Arnica is well known for its external uses under various pharmaceutical preparations against bruises, blows, bruises but do not be fooled if you discover the fallow grass, the plantain of the Alps, the tobacco of the Vosges or the mountain arnique, its other names, in nature, it is very toxic.
Arnica, against bruises and bumps
Arnica montana is a perennial plant of the family Asteraceae, measuring 40 to 60 cm high which grows mainly in mountain meadows (up to 2400 m altitude) to the acid soils of the Vosges, the Alps, and the Jura. These conditions are difficult to apply to the cultivation of Arnica montana for production, which makes the pharmaceutical industry overexploit its wild development.
It is characterized by a single upright stem, hairy, emerging from a rosette of leaves at the base, carrying one or two pairs of opposite lanceolate leaves, with very pronounced veins. At its end is developed in June and July, one or more golden yellow heads of 7-8 cm in diameter, giving off an aromatic and pungent odor rich in thymol.
The flowers of Arnica montana contain, in addition to this aromatic essence, carotenoid pigments, sesquiterpenic lactones (helenaline), flavonoids (spinacetin, hispidulin), coumarins (umbelliferone, scopoletin).
In internal use, arnica is dangerous because ingestion of all parts of the plant can cause an alteration of the nervous system, resulting in headaches, cold sweats, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties and abdominal pain.
The medicinal properties of arnica
Although the properties of arnica were discovered in the Middle Ages, the preparation of the Arnica tincture as it is still used today dates back to the 18th century.
Used only externally, Arnica montana stimulates the circulatory and nervous system, giving it anti-ecchymotic (anti-bruising) and antiphlogistic (anti-inflammatory) properties, but is only used on lesions without open wound.
Against bruises, sprains, muscular and articular pains, the external application of arnica is very effective and can quickly resorb hematomas.
Against gum inflammation and mouth ulcers, arnica-based mouthwashes provide relief.
Arnica montana is presented and used in different ways:
- in cream, ointment or gel based on 10 to 25% arnica tincture,
- in oil: macerate 250 g of dried flowers or 500 g of fresh in 75 cl of olive oil for 20 days, then filter and keep out of the light. To apply on bruises.
- in poultice: infusion of a tablespoon of flowers and dried leaves / 100 ml of hot water for 10 minutes, apply as a poultice or soaked compresses.
- in mother tincture, to be diluted in 5 to 10 volumes of water, before soaking compresses, otherwise irritation of the skin is to be expected. For mouthwashes, to dilute in 10 volumes of water, without swallowing.
- in homeopathy, Arnica montana is available in granules: dosage according to the indications of the pharmacist. This is the only internal use possible.
To find out more about the nutritional and medicinal properties, the parts of the plants to use as well as the best harvest period for wild plants, refer to the new edition of a reference guide: François Wild, Edible and Toxic Plants Couplan which describes 200 edible plants and 80 poisonous plants richly illustrated by Eva Styner on 64 color plates (Editions Delachaux & Niestlé - 1st March 2018 - 416 pages - 38.50 €).
The use of plants to heal must be done by asking a doctor, pharmacist or herbalist. Pregnant women, people with chronic and serious illnesses or taking medication should consult a doctor before self-medication can lead to adverse effects, including drug interactions.