Scientific name: Arnica montana

Family: Asteraceae

Parts used: Flowers

Common names: Celtic bane, Mountain tobacco

Introduction:

Arnica montana is one of the natural extracts that we use in our award-winning multi-tasking oil for its healing and anti-inflammatory benefits. 

 Arnica montana (A. montana), synonyms Doronicum arnica and D. montanum, is one of 40 species in the Arnica genus.  It is a well-known member of the daisy family (Asteracea), with daisy-like orange-yellow flowers.  It is native to Europe where it grows wild and is also commonly known as Leopard’s bane, Wolf’s bane, Celtic bane and Mountain tobacco.  Half of the annual global trade is wild-harvested in Romania, and Spain is also a major producer. 1, 2

Arnica is a perennial herb which can grow up to 50cm in height.  The lower leaves form a rosette from which a single stem grows.   The stem contains pairs of downy opposite leaves. The flower is delicate and emits a strong fragrance.   Arnica prefers some shade and grows in alpine meadows and in light forests. 3

 The word arnica comes from the Greek word for lamb’s coat “arnakis”.  It refers to the soft downy sepals that surround the flower.3 Arnica is sternutatory (sneeze causing) and the name is also thought to derive from the Greek word for sneezing “ptarmikos”. The common name Mountain tobacco refers to Arnica’s use as herbal tobacco. 4

Traditional Medicinal Uses:

Arnica has been used as a healing herb in Europe since the middle ages and wound healing effects have been attributed to Arnica.  It was used traditionally for bruising, hematoma, injury, varicose veins, gout, phlebitis, rheumatism, cardiovascular conditions and indigestion. 5

 Arnica has also been used for centuries by Native Americans who independently discovered its healing properties.   It was used as a poultice of soaked flowers, which was applied to the injured area. 6

 

It is a well-known medicinal herb in Germany and its use has been documented since the 1950’s as a remedy for sprains, bruises, dislocations, fractures, muscle and joint problems and against inflammations caused by insect bites.  It has also been used to treat gingivitis and mouth ulcers. 5   The German name for Arnica is Fallkraut or “fall herb” which is most likely a reference to the mountain goats who would clamber to find the Arnica plant after falling or stumbling (an example of zoopharmacognosy). 6

Biological Properties:

 Arnica has been found to be analgesic 7, antimicrobial (2), antitumour (3), anti-inflammatory 6, antioxidant, cardiotonic, immunostimulant (5), choleretic (increase bile secretion) and to improve venous tone and oedema in the legs. 1,7

(1)   Analgesic – Topical application of an arnica gel was reported to relieve muscle ache. 7

 (2)   Antimicrobial – Arnica is reported to be effective against Salmonella and Listeria and its main constituent helenalin, has shown bactericidal action against Bacillus subtilus, Staphylococcus aureus and many other bacteria.   Helenalin is also reported to be have anti-fungal properties. 7,8

(3)   Antitumour – In-vitro studies have demonstrated antitumour activity of helanalin. 7,8

(4)   Anti-inflammatory – In 1981, German researchers showed that the constituent helenalin had anti-inflammatory properties and analgesic properties. 6   

(5)   Immunostimulant - Both in-vitro and in-vivo studies have shown it to have immune stimulating properties. 7

 

Constituents:

 Arnica constituents include sesquiterpene lactones (helenalin) and flavonoids including quercetin.

 Structures of key chemicals

Helenalin – C15H18O4                                  Quercetin – C15H10O7

Commercial uses:

 Medicine:

Creams, sprays, gels, salves and ointments for topical application for sprains and bruises.  Creams should contain 15% arnica oil and salves should contain 20 to 25%. 8,9   It is also used in antidandruff medications and in hair tonics. 8 It has been approved by the European medicines agency based on traditional use for bruises, sprains and muscular pain. 5

Cosmetic:

The oil is used in perfumes and cosmetic preparations.  It is found in body care formulations, hair conditioners and dyes, shaving products, skin fresheners, deodorants and moisturisers. 8

Food:

The council of Europe has listed it as a food flavouring in small quantities. 7

 Contaminants and adulterants:

 Preparations of Arnica montana are often found to contain Heterottheca inuloides, which is Mexican arnica.   96% of Spanish Arnica products were found to contain H. inuloides instead of A. montana.  Mexican arnica is much more abundant and is less expensive than A. montana. 3

Other forms of adulteration include flowers which look like it, such as Marigold (Calendula officinalis), Meadow fleabane (Inula brittanica) and Viper’s grass (Scorzonera humilis). 3

 Modern Research:

Arnica montana, when given orally and before, during and after surgery has been shown to reduce the extent and the intensity of postoperative ecchymosis (haemorrhagic spots) in rhinoplasty surgery. 11

Contraindications:

Individuals with hypersensitivity to arnica or other members of the Asteraceae family should avoid use and it should not be applied to broken skin or open wounds. 9

Arnica should not be taken internally, but if it is, then to be monitored and carefully controlled by a physician. 10

With longer and more frequent external application, dermatitis may occur.  Helenalin has been shown to a sensitizing agent and act as an allergen. 10  

Use is not advised during pregnancy and lactation due to insufficient data.  7,9

Summary / Conclusion

Arnica has been used for centuries to sooth aching muscles and reduce pain and inflammation and scientific research has confirmed its use as an analgesic and an anti-inflammatory.

However, wild-harvesting of the herb and changes to its local habitat have threatened the natural populations.  The European commission has given it a conservation status and have listed it as a protected species. 12, 13

This plus ongoing increased consumer demand for reliable, non-synthetic, natural products, presents an ideal opportunity to determine if Arnica can be grown commercially in Ireland.

References:

 (1) World Health Organisation (WHO). WHO monographs on selected Medicinal Plants. Vol. 3. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organisation; 2007;77-87

(2) Ştefanache CP, Peter S, Meier B, Dănilă D, Tănase C, Wolfram E. (2015). Phytochemical composition of Arnicae flos from wild populations in the Northern Area of the Romanian Eastern Carpathians. Revista de Chimie. 2015;66(5):784-787

(3) Ladner, Judith. (n.d.) "Arnica montana L". Fao.org.

(4) McVicar, Jekka. (2011). Jekka's Complete Herb Book. 1st ed. London: Kyle Cathie, Print.

(5) European Medicines Agency (EMA) (2014). Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC). Assessment report on Arnica montana L., flos., London, UK. 

(6) Schwartz, Joe. (2012) "» What Is Arnica? Office For Science And Society". Blogs.mcgill.ca. N.p.,

(7) Barnes, Joanne, Linda A Anderson, and J. David Phillipson. (2007). Herbal Medicines. 3rd ed. London [u.a.]: Pharmaceutical Press, 2007. Print.

(8) Khan, Ikhlas A., and Abourashed, Ehab A. (2011). Leung's Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients: Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics (3). Hoboken, US: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2011.

(9) Fetrow, Charles H., and Avila, Juan R. (2003) Professional's Handbook of Complementary & Alternative Medicines (3). Philadelphia, US: Wolters Kluwer Health, 2003.   

(10) Bisset, N. (2001). Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals. 1st ed. Stuttgart: Medpharm scientific publ.

 (11) Chaiet, Scott R., and Benjamin C. Marcus. "Perioperative Arnica montana For Reduction Of Ecchymosis In Rhinoplasty Surgery". Annals of Plastic Surgery 76.5 (2016): 477-482.  

(12) European Council. Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora. Official Journal of the European Communities, L 206/7; July 22, 1992

(13) Falniowski A, Bazos I, Hodálová I, Lansdown R, Petrova A. 2013. Arnica montana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org.