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Arnica montana

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Arnica montana, also known as wolf's bane, leopard's bane, mountain tobacco and mountain arnica,[3] is a moderately toxic ethnobotanical European flowering plant in the sunflower family It is noted for its large yellow flower head The names "wolf's bane" and "leopard's bane" are also used for another plant, aconitum, which is extremely poisonous

Arnica montana is used as an herbal medicine for analgesic and anti-inflammatory purposes Clinical trials have produced mixed results


  • 1 Description
  • 2 Taxonomy
  • 3 Distribution and habitat
  • 4 Chemical constituents
  • 5 Cultivation
  • 6 Use in herbal medicine
    • 61 Toxicity
  • 7 Market
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links


Arnica montana

Arnica montana is a flowering plant about 18–60 cm 71–236 in tall aromatic fragrant, perennial herb Its basal green ovate-cilitate leaves with rounded tips are bright coloured and level to the ground In addition, they are somewhat downy on their upper surface, veined and aggregated in rosettes By contrast, the upper leaves are opposed, spear-shaped and smaller which is an exception within the Asteraceae The chromosome number is 2n=38

The flowering season is between May and August Central Europe The hairy flowers are composed of yellow disc florets in the center and orange-yellow ray florets at the external part The achenes have a one-piece rough pappus which opens in dry conditions[4][5] Arnica montana is a hemicryptophyte,[6] which helps the plant to survive the extreme overwintering condition of its habitat In addition, Arnica forms rhizomes, which grow in a two-year cycle: the rosette part grows at its front while its tail is slowly dying[7]


The Latin specific epithet montana refers to mountains or coming from mountains[8]

Distribution and habitat

Repartition map of Arnica montana

Arnica montana is widespread across most of Europe[9] It is absent from the British Isles and the Italian and Balkan peninsulas and Slovakia[10] In addition, it is considered extinct in Hungary and Lithuania[10] Arnica montana grows in nutrient-poor siliceous meadows or clay soils[7] It mostly grows on alpine meadows and up to nearly 3,000 m 9,800 ft In more upland regions, it may also be found on nutrient-poor moors and heaths However Arnica does not grow on lime soil,[7] thus it is an extremely reliable bioindicator for nutrient poor and acidic soils It is rare overall, but may be locally abundant It is becoming rarer, particularly in the north of its distribution, largely due to increasingly intensive agriculture and commercial wild-crafting[11] Nevertheless, it is cultivated on a large scale in Estonia[10]

Chemical constituents

Chemical structure of helenalin

The main constituents of Arnica montana are essential oils, fatty acids, thymol, pseudoguaianolide sesquiterpene lactones and flavanone glycosides Pseudoguaianolide sesquiterpenes constitute 02-08 % of the flower head of Arnica montana They are the toxin helenalin and their fatty esters[12] 2,5-Dimethoxy-p-cymene and thymol methyl ether are the primary components of essential oils from both the plant's roots and rhizomes[13]

Although Amica Montana's main pharmacologically active constituent helenalin is safe and beneficial in the very small quantities used in herbal medicine as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic, it is extremely toxic and almost always fatal in larger doses Using whole plant material can result in sudden death, and only standardized preparations of the plant should be used sparingly for medicinal purposes even then, concentrated, purified, and standardized pharmaceutical-grade preparations of helenalin are considered highly preferable due to their significantly more accurate dosing and lack of pharmaceutically active minor Amica Montana alkaloids which are invariably present in plant-derived extracts

Many of the plant's trace-alkaloids are more toxic than helenalin by one or more orders of magnitude, acting as potent hepatotoxins, cytotoxins, mutagens, teratogens, and neurotoxic central nervous system stimulants


Arnica montana fruits and seeds

Arnica montana is propagated from seed Generally, 20% of seeds do not germinate For large scale planting, it is recommended to raise plants first in a nursery and then to transplant them in the field Seeds sprout in 14–20 days but germination rate depends highly of the seed quality Planting density for Arnica montana is of 20 plants/m2 such that the maximum yield density will be achieved in the second flowering season While Arnica montana has high exigencies of soil quality, analyses should be done before any fertilizer input[14]

