Arnica (Arnica montana)

Arnica (Arnica montana)

Botany, Geographical Distribution, and Horticultural Information of Arnica (Arnica montana)

Botanical Description:

Arnica montana, commonly known as wolf’s bane, leopard’s bane, mountain tobacco, and mountain arnica, is a moderately toxic flowering plant in the daisy family Asteraceae. It is characterized by a large yellow flower head and is known for its aromatic, herbaceous, perennial nature. The plant typically grows about 18–60 cm tall. Its basal green ovate leaves are bright colored, somewhat downy, and form rosettes at the ground level. The upper leaves are spear-shaped and smaller, which is unusual within the Asteraceae family. Arnica montana flowers between May and August in Central Europe, with hairy flowers composed of yellow disc florets in the center and orange-yellow ray florets externally. The plant is a hemicryptophyte, aiding its survival in extreme winter conditions. It also forms rhizomes, growing in a two-year cycle .

Geographical Distribution:

Arnica montana is widespread across most of Europe but is absent from the Celtic Isles, the Italian and Balkan peninsulas. It is considered extinct in Hungary and Lithuania. The plant predominantly grows in nutrient-poor siliceous meadows or clay soils, mostly on alpine meadows and up to nearly 3,000 meters. In upland regions, it may also be found on nutrient-poor moors and heaths. Arnica montana is a reliable bioindicator for nutrient-poor and acidic soils. Its distribution has become rarer, particularly in the north, largely due to intensive agriculture and commercial wildcrafting. The plant is cultivated on a large scale in Estonia .

Horticultural Information:

Arnica montana is propagated from seed, with about 20% of seeds typically not germinating. For large-scale planting, it is recommended to raise plants first in a nursery and then transplant them into the field. Seeds sprout in 14–20 days, but germination rates highly depend on seed quality. The planting density is about 20 plants/m2, with maximum yield density achieved in the second flowering season. The plant has high soil quality requirements, and soil analyses should be conducted before any fertilizer input. The flowers are harvested when fully developed and dried without their bract or receptacles. The roots can be harvested in autumn and dried after being carefully washed. Arnica montana is sometimes grown in herb gardens .

Market and Conservation:

The demand for Arnica montana is about 50 tonnes per year in Europe, but the supply does not cover the demand. The plant is rare and protected in several European countries. France and Romania produce Arnica montana for the international market. Changes in agriculture in Europe during the last decades have led to a decline in the occurrence of Arnica montana .


1. Wikipedia: Arnica montana –
2. GBIF: Arnica montana –
3. ScienceDirect: Rhizome and root yield of the cultivated Arnica montana L., chemical composition and histochemical localization of essential oil –
4. Useful Temperate Plants: Arnica montana –
5. Kew Science: Arnica montana L. –


History, Traditional Herbal & Culinary Uses of Arnica (Arnica montana)

History of Arnica:

Arnica montana’s history dates back to the early 16th century as a popular German folk remedy. It was primarily used to treat blunt injuries, bruising, inflammation, and skin lesions. The renowned German literary figure, Goethe, reportedly used Arnica tea to recover from a heart attack, attributing part of his health improvement to Arnica.

Origin and Cultivation:

Arnica is an aromatic, perennial, herbaceous plant with bright yellow flowers blooming from June through August. It grows up to 2 feet tall, with stems covered in light fuzz and egg-shaped leaves arranged in pairs along the stalks. Belonging to the Asteraceae family, Arnica montana is native to Europe, primarily growing in alpine meadows. Despite its widespread growth across Europe, Arnica has become rare due to commercial wild-crafting, leading to restrictions on harvesting wild Arnica. Recent cultivation efforts aim to sustain the natural supply while meeting the demands of the herbal medicinal market.

Hildegard’s Reference to Arnica:

Arnica’s earliest probable medical reference is in Hildegard of Bingen’s “Physica,” where she describes its use for treating skin blemishes. However, there is some dispute over whether Hildegard’s reference was indeed to Arnica or a similar herb. The term “Wuntwurtz” used by Hildegard has no direct translation in German, leading to varying interpretations. Despite this, most agree that Hildegard made the first medical reference to Arnica for healing purposes.

Medicinal Applications:

Arnica’s flowers contain sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids, tannins, coumarin, and essential oils. These components contribute to its use in treating cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Arnica extracts, primarily used in ointments, are applied topically for blunt injuries, bruising, contusions, swelling, sprains, rheumatism, joint problems, chronic venous insufficiency, and insect bites. The sesquiterpene lactones, particularly helenalin, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, acting to suppress cytokines that cause inflammation.

Medicinal Effects:

Arnica preparations are known for their antiseptic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects. The anti-coagulant, anti-inflammatory, and pain-reducing properties of Arnica have maintained its popularity as a natural herbal application for various minor injuries and skin irritations.

Home Use:

Arnica is used in wraps or poultices by combining its flowers with boiling water. This mixture is applied to the affected area for relief. In cases of mouth and throat inflammations, a diluted tincture solution is applied. However, ingestion of Arnica is generally not recommended due to its potential toxicity.


