Arnica Summary:

Arnica is one of the best herbs for bruises, sprains, and breaks, but is suggested by many authority sources that it should not be used internally. This may be an outdated suggestion based on several newer reports providing evidence for arnicas lack of negative side effects when taken internally. Studies have indicated that the lethal dose is well over 5 g/kg (which is nearly impossible to consume). Until more studies are done to confirm this, Arnica is suggested for topical use only.  

This mountain growing flower has a variety of chemicals known to speed and promote healing, and prevents blood from leaking into the interstitial spaces from an injury (resulting in a bruise). It is also highly useful for reducing the pain associated with these injuries as well as anti-inflammatory actions. 

Arnica is perfectly suited for topical liniments, infusions, creams, and slaves to treat broken bones, wounds, and skin inflammations.


Botanical Name:

Arnica montana

Arnica chamissonis (Subsp. foliosa)

 

Family:

Asteraceae

 

Part used:

Flower

Herbal Actions:

Internal (Not recommended)

  • Anti-alzheimer's
  • Antioxidant

Topical

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Vulnerary
  • Antiecchymotic
  • Analgesic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Rubefacient (Mild)
arnica leaf dried

Dosage (Topical)

Tincture (1:5)

Dilute with 5 times as much water. Apply 2-3 times/day. [11].

Ointment (Standardised to 10-25% of 1:5 tincture)

Apply 2-3 times/day [11].

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Indications:

[1, 3, 11]

  • Bruises
  • Sprains
  • Muscle soreness/aches
  • Chronic venous insufficiency
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Inflamed insect bites
  • Haemotomas
  • Oedema resulting from fracture
  • Rheumatic arthritis
  • Furunculosis
  • Alopecia neurotica

Common Names:

  • Arnica
  • Leopards bane
  • Mountain tobacco
  • Mountain snuff
  • Wolf's bane

Traditional Uses:

Arnica has a long history of use for its anti-inflammatory, and vulnerary actions [4, 9, 10]. 

It was mainly used for the treatment of sprains, bruises, hemotomas, and other injuries [4, 5, 9, 10]. 


    Botanical Description:

    Arnica has a rosette flower arrangement, with a flower stalk coming up from the center. The stalk can reach a height of 60 cm, and bears a yellow flower. [12].


    Habitat Ecology, and Distribution:

    Arnica montana is mainly distributed in the mountainous regions of Europe [8] and North America. 


    Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:

    The flowering heads are often made into a macerated oil, or tincture and used topically [1]. 

     

    Constituents

    Chemical class Chemical Name [3, 8] % Dried Weight Solubility
    Bitters Arnicin Unknown N/A
    Benzopyrones Coumarins Unknown N/A
    Fatty acids Palmitic acid, Linoleic acid, Myristic acid, Linolenic acid. Unknown N/A
    Flavonoids Rutin, Luteolin, Quercetin, Myricetin, Apigenin Unknown N/A
    Phenolic acids Chlorogenic acid, Cynarin, Caffeic acid, Gallic acid, Coumaric acid, Ferulic acid. Unknown N/A
    Phytosterols INSERT Unknown N/A
    Polysaccharides Inulin, Phulin? Unknown N/A
    Sesquiterpene lactones Helenalin, Eupafolin, Patuletin, Spinacetin Unknown N/A
    Volatile oils Thymol and derrivatives Unknown N/A
     

    Pharmacology and Medical Research:

     

    Anti-acetylcholinesterase

    Acetylcholinesterase inhibiters are becoming a more popular method of treating and preventing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimers. This condition is thought to be caused by the buildup of amyloid plaques in the synapses due to the breakdown of acetylcholine by the acetylcholinesterase enzymes. [6]. Modern Alzheimers treatments may use acetylcholinesterase inhibitors as a portion of the treatment. 

    Arnica montana flowerhead methanol extract has been shown to possess moderate anti-acetylcholinesterase activities in vitro [4]. 

     

    Antinflammatory:

    The sesquiterpene lactone content of arnica is suggested to act on inflammation through immunological processes. Helanine for example, a known antinflammatory agent and sesquiterpene lactone, is found in relevant concentrations in arnica along with several other closely related sesquiterpene lactones. [3]. Several mechanisms of action are suggested from neutrophil modulation (cAMP, uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation, inhibition of lysosomal activity),  liver cell modulation (cAMP elevation, lysosomal enzyme inhibition), and inhibition of NF-kB [11]. 