The flowers are harvested when fully developed and dried without their bract nor receptacles The roots can be harvested in autumn and dried as well after being carefully washed[7]

Arnica montana is sometimes grown in herb gardens[15]

Use in herbal medicine

See also: helenalin

Historically, Arnica montana has been used as an herbal medicine for centuries[15][16][17] Traditional uses for the plant are similar to those for willow bark, with it generally being employed for analgesic and anti-inflammatory purposes

Clinical trials of Arnica montana have yielded mixed results:

  • When used topically in a gel at 50% concentration, A montana was found to have the same effect when compared to a 5% ibuprofen gel for treating the symptoms of hand osteoarthritis[18][19]
  • A scientific study by FDA-funded dermatologists found that the application of topical A montana had no better effect than a placebo in the treatment of laser-induced bruising[20]
  • A 2013 Cochrane Collaboration systematic review of topical herbal remedies for treating osteoarthritis concluded that "Arnica gel probably improves pain and function as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs do"[21]
  • A 2014 systematic review found that the available evidence did not support its effectiveness of A montana at concentrations of 10% or less for pain, swelling, and bruises[22]

A montana has also been the subject of studies of homeopathic preparations A 1998 systematic review of homeopathic A montana conducted at the University of Exeter found that there are no rigorous clinical trials that support the claim that it is efficacious beyond a placebo effect[23]

The US Food and Drug Administration has classified Arnica montana as an unsafe herb because of its toxicity[24] It should not be taken orally or applied to broken skin where absorption can occur[24]


A montana contains the toxin helenalin, which can be poisonous if large amounts of the plant are eaten or small amounts of concentrated Arnica are used Consumption of A montana can produce severe gastroenteritis, internal bleeding of the digestive tract, raised liver enzymes which can indicate inflammation of the liver, nervousness, accelerated heart rate, muscular weakness, and death if enough is ingested[25][26] Contact with the plant can also cause skin irritation[27][28] In the Ames test, an extract of A montana was found to be mutagenic[26]

The plant's toxicity has led to the USFDA officially declaring it to be an unsafe herb, and it is not recommended for the treatment, diagnosis, prevention, or cure of any disease or injury due to the myriad of far safer medicinal and herbal equivalents which are proven to be more effective with fewer, less severe, sequelae


The demand for A montana is 50 tonnes per year in Europe, but the supply does not cover the demand The plant is rare; it is protected in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and in some regions of Switzerland France and Romania produce A montana for the international market[29] Changes in agriculture in Europe during the last decades have led to a decline in the occurrence of A montana Extensive agriculture has been replaced by intensive management[30]


