Monday, January 26, 2015
ARNICA: Arnica Montana (Alpina), Arnica Chamissonis, Arnica Foliosa, Arnica Fulgens, Arnica Cordifolia, Arnica Sororia, Arnica Latifolia, etc.
Also known as: Wolfs Bane, Mountain Tobacco, Mountain Daisy, Leopard's Bane.
Parts used: root, flowers
Meridians/Organs affected: blood, circulation, skin
Properties: stimulant, analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, expectorant
Arnica is a member of the Compositae or Asteracae family also known as the Sunflower family. There are 32 species of arnica, all of which are considered to be poisonous. Arnica is a perennial plant with sunflower like flowers that can get up to 2 inches across. It blooms in its second year and then every year thereafter. It has opposite downy textured leaves that are larger at the base of the stem than at the top. The leaves range in shape from heart shaped to lance like depending on the variety of arnica and its location. It can get up to 2 feet tall and sport one or more flowers-again depending on the variety involved. When it goes to seed it looks similar to a dandelion with the fluffy white bulb. It blooms from May to September depending on location and the flowers are best gathered between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. It can be found in subalpine regions of the Yukon all the way to New Mexico. Arnica Montana (now known as arnica alpina) is indigenous to Europe. The one most commonly found here in the use is arnica cordifolia (also known as heart leaf arnica) or arnica chamissonis (also known as leafy arnica). Arnica Montana is considered more of a rare species now due to over harvesting.
There is ALOT of controversy over the efficacy of this plant. As it is one of the most widely used plants for inflammation. It has been the subject of a vast array of studies and severe scrutiny by the medical field.
Hildegard of Bingen said it was an excellent remedy for bruises and native americans used it in salve form for muscle stiffness and an arnica tincture (more of an infusion really) on wounds. It was the indians who introduced it to the settlers here. This 'tincture' was also used on sprains, bruises and wounds as long as they weren't open. Too many repeated applications may cause inflammation however. Extracts of the root and flowers have been said to dilate the capillaries and stimulate white blood cell activity. It is also reported to stimulate hair growth. The jury is still out on that one. It is believed that Geothe used it internally as a tea for angina in his later years (something he swore by). In European countries they actually use it as a natural flavoring for foods but it is considered highly poisonous in the usa and only allowed in alcoholic drinks. (Go figure on that one). It has apparently gone down on record as causing fatalities in those who took too much of it and as such only the homeopathic dilute form is allowed for oral use. The homeopathic version has been used for shock, trauma, epilepsy, vertigo, PTSD, seasickness, etc.
This is where scientific studies come into play. According to an article published in "Biological Chemistry " (volume 378, issue 9, January 1997) entitled, 'Helenalin, and Anti-Inflammatory Sesquiterpene lactone from Arnica selectively inhibits Transcription Factor NF-kB' it was found than helenalin, a component of arnica, injected into rats worked better than NSAIDS for pain and inflammation (in some cases up to 30-40% better). Some clinical trials found it useful for osteoarthritis and others found it worked better than vitamin K to reduce bruising. In still other studies it was found ineffective for pain due to long distance running or excess exercise. In more recent studies it was found to reduce the pain associated with a tonsillectomy and to reduce post-operative swelling in patients that had knee surgery.
As it contains coumarins it shouldn't be used by those on blood thinners or anti-platelet medications. It also shouldn't be used by pregnant or nursing women. Given some of the parameters it might be best to use arnica every now and then instead of on a regular basis to avoid the possible aggravation of inducing inflammation rather than taking care of it. So alternate with other analgesics for the best effects.
As is customary with all my posts I have included some links below for your perusal. Use them as you deem best. Stay healthy!