skin will like it.

This is oil is healthy for the skin and healthy for the planet. It is a fine-quality oil, especially for normal to oily skin.  It is especially nice for aromatherapy uses because it has very little scent and is very light in texture on the skin.  

Blending for Purpose ~ Arnica CO2 can be dissolved in any vegetable oil or in cosmetic products as the Arnica extract acts to relieve muscle soreness and expedite healing of bruised and strained muscles.

Culinary/Internal Use ~ Not used. Arnica is not used internally, as it is poisonous and should not be taken internally or by mouth. Arnica contains the toxin helenalin which can be poisonous if large amounts of the plant are eaten; and it can cause  irritation of the mouth and throat, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, shortness of breath, a fast heartbeat, an increase in blood pressure, heart damage, organ failure, increased bleeding, coma, and death.

Maceration ~ When used externally it is good for bruising but for those with sensitive skin contact with the plant can also cause skin irritation. Instead of Arnica, use other organically grown plants that are anti-inflammatory. 

HERBAL USES ~ Topical arnica is promoted as a useful treatment for the inflammation and pain associated with bruises, aches, postsurgical bruising and swelling, and sprains. It is of traditional use in the treatment of sports injuries.
           Arnica patches placed at the very point of greatest pain eases the pain of fibromyalgia. Laura stated, “I used one on my shoulder and felt relief very quickly. After about 2 hours, I could feel ache returning and removed the patch. My skin had a slight red area where the patch had been. The redness was gone within the hour. I found the patch had little to no outward fragrance. It stayed on very well.”

          Oral homoeopathic arnica is used for the treatment of postsurgical bruising and swelling, for the relief of mouth and throat inflammation.             

Chemistry and Components ~ Arnica Flower CO2-to extract (organic), 4 % Sesquiterpene lactones. Flavex of Germany has a good summation of Arnica’s mechanism of Activity and the literature: “Mechanism of Activity. The sesquiterpene lactones with mainly esters of helenalin and 11 alpha,13-dihydrohelenalin are responsible for the anti-inflammatory and pharmacological activity. They not only inhibit the NF-kappa B activation, but also decrease the production of many inflammatory cytokines. This prevents the recruitment of immune cells, T- and B-cells, as well as macrophages and neutrophils and thus reduce inflammation. It has been shown that helenalin can inactivate previously activated NF-kappa B, a decisive factor for treatment of inflammation.”

Contraindications ~ Arnica is a bristly, deep-rooted plant with leathery lower leaves, and takes over the earth where it does not belong, injuring the animals that eat it by damaging the digestive system. Arnica has the ability to prevent clots from forming and thus should not be taken in herbal products or medication that thin blood such as aspirin, ginger, garlic, ginger and many different medications. Arnica is poisonous if taken internally; it poisons the animals that eat it and threatens pastureland where it is a widespread invader in the United States and should not be grown here.

Warning ~ Arnica is toxic, do not take internally.

Key Uses ~ Anti-inflammatory, improves blood-circulation when applied externally

References – PLOS ONE – May 29, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0233709
The Healing Power of Plants. Virtual Museum.ca
Foster and Hobbs. Medicinal Plants and Herbs. Peterson Field Guides. 2002

Source ~ Many thanks to PrimaFleurBotanicals.com for the samples of Arnica and assistance.
Jeanne Rose Herbal Studies & Aromatherapy Studies Courseshttp://www.jeannerose.net

This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.

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SOME CAUTIONS TO REMEMBER FOR ALL PLANTS & THEIR PARTS

Precautions and Contraindications
Precautions & Contraindications

Moderation in All Things.
Be moderate in your use of essential oils as they are just not sustainable for the environment.
Be selective and more moderate in your usage.
Use the herb first as tea or the infusion. —JeanneRose 2014

DISCLAIMER:  This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor.  The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©

small bottle of arnica in a porcelain dish
Arnica in a 100-year-old porcelain dish

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3 thoughts on “Arnica

  1. Thank you, Jeanne, for this fantastic entry! Your blogs are always a complete and understandable presentation that leaves the reader feeling fully informed. I am keeping them as a sort of encyclopedia.

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