Latin name: Arnicae flores, tincturan
Useable parts: The flower when starting to bloom. Also, the root – but only in autumn.5
Harvest period: The flower at the start of blooming, the root in autumn. Pick just the radial florets. This allows the plant with its tubular flowers to continue reproduction while avoiding picking the toxic larvae of the Tripeta arnicivora arnica fly by accident. These would contaminate the end-product, producing skin irritations or allergies.
Constituents: Essential oils, bitter substances (arnizin), saponins (arnidiol) tannins, flavone glycosides, choline, helenalanine, azulene, thymol, arnidol, calcium, carotene3,4
Action: Anti-inflammatory, stimulates blood circulation, haemostatic³
Applications: Arnica helps to mitigate the effects of accidents such as bruises, cuts, wounds, as well as sprains, dislocations, internal bleeding, and inflammation. Arnica can work wonders in such applications.
Helenalanine is a powerful toxin affecting the heart, and overdosing can sometimes lead to death. In small doses, it can help to treat superficial thrombophlebitis (vein knotting). Since correct dosages of naturally occurring substances are difficult to estimate, helenalanine should not be administered internally.
Risk of misidentification: Doronicum grandiflorum looks very similar to arnica, but its leaves grow alternately along the stem.10 In cultivated terrain, it can easily be confused with marigold, dyer's chamomile, meadow salvia or common hawkweed. However, the latter can be excluded since it prefers a different habitat.
Tips for Domestic Cultivation
Arnica is a protected species and picking is prohibited.
So as not to have to forgo its amazing healing effects, arnica is easily grown in a home garden environment. The Arnica chamissonis meadow arnica (the American equivalent of our European arnica) best fits this purpose, and the two share many of the same properties. The flower heads of the slightly smaller meadow arnica help it to proliferate more easily.
Marigolds are even easier to grow and can be bought at any flower nursery.
Home Use / Recipe Idea
Arnica tincture for your medicine cabinet:
Stuff the freshly picked reed flowers into a small screw-top glass container one-third full. Then add 40% proof alcohol and let stand on a windowsill for at least four weeks.
To homogenize and heal damaged skin tissue, liberally dilute the arnica tincture with Retterspitz fluid (clay mixed with acetic acid). Soak the compress in this mixture to form a poultice on the affected skin area.15
3 “Die Kräuter in meinem Garten” by Siegrid Hirsch & Felix Grünberger; 22nd Edition; Freya Verlag Gmbh
4 “Schwester Bernardines große Naturapotheke”; 1983 Artia Prague; All rights of the German edition held by Mosaik Verlag GmbH
5 “Das große Buch der Heilpflanzen” by M. Pahlow (pharmacist); 7th Edition 2018, Nikol Verlagsgesellschaft GmbH und Co. KG
10 “Was blüht denn da?” by Margot Spohn, 2015, Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH & co. KG
15 “Flora Helvetica–Illustrierte Flora der Schweiz” by Konrad Lauber, Gerhart Wagner, Andreas Gygax; 6th Edition, Haupt Verlag
16 “Heilpflanzen für die Gesundheit” by Annekatrin Puhle, Jürgen Trott-Tschepe, Consultant: Birgit Möller (pharmacist); 2013 Franckh-Kosmos Verlag-GmbH & Co.KG, Stuttgart