Arnica (Shan Jin Che)
Botanical Name: Arnica codifolia, A. montana
Arnica is a toxic herb, but can be ingested in highly diluted form in homeopathic remedies, where it is used to ease pain and inflammation. Typically it is used topically and is considered one of the best herbs for helping to heal bruises fast. Arnica does this by helping to mobilize white blood cells to cleanup and repair wounds faster. Arnica is especially recommended for pain derived from trauma (injuries) or inflammation (such as arthritis).
Below is an overview of Arnica (Shan Jin Che), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Arnica (Shan Jin Che).
Western Name: Arnica
Also Known As: Mountain Tobacco, Mountain Snuff, Wolfsbane, Leopard’s bane, Mountain Arnica, Wound Herb
Organs/Systems: Injury and Joint, Skin, and Muscle Aches
Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Anti-inflammatory, Analgesic, Antibacterial, Abortifacient, Respiratory-stimulant, Antihistaminic. Used Externally: Bruises, pain relief, arthritis, swellings, toothache, mouth sores, sore throat, headaches, stomach cramping.
Pin Yin: Shan Jin Che
Also Known As: N/A
Meridians: Spleen, Kidney
Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Tonifies and Moves Qi/Tonifies Yin and Yang: heal bruises faster, inflammation, arthritis, sprains, muscle aches, hair loss, dry lips, acne, eczema.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Fresh or Dried Flowers, Whole Plant
Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Bitter, Neutral
Caution: Safe to use topically or in homeopathic remedies. Toxic if otherwise ingested, causing vomiting, dizziness, and heart irregularities. Contact with the plant can cause skin irritations. Not recommended for pregnant women.
History/Folklore: Arnica has been used as a medicine since the 1500s. As it can be toxic, it is typically applied topically or used internally only in homeopathic remedies that use extremely diluted amounts of the herb and are considered safe for internal use. It is said that the German poet Goethe consumed arnica tea to relieve chest pain, a practice, that given arnicas known toxicity when ingested, would not be used today.
The name “arnica” is believed to be derived from the Greek word “arni” meaning “lamb”, in reference to the soft hairy leaves. It can also be commonly called Mountain Tobacco, and confusingly, Leopard’s bane and Wolfsbane, which are two common names for an entirely unrelated plant in the genus Aconitum.
The constituent helenalin, found in arnica, is a major active ingredient in anti-inflammatory preparations used to treat bruises.
Arnica is used to treat mouth and throat inflammation and sores, including post dental surgery. It can also be used to relieve insect bites, muscle pain, and bruising.
While famous for treating injuries causing swelling and pain, arnica is not recommended for direct application on broken skin, such as leg ulcers. Unlike many poultices which are left on as long as possible, arnica is applied for short periods of time to prevent the skin from becoming irritated.
The herb is an abortifacient and not recommended for pregnant women.
Arnica is used in hair tonics and anti-dandruff preparations. The oil is used in perfumes and cosmetics.
In Asia, arnica roots are more valued than the flowers that are more commonly used in the West. The roots are soaked in alcohol and this mixture is then diluted and applied to injuries and skin disorders. Very small amounts of diluted arnica have been used internally to provide pain-relief, but due to the plants extreme toxicity, this approach is no longer used or recommended.
In Medieval times, mild infusions of arnica were used as an emmenagogue, a highly risky abortifacient, to quicken labor, and ease the pain of delivery.
Used in magic, arnica is valued for its amazing abilities to hasten the healing of injuries. This ability made it a sacred herb to Native Americans. It was sometimes planted as an offering plant to the corn spirits in the corners of fields where crops might be grown to insure healthy crops and a good harvest.
Used in foods, arnica is used as a flavoring agent for frozen desserts, candy, puddings and beverages.
Arnica flowers are harvested between June and August. The flowers, once dried are best used within the first 12-18 months of harvest. Arnica roots are harvested in autumn after the leaves have died down.
Helenalin, Flavonoids, Polysaccharides, Inulin, Tannis, Mucilage, Resin, Derivatives of Thymol.
Mix 1 tbsp of arnica tincture in 1 pint of water. Use cotton pad to apply mixture to aching joints or bruised areas.
Arnica tincture can be mixed with warm water to make a soothing foot bath for sore tired feet.
Rinsing your hair with a solution of arnica can stimulate hair growth.
References: For a complete list of references please visit our References and Resources page.
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