     

    Antioxidant

    Arnica ethanolic extracts contains a high phenolic and flavonoid content which has been found to provide significant antioxidative and cytoprotective actions topically [8]. 

     

    Immunostimulant:

    The immunostimulating action of arnica is suggested to be due to the sesquiterpene lactone content, as well as a polysaccharide fraction which act on phagocytosis [3]. 

     

    Toxicity

    • This herb is generally regarded for external use only, and many countries including Australia have made it illegal to use internally. There is however a lot of conflicting opinions on this idea, with many suggesting it can be taken internally safely and effectively. The general consensus currently is that it may potentially be toxic and should be contraindicated internally. The sesquiterpene lactones are suggested to be the main toxic constituent in arnica [3]. 
    • The German Commission E Monographs recommend Arnica oil to be used in external applications only, and on injuries in which the skin is not broken [2]. 
    • Avoid contact with the eyes
    • The dermal LD50 of Arnica resinoid in rabbits was over 5g/kg in rabbits [7]. 
    • The oral LD50 of Arnica montana extract was over 5g/kg and 123 mg/kg in rats and mice respectively [7]. 
    • Arnica resinoid extract at 5 g/kg orally was shown to produce no negative side effects, and the LD50 of the resinoid was found to be over 5g/kg in rats. 
    • Research into the phototoxicity of various Arnica extracts and mixtures were found to have no phototoxic effects [7]. 
     

    Cautions:

    • Sensitivity to Asteraceae family
    • Do not use for a prolonged period of time (Over 4 weeks)
    • Arnica topical application may result in a sensitivity in some individuals which appears as a red, itchy rash [3]. 

    Synergy:

    Still compiling research. 


    Author:

    Justin Cooke

    The Sunlight Experiment

    Updated: June 2017


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    References:

    1. Battaglia, S. (2003). The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Brisbane, Australia: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy. (Pg 313)
    2. Blumenthal M. (1998). The complete German comission E Monographs: Therapeutic guide to herbal medicine. American Botanical Council, USA. 
    3. Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press. (Pg. 529-530)
    4. Zheleva-Dimitrova D, Balabanova V. (2012). Antioxidant and acetylcholinesterase inhibitory potential of Arnica montana cultivated in Bulgaria. Turk J Biol. 36. 732-737. 
    5. Wijnsma R, Woerdenbag HJ, Busse W. (1995). The importance of Arnica species in phytomedicine. Z Phytother 16: 48−62, 1995.
    6. Wattmo C, Minthon L, and Wallin A.K. (2016). Mild versus moderate stages of Alzheimer's disease: three-year outcomes in a routine clinical setting of cholinesterase inhibitor therapy. Alzheimers Research & Therapy. 8:7. DOI: 10.1186/s13195-016-0174-1
    7. Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Arnica Montana Extract and Arnica Montana. (2001). International Journal of Toxicology, 20(2), 1-11. doi:10.1080/10915810160233712
    8. Craciunescu, O., Constantin, D., Gaspar, A., Toma, L., Utoiu, E., & Moldovan, L. (2012). Evaluation of antioxidant and cytoprotective activities of Arnica montana L. and Artemisia absinthium L. ethanolic extracts. Chemistry Central Journal, 6(1), 97. doi:10.1186/1752-153x-6-97
    9. Auld CA, Hopkins RG, Fernandes KM, Morrison RF. (2006). Novel effect of helenalin on Akt signaling and Skp2 expression in 3 T3-L1 preadipocytes. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2006, 346:314–320.
    10. Klaas CA, Wagner G, Laufer S, Sosa S, Loggia R, Bomme U, Pahl HL, Merfort I. (2002). Studies on the anti-inflammatory activity of phytopharmaceuticals prepared from Arnica flowers. Planta Med 2002, 68:385–391.
    11. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a.: Churchill Livingstone. (Pg. 70-72). 
    12. A modern herbal. (n.d.). Arnica. Retrieved August 13, 2016, from http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/arnic058.html