1. “Hildegard’s History of Arnica” –


Pharmacological and Medicinal Scientific Studies on Arnica (Arnica montana)


Arnica montana, a high-altitude perennial plant belonging to the Asteraceae family, is native to Europe, northern Asia, Siberia, Canada, and America. It has been traditionally used in folk medicine and homeopathy for pain relief, inflammation, and swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

Phytochemical Composition:

Arnica montana contains a range of bioactive compounds, including:
– Essential oil
– Fatty acids
– Thymol
– Pseudoguaianolide
– Sesquiterpene lactones (helenalin, 11α, 13-dihydrohelenalin, and their fatty acid esters)
– Flavonoid glycosides (spinacetin, hispidulin, patuletin, and isorhamnetin)

Pharmacological Properties:

Anti-Arthritic Efficiency: The synergism of phenolic and flavonoid compounds in Arnica montana contributes to its anti-arthritic efficiency.
Analgesic and Anti-Inflammatory Properties: The analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of Arnica Montana are primarily attributed to Helenalin, which also exhibits anti-tumor activity against various chemically induced tumors.
Wound Healing and Post-Operative Healing: Arnica Montana has been pharmacologically proven to possess wound healing and post-operative healing properties.
Homeopathic Preparations: Homeopathic preparations of Arnica Montana have shown benefits for arthritis, anti-inflammatory action, anti-hemorrhagic action, wound healing, cellulitis, and furunculosis.

Clinical Applications:

Arnica Montana is widely used in various therapeutic applications, including:
– Treatment of blunt injuries, accidents, bruises, contusions, and dislocations.
– Management of rheumatic muscle and joint complaints.
– Application in cases of furunculosis, inflammations caused by insect bites, and superficial phlebitis.
– Treatment of inflammations of the oral and throat region, including gingivitis and aphthous ulcers.

Regulatory Status:

Medicinal products containing Arnica Montana preparations have been marketed in several European Union Member States. The regulatory status varies, with some countries having traditional use registrations and others having well-established use authorizations.


– “Assessment report on Arnica montana L., flos” –


Specific Phytochemicals in Arnica (Arnica montana)

The main constituents of Arnica montana are essential oils, fatty acids, thymol, pseudoguaianolide sesquiterpene lactones, and flavanone glycosides. Pseudoguaianolide sesquiterpenes, including the toxin helenalin and their fatty esters, constitute 0.2–0.8% of the flower head. The primary components of essential oils from the plant’s roots and rhizomes are 2,5-Dimethoxy-p-cymene and thymol methyl ether .

Further specific individual molecules identified in Arnica montana include:

1. Quinic Acid: A key component in Arnica montana, known for its therapeutic properties.
2. Dicaffeoyl Quinic Acids: These compounds are significant contributors to the plant’s pharmacological profile.
3. Ethyl Caffeate: A molecule identified in Arnica montana, contributing to its medicinal properties.
4. Thymol Derivatives: These compounds are part of the essential oil content in Arnica montana.
5. Dehydrophytosphingosine: A sphingosine derivative found in Arnica montana.
6. Amadori Rearrangement Products (ARP): These compounds are formed through the Maillard reaction and have been identified in Arnica montana.
7. Methoxyoxaloyl-Dicaffeoyl Quinic Acid Esters: These esters are part of the complex phytochemical makeup of Arnica montana.
8. 10-Hydroxy-8,9-Epoxy-Thymolisobutyrate: A putative new natural product detected in Arnica montana.
9. Oxidized Proline Fructose Conjugate: Another putative new natural product identified in the plant.

These phytochemicals contribute to the wide range of therapeutic applications of Arnica montana, making it a valuable herb in traditional medicine and homeopathy.


1. “Comparison of the Phytochemical Variation of Non-Volatile Metabolites within Mother Tinctures of Arnica montana Prepared from Fresh and Dried Whole Plant Using UHPLC-HRMS Fingerprinting and Chemometric Analysis” –


Contraindications and Safety of Arnica (Arnica montana)


Arnica montana, commonly known as Arnica, is an herb used in various forms, including gels, creams, ointments, and homeopathic dilutions. It is primarily used for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

Contraindications and Safety:

1. Oral Consumption:
– Arnica is considered poisonous when taken orally.
– It can cause vomiting, heart damage, organ failure, increased bleeding, coma, and even death.
– Homeopathic arnica, which contains extremely diluted forms of the active chemicals, is generally considered safe for oral consumption.

2. Topical Application:
– Arnica is possibly safe when applied to unbroken skin for short-term use.
– It is likely unsafe to apply Arnica to broken skin as it can be absorbed into the body.
– Prolonged use on the skin may cause irritation, leading to eczema, peeling, blisters, or other skin conditions.

3. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding:
– Arnica should not be taken orally or applied to the skin during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to potential safety concerns.

4. Allergies:
– Individuals allergic to the Asteraceae/Compositae family, which includes ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and others, may have an allergic reaction to Arnica.
– It is advised to consult a healthcare provider before using Arnica if you have allergies.

5. Surgery:
– Arnica might cause extra bleeding during and after surgery. It is recommended to stop using it at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

6. Interactions with Medications:
– Arnica might slow blood clotting, and using it along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding.

7. Dosage:
– The dosage of Arnica varies depending on the form (gel, cream, ointment, or homeopathic dilution) and the condition being treated. It is important to consult a healthcare provider for appropriate dosing.


Arnica montana is a beneficial herb with various therapeutic uses, especially in topical applications for pain and inflammation. However, its use requires caution due to potential toxicity when consumed orally in large amounts, risks associated with its application on broken skin, and possible interactions with other medications. It is advised to consult healthcare professionals before using Arnica, especially in sensitive groups such as pregnant or breastfeeding women, individuals with allergies, and those undergoing surgery.


1. “ARNICA: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews” –