Arnica

Arnica (Shan Jin Che)

Botanical Name: Arnica codifolia, A. montana

Arnica heals bruises by helping to mobilize white blood cells to clean up and repair wounds faster. Arnica is especially recommended for pain derived from trauma (injuries) or inflammation (such as arthritis). It is only used externally, except as a homeopathic remedy, which is safe for internal use.

Watch a short video, from Ann Christensen, Founder and Creator of White Rabbit Institute of Healing™ – Is Mexican Arnica The Same As European Arnica?

Below is an overview of Arnica, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of arnica.

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Western

Western Name: Arnica

Also Known As: Mountain Tobacco, Mountain Snuff, Wolfsbane, Leopard’s Bane, Mountain Arnica, Wound Herb

Organs/Systems: Muscular-Skeletal, Skin

Key Actions: Anti-inflammatory, Analgesic, Antibacterial, Abortifacient, Respiratory-stimulant, Antihistaminic

Medicinal Uses: Used Externally Only – Bruises, pain relief, arthritis, swellings, toothache, mouth sores, pre and post-dental or other surgeries, sore throat, headaches, stomach cramping, homeopathic remedy for injuries, and muscle pain.

Eastern

Pin Yin: Shan Jin Che

Also Known As: N/A

Meridians: Spleen, Kidney

Key Actions: Tonifies and Moves Qi, Tonifies Yin and Yang

Medicinal Uses: Used Externally Only – Heals bruises faster, inflammation, arthritis, sprains, muscle aches, hair loss, dry lips, acne.

Basic Habitat / Botany:

Arnica is a perennial herbaceous herb in the sunflower family Asteraceae. There are about 30 different species. It grows 1-2 feet tall with yellow-orange flowers similar to daisies. Its stems are round and hairy with 1 to 3 flowers on each stalk. The plant’s upper leaves are toothed and slightly hairy, while its lower leaves have rounded tips. Its plant roots run deep.

Arnica is native to and mainly grows, in Siberia and central Europe. It is now cultivated in the temperate climates of North America. Arnica likes mountainous environments in nutrient-rich and slightly dry soils.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Fresh or Dried Flowers, Whole Plan

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.

Key Constituents: Helenalin, Flavonoids, Polysaccharides, Inulin, Tannis, Mucilage, Resin, and Derivatives of Thymol

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 arnica’s known toxicity when ingested, would not be followed today.

The name “arnica” is believed to be derived from the Greek word “arni” meaning “lamb”, about 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 that are left on as long as possible, arnica is applied for short periods 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 plant’s 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 ability 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 ensure 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.

Did you know?

Treats Injuries

Mix 1 tbsp of arnica tincture in 1 pint of water. Use a cotton pad to apply the mixture to aching joints or bruised areas.

Facts

Foot Bath

Arnica tincture can be mixed with warm water to make a soothing foot bath for sore tired feet.

Fun fact!

Hair Growth

Rinsing your hair with a solution of arnica can stimulate hair growth.

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