Arnica is an herb in the dandelion family that originated in Central Europe and Siberia. You can also find it in the US and in Canada. Arnica has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. Both Europeans and Native Americans discovered the value of the plant independently of each other. Native Americans used to smoke arnica, which (in addition to the fact that it grows at high altitudes) led to one of its many nicknames: mountain tobacco. Swiss mountain guides were said to chew its leaves while climbing and the herb was believed to prevent fatigue. Arnica is still often used in Mexican traditional medicine.
One early documented use of arnica was in the 16th century when it was used to treat fevers and poor digestion.
Arnica would become a mainstay of homeopathy in the 19th century based on the research of Samuel Hahnemann, the German physician who created homeopathy. Arnica was also praised by early homeopathic physician James Tyler Kent.
The Latin name for arnica is Arnica montana while the German name is fallkraut. The name arnica comes from the Greek word arna, meaning lamb. The leaves are coated with fine hair, which may be the reason it is likened to lambs.
These days, most of the arnica plants that you will find growing in the wild are hybrids rather than the pure species.
Arnica flavor profile
Arnica has a scent that is strongly evocative of pine and that is accompanied by an intensely bitter, acrid flavor.
Health benefits of arnica
Among the health-enhancing compounds in arnica that are responsible for its reputation as an herbal healer are:
- Inulin: Inulin is an important plant fiber found in various plants including chicory and arnica.
- Flavonoids: Flavonoids are plant pigments found in many different plants and which can be found in arnica as well.
- Minerals: Arnica contains both selenium and manganese.
Arnica is believed to be one of the most versatile herbal medications. You can use it to treat or prevent:
- Arthritis: Because its anti-inflammatory properties, arnica provides relief from the stiffness that can come with arthritis.
- General pain: Arnica works by encouraging the processes by which your body heals itself rather than by simply masking pain. It offers advantages over over-the-counter pain treatment since it comes with none of the potential health hazards.
- Bruises: Arnica can speed to the rate at which bruises heal. It does this by increasing the number of white blood cells sent to the site of the injury thus shortening healing time.
- Inflammation: Arnica’s main function is that of anti-inflammatory. Its main effect is to lower swelling, which means that it can help with the treatment of broken bones in addition to sprains and other similar injuries.
Note that arnica contains helenalin, a toxin that can cause skin irritation when used topically and gastroenteritis and internal bleeding when taken internally. Exercise extreme caution when using arnica; in fact, experts recommend that you take arnica only under medical supervision.
While arnica is most often applied topically, it can be ingested as well. To take arnica internally, use it to make a tea. To make arnica tea, it is suggested that you use the fresh or dried flowers from the plant. Use one teaspoon of arnica per cup.