Our arnica flowers are harvested from cultivated plants of the North American species, a sustainable substitute for the protected European species, Arnica Montana.
Common name: Arnica
Synonyms: North American meadow arnica, flor de arnica (Spanish)
The Plant: The species of arnica traditionally known as the herb arnica is Arnica Montana, a Central and Northern European wildflower that is now a protected species in much of its range. It grows at higher elevations of 2,000 to 3,000 feet and the harvest of arnica flowers is strictly regulated.
Arnica is a low-growing perennial with daisy-like flowers with a yellow center and lighter color petals. The flowers are separated from the receptacles and the bract so that arnica herb consists of the florets. Bristly white hairs attached to the ovary give the herb a have a somewhat fuzzy appearance. Arnica has a faint aroma and a spicy, somewhat bitter flavor.
Constituents of Note: The active principles, the helenalins (helanlin and related sesquiterpene lactones) are present in both species. While there are differences in the reported constituent levels of the two species in the scientific literature, the constituent levels in Arnica montana from different origins is as pronounced as the differences in the two species. The bitter taste of arnica flowers comes from arnicin.
Quality: Arnica is often adulterated with less expensive Mexican arnica (Heterotheca inuloides, also known as false arnica), making botanical identification of the flowers a necessity. The adulteration can easily be detected upon close examination of the florets.
Mexican arnica florets do not have a pappus (a modified calyx composed of bristles or hairs). The arnica floret, shown in the magnified picture to the right, has a ring of bristle-like hairs around the yellow floret, characteristic of arnica and missing in adulterants of anica.
Regulatory Status: GRAS at low levels as a natural flavoring in alcoholic beverages (172.510)
Did you know? Arnica is a member of the Compositae or aster family, which contains many plants avoided by allergy sufferers. It is thought the name "arnica" originates from a Greek word meaning "sneezing."
Directions: To make an herbal compress (fomentation), pour 1/4 cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of arnica and steep for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain.
Suggested Uses: Arnica is a component of salves, ointments and other preparations for application to unbroken skin. Tinctures are another common preparation of arnica. Arnica is not recommended for internal use, except as prescribed in homeopathy. (It is in the homeopathic pharmacopoeia.)
Caution/Safety: The Botanical Safety Handbook* classifies Arnica as:
Class:2b not to be used during pregnancy
Class 2d do not use on open wounds or broken skin
Per the German Commission E Monograph** for arnica flower contraindications include avoiding if you have an arnica allergy. No drug interactions known. Side effects include eczema with long term use, edematous dermatitis with prolonged use on damaged skin, and toxic skin reactions with use of high concentrations.
*Michael McGuffin, ed., American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook, (New York: CRC Press, 1997)
**Mark Blumenthal, ed., The Complete German Commission E Monographs, (Austin TX: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998
Origins: Our arnica is cultivated by small farmers in Central Poland. Arnica seeds are planted in April and the plant is harvested when it is in full flower in July to August.