Arnica

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Arnica montana Asteraceae Also called Mountain tobacco, Leopard's bane.


A perennial, native to mountainous regions, arnica is characterised by its bright yellow, daisy-like flowers borne on tall, hairy stems in summer. The name arnica is thought to come from the Greek word 'arnikos', which means lamb's skin and alludes to the downy texture of the plant's leaves.The leaves are pointed and form a rosette around the base.


Parts used

  • Flowers
  • Harvested in June and July and quickly dried, the flowers form the base of numerous preparations usually tinctures and extracts.
  • Mountain arnica is the only species that is used in herbal medicine and should not be confused with its relative Arnica chamissonis, a plant grown for ornamental purposes.

Constituents

Arnica contains anti-inflammatory sesquiterpenic lactones - the most important medically is helenalin. Arnica also contains flavonoids which strengthen blood vessels.


CAUTIONS

  • Arnica is for external use only; preparations must never be used near the eyes and the mouth, nor on open wounds.
  • If there is any contact with an open wound, it must be washed with plenty of distilled water.
  • Under no circumstances should arnica be used to treat children under three years old.

The sesquiterpenoid content may cause skin allergies for some people, and so it is sensible to carry out an initial patch test. Stop the treatment immediately if there is any sign of irritation; the irritation should then gradually disappear.


PREPARATION AND DOSAGE

For external use only


TO TREAT bruising
TINCTURE Use to make a compress and apply to the affected area.
CREAMS, GELS Massage into the affected area, as directed. If necessary, repeat two or three times a day.


IF SYMPTOMS PERSIST CONSULT A DOCTOR

Medicinal uses

Arnica's primary use is for relieving bruising. The various lactones found in the plant inhibit the leakage of blood under the skin and prevent the inflammation of the tissues surrounding the area.


Arnica is also used to relieve sprains and other minor injuries where there is swelling but no blood loss or broken skin. In studies carried out in 1979 and 1980 using sesquiterpenic lactones, helenalin was found to inhibit swelling and chronic arthritis in rats.


Another use of arnica is for treating bacterial and fungal infections. It should never be taken internally, although there is a homeopathic form that is a remedy for injuries, accidents and shock.


Cultivation

This hardy plant should be planted in well-drained acidic soil. It prefers a sunny location. Picking wild arnica is prohibited because the plant is threatened with extinction in its natural habitats.



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