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Mountain arnica – Arnica Montana


Recognised already in the 18th century as a pharmaceutical material with properties beneficial to the health, the plant is still highly acclaimed. It was probably excessive harvesting of the arnica in the areas of its natural habitat (due to its classification as a medicinal herb) which has contributed to its strict natural conservation today.

What does arnica look like and where can it be found?

The mountain arnica, also known as leopard's bane, wolf's bane or mountain tobacco, is a plant endemic to mountain regions. It occurs, among other places, in the Bieszczady Mountains, the Sudeten Mountains and the Świętokrzyskie Mountains. A recognisable feature of arnica is its flowers with a distinct yellow colour. At the tip of a long, green and pubescent stalk is a flower head (similar to other plants from the same family, e.g. camomile and marigold). There are usually two distinctively smaller lateral flowers under the main flower head.

Who can pick the arnica flowers?

It is forbidden to harvest the arnica flowers without authorisation. All harvests used in herbal medicine originate from the arnica cultures intended for the manufacture of medicinal preparations. The prohibition does not only result from the conservation of the mountain arnica; it is also intended to protect prospective collectors from the threat of food poisoning caused if enough of the arnica is digested.

Active ingredient contents in the mountain arnica

The arnica head contains ethereal oils, phytosterols, flavonoids, lactones, triterpenes, acids of phenols, iridoids and amines. The properties of these compounds contribute to effective use of arnica extracts in externally applied preparations (e.g. the drug Arcalen).

The arnica and its effect on the human body

The extract of the mountain arnica is applied in the form of an ointment (the drug Arcalen) on traumatized body parts and for medicinal massage, or it can be used for facial application in the form of gels (i.e. cosmetic preparations). By its anti-inflammatory action the arnica extract helps limit the development of inflammatory and rheumatic conditions. The bactericidal and bacteriostatic action contributes to limited propagation of bacterial infections on the skin.

Therapeutic indications for arnica extract

The primary indication for arnica extract is bacterial conditions of the skin and inflammatory conditions of bones, muscular tissues and joints. Arnica extract also performs well in the healing of difficult wounds, boils, ulceration, contusions and bruises. When combined with extracts of marigold and chestnut (in Arcalen), arnica is a perfect cure for bloody bruises and contusions.

Arnica extracts are also used in cosmetic formulas, especially eye gels. The therapeutic effects of arnica help conceal eye shadows or facial swelling and dark discolorations.

Is there any allergic response to arnica?

Unfortunately, some people are allergic to arnica. Similar to marigold or camomile, arnica may also cause hypersensitive reactions. The symptoms include reddening, burning and itching. If the sensitizing symptoms occur, it is advised to stop using preparations which contain arnica.

Is it possible to overdose on arnica extract?

The potential allergy to arnica is not the only flaw of the plant. There may be the adverse effect of excessive intake of the compounds contained in it. Overdose of arnica is manifested by vomiting, dyspnoea, elevated pulse or collapse (by acute circulatory insufficiency). The incidents of overdosing of arnica only involve internal administration of arnica preparations mainly in the form of preserves or tinctures.

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