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Herbs & Botanicals

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Arnica

What is arnica? What is it used for?

Arnica is a perennial plant in the mountainous regions of Canada, the U.S. and Europe, with dark brown roots and a simple (lightly branched) stem that reaches a height of 1-2 feet. Each plant contains 1-9 large, daisy-like yellow flowers, with notched outer ends. The medicinal parts of the plant include the flowers and root stock.

External uses for arnica include contusions, edema, swelling, joint problems, rheumatism and hematoma. Internally, arnica may fight oral and throat infections, inflammation caused by insect bites, and internal bleeding.

How much arnica should I take?

The amount of arnica taken depends on its use. For mouth rinses, arnica may be taken in a tincture that has been diluted 10 times. When used in infusions, the typical arnica content is two grams of herb per 100ml of water.

What forms of arnica are available?

Arnica is available in a wide range of forms, including infusions, tinctures and ointments. Arnica is also sometimes used as a poultice or compress.

What can happen if I take too much arnica? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Arnica should not be used on open wounds or broken skin. Prolonged use of arnica to treat damaged skin may itself cause disorders, including eczema and the formation of pustules on the skin. High doses may lead to more severe conditions, including necrosis.

From a toxicological viewpoint, oral use of arnica is considered potentially unsafe. If taken orally, it should be used only after careful consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.

References

  • Blumenthal M (ed.) The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, pp. 83-84.
  • Gruezo WS, Denford KE. Taxonomy of arnica L. subgenus chamissonis maguire (asteraceae). Asia Life Sciences 1994;3(2):89-212.
  • McGuffin M (ed.) American Herbal Products Association Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1997, p. 14.
  • Wagner H, Bladt S, Zgainski EM. Drogenanalyse (Plant Drug Analysis). Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1983, p. 176.
  • Wolf SJ. Cytotaxonomic studies in the genus arnica (compositae: senecioneae). Rhodora 1987;89:391-400.

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