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Hello there friends!

Today is another beautiful, sunny day here on the coast, and so it feels fitting to talk a bit about Arnica, or Arnica montana! Hailing from the mountains of Central Europe, Arnica brings with it a rich history of folklore and traditional use that hasn’t changed much over the past several hundred years. A cousin to the bright and happy sunflower, this yellow flowering herb brings a smile to my face every time I see it, and has gained a reputation as a potent pain-reliever and a go-to for home herbalists in treating bruises, sore muscles, aches and pains. Though powerful medicinally, the herb itself is rather fragile and difficult to propagate, leading to the depletion of this plant in the wild. If you’re looking to purchase this herb pre-packaged, or online, do a little background research to ensure the product is ethically sourced, or even better, grown! With that said, continue reading below to learn more about this happy, helpful plant!

Arnica’s Traditional Uses

Arnica is native to the high mountains of Western Europe, where folklore says herdsmen became aware of its medicinal value after following hurt or injured goats to patches of the sunny flower, eating it to promote healing. From that point on, Arnica has been collected and used as a healing salve for bruises, and in teas for muscular aches and pains. The German name for Arnica, Wolfsblume, comes from the legend of the Wheat Wolf, who stalked the grain fields before harvest time. His spirit was said to have slipped into the Arnica that was planted around the field to keep him from escaping, and ensured a plentiful harvest. This legend notes Arnica’s ability to either keep a spirit from entering or leaving a space, so long as the plant is alive– when it dies back, as it does in the fall, the spirits are once again released.

Arnica flowers in the summer, from May to August, associating the plant with the holiday Midsummer, or Summer Solstice- it’s brightly colored petals strengthen Arnica’s traditional ties to the element of fire and its alignment with the sun. Other common German names for Arnica are wundkraut (wound herb), bruchkraut (fracture herb) and fallkraut (fall herb), all referring to the plant’s potent healing powers.

Identifying Arnica

Arnica is a member of the sunflower, or Asteraceae, family, indicated by the large, yellow flower head of the herb. Like I mentioned previously, it will flower in the months of May through August, and while it is a perennial, it does die back in the fall. Arnica grows up to 1.5- 2 feet tall, and can be found all throughout central Europe, more abundantly in mountainous regions. It has an aromatic, pleasant smell, with its lower leaves being green, oval-shaped and lightly-haired, and its upper leaves grow on opposite sides on the stem in pairs, are spear-shaped and are smaller.

Healing Attributes of Arnica 

Arnica’s key actions as a healing agent are analgesic (or pain relief), anti-inflammatory, and being a would-healer. Best taken as a cream, lotion or ointment, the flower of Arnica is where all the magic lives. Arnica is excellent for topical treatment of nearly every ache and pain, but  is not meant to be ingested, and is not recommended for use on open wounds or broken skin. Effective and quick in its pain relief, Arnica can soothe bruises, sprains and strains in little to no time, making it an essential tool for an herbal first-aid kit. A highly-effective healing liniment (topical liquid) can be made by soaking Arnica and Comfrey flowers in Witch Hazel liquid for 4-8 weeks, strained and applied to sore muscles with cotton balls or gauze pads. Arnica does contain the toxin helenalin, which is dangerous if consumed in large doses, so please keep out of reach of children and pets.

Thank you once again for joining me in learning more about this beautiful, sunny pain reliever! Let me know what you thought about this article, or any experience you might have with this herb, in the comments below. I hope this article was helpful to you, and you’ll consider adding Arnica in your home apothecary arsenal!

Til next time, my floral friends!

Au revoir and angelica,

Katharine