  1. ^ illustration from Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1897
  2. ^ The Plant List Arnica montana L
  3. ^ Judith Ladner "Arnica montana" Food and Agriculture Organization Archived from the original on February 13, 2010 Retrieved March 16, 2010 
  4. ^ Arnica montana L, relevant European medical plant 2014 Waizel-Bucay J, Cruz-Juarez M de L Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Forestales, Vol 5 Issue 25 p 98-109
  5. ^ http://www2ufzde/biolflor/taxonomie/taxonomiejspID_Taxonomie=286
  6. ^ "FloraWeb: Daten und Informationen zu Wildpflanzen und zur Vegetation Deutschlands" wwwflorawebde Retrieved 2015-11-25 
  7. ^ a b c d Hofmann, Maria Heilmittel der Natur Arnika Südwest ISBN 3-517-08019-5 
  8. ^ Archibald William Smith A Gardener's Handbook of Plant Names: Their Meanings and Origins, p 239, at Google Books
  9. ^ "Arnica montana [Arnica]" luirigaltervistaorg Retrieved 2015-11-26 
  10. ^ a b c http://euromedluomusfi/euromed_mapphptaxon=416903&size=medium
  11. ^ M Finlay, Sandra Advance home remedies ask1on 
  12. ^ World Health Organization 2007 "Flos Arnicae" Who monographs on selected medicinal plants Volume 3 Geneve, Switzerland: World Health Organization pp 77–87 ISBN 9789241547024 
  13. ^ Pljevljakušić, Dejan; Rančić, Dragana; Ristić, Mihailo; Vujisić, Ljubodrag; Radanović, Dragoja; Dajić-Stevanović, Zora 2012 "Rhizome and root yield of the cultivated Arnica montana L, chemical composition and histochemical localization of essential oil" Industrial Crops and Products 39: 177–189 doi:101016/jindcrop201202030 
  14. ^ BMSmallfield & MH Douglas 2008 Arnica montana a grower‟s guide for commercial production in New Zealand New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research Limited
  15. ^ a b "Arnica" Flora of North America eflorasorg Archived from the original on April 4, 2010 Retrieved March 16, 2010 
  16. ^ A L Butiuc-Keul; C Deliu 2001 "Clonal propagation of Arnica montana L, a medicinal plant" In Vitro Cellular and Development Biology – Plant 37 5: 581–585 doi:101007/s11627-001-0102-2 JSTOR 4293517 
  17. ^ Knuesel, O; Weber, M; Suter, A 2002 "Arnica montana gel in osteoarthritis of the knee: An open, multicenter clinical trial" Advances in Therapy 19 5: 209–218 doi:101007/BF02850361 PMID 12539881 
  18. ^ R Widrig; A Suter; R Saller & J Melzer 2007 "Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study" Rheumatology International 27 6: 585–91 doi:101007/s00296-007-0304-y PMID 17318618 
  19. ^ Cameron, M; Chrubasik, S 31 May 2013 "Topical herbal therapies for treating osteoarthritis" The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 5: CD010538 doi:101002/14651858CD010538 PMID 23728701 
  20. ^ Delilah Alonso; Melissa C Lazarus & Leslie Baumann 2002 "Effects of topical arnica gel on post-laser treatment bruises" Dermatologic Surgery 28 8: 686–8 doi:101046/j1524-4725200202011x PMID 12174058 Retrieved January 27, 2008 
  21. ^ "Topical herbal therapy for treating osteoarthritis | Cochrane" wwwcochraneorg Retrieved 2015-07-08 
  22. ^ Brito, Noe; Knipschild, Paul; Doreste-Alonso, Jorge 11 April 2014 "Systematic Review on the Efficacy of Topical Arnica montana for the Treatment of Pain, Swelling and Bruises" Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain 22 2: 216–223 doi:103109/105824522014883012 
  23. ^ Ernst, E; Pittler, M H 1998 "Efficacy of Homeopathic Arnica" Archives of Surgery 133 11: 1187–90 doi:101001/archsurg133111187 PMID 9820349 
  24. ^ a b "Arnica" drugscom 
  25. ^ Gregory L Tilford 1997 Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West Mountain Press ISBN 0-87842-359-1 
  26. ^ a b "Final report on the safety assessment of Arnica montana extract and Arnica montana" International Journal of Toxicology 20 Suppl 2: 1–11 2001 PMID 11558636 
  27. ^ "Poisonous Plants: Arnica montana" North Carolina State University 
  28. ^ Rudzki E; Grzywa Z October 1977 "Dermatitis from Arnica montana" Contact Dermatitis 3 5: 281–2 doi:101111/j1600-05361977tb03682x PMID 145351 
  29. ^ Pasquier, B, Godin, M 2014 L’arnica des montagnes, entre culture et cueillette Dossier simple et aromatique, Jardins de France 630
  30. ^ Michler, B 2007 Conservation of Eastern European Medicinal Plants Arnica Montana in Romania

External links

  • Royal Society of Medicine Article concerning testing involving Arnica RSM
  • Botanicalcom, a modern herbal Arnica

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Arnica montana

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