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Arnica

Medically reviewed: June 7, 2018

What is Arnica?

The perennial arnica grows from 0.3 to 0.6 m. Oval-shaped, opposite leaves form a basal rosette close to the soil surface. Arnica has bright yellow, daisy-like flowers that, when dried, are the primary parts used. Roots and rhizomes may also be used. Arnica is native to the mountainous regions of Europe and southern Russia. The unrelated plant monkshood (Aconitum spp.) is referred to as wolf's bane. Arnica is classified as an unsafe herb by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Scientific Name(s)

Arnica montana L. Related species have also been used medicinally including Arnica sororia Greene, Arnica fulgens Pursh., Arnica cordifolia Hook., Arnica chamissonis subsp. foliosa (Nutt.) Maguire.

Common Name(s)

Arnica flos, leopard's bane, mountain snuff, mountain tobacco, sneezewort

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Internal and external preparations made from the flowering heads of arnica have been used medicinally for hundreds of years. Arnica was used extensively in European folk medicine and alcoholic tinctures were produced by early North American settlers to treat sore throats, as a fever reducer, and to improve circulation. Homeopathic uses include the treatment of surgical or accidental trauma, as a painkiller, and in the treatment of postoperative inflammation of a vein caused by a blood clot and blood clot in the lung. It has been used externally for acne, bruises, sprains, and muscle aches. It has also been used as a general topical counterirritant and a CNS stimulant, as well as an antibacterial for abrasions and gunshot wounds. Arnica is also an ingredient in hair tonics, dandruff treatments, perfumes, and cosmetics.

General uses

Arnica and its extracts have been widely used in folk and homeopathic medicine as a treatment for acne, boils, bruises, rashes, sprains, pains, and wounds. Overall, there does not appear to be sufficient evidence to support the use of arnica as an anti-inflammatory or pain relief agent, or to prevent bruising; however, differences in doses and delivery forms (as well as uses) in clinical studies make generalizations difficult.

What is the recommended dosage?

Arnica is classified as an unsafe herb by the FDA because of its toxicity and should not be administered orally or applied to broken skin where absorption can occur. No consensus exists on external dosing, and evidence from clinical trials is lacking to support therapeutic dosing. In homeopathic use, less concentrated strengths have been used.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use. Uterine stimulant action.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Homeopathic doses of arnica are unlikely to exert any adverse reactions because of the small amount ingested. Arnica irritates mucous membranes and causes stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Allergy and skin reactions have been reported.

Toxicology

The plant is poisonous and ingestion can cause gastroenteritis, shortness of breath, cardiac arrest, and death. The flowers and roots of the plant have caused vomiting, drowsiness, and coma when eaten by children.

References

1. Arnica. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; January 2015.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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