Arnica (Arnica montana)

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Arnica Summary

Arnica is a flower found in mountainous regions of both Europe and North America.

It's considered to be one of the best for treating injuries like broken bones, strains, sprains, and bruising.

It can prevent excessive fluid from leaking into the interstitial spaces, leading to bruising, swelling, and pain.

Most accounts don't recommend arnica internally, and some case reports have suggested liver toxicity as a result.

As such, arnica shouldn't be used on broken skin, which offers a direct route to the bloodstream, and eventually the liver.

Topical creams, salves, and liniments are typical methods of applying arnica and are a great thing to have around in a first aid kit.

 

+ Indications

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

+ Contraindications

  • Do not take internally

Herbal Actions:

(Topical)

  • Antinflammatory
  • Vulnerary
  • Anti-ecchymotic
  • Analgesic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Rubefacient
 

What Is Arnica Used For?

Arnica is used for treating minor wounds, bruising, and inflammation of the skin. It makes for a great first aid herb.

 

Traditional Uses

Arnica has a long history of use for its anti-inflammatory, and vulnerary actions. It was mainly used for the treatment of sprains, bruises, hemotomas, and other injuries [4, 5, 9, 10].

 

Herb Details

Weekly Dose

Family Name

Asteraceae

Distribution

Mountainous regions of Europe and North America

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Constituents of Interest

  • Arnicin
  • Coumarins
  • Rutin
  • Inulin

Common Names

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

CYP450

  • Unknown

Quality

  • Unknown

Pregnancy

  • Not safe for consumption. Avoid using on open cuts.

Taste

  • Unknown

Duration of Use

  • Long term use topically is acceptable.
 

Botanical Information

Asteraceae is the largest of the flowering plant families with as much as 1911 genera (including Arnica), and 33,000 species.

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].

 

Harvesting Collection, and Preparation

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

 

Habitat Ecology, and Distribution

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

 

Pharmacology & Medical Research

+ Alzheimer's Disease

Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are becoming a more popular method of treating and preventing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's. 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 Alzheimer's 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]. More information is needed to determine how this applies on a human subject.

+ Inflammation

The sesquiterpene lactone content of arnica is suggested to act on inflammation through immunological processes. Helanine for example, a known anti-inflammatory 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 contain a high phenolic and flavonoid content which has been found to provide significant antioxidative and cytoprotective actions topically [8].

+ Immunostimulation

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

 

Clinical Applications Of Arnica:

Arnica is used topically to heal minor wounds, bruising, and inflammation. It should not be used on broken skin or internally.

 

Cautions:

There have been numerous case reports and older studies suggesting that arnica may be harmful to the liver if ingested internally. As a result, arnica is not recommended for use on open wounds or 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]. 

 

Author:

Justin Cooke BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated November 2018)

 
 

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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