A member of the sunflower family, arnica (Arnica spp.) is a perennial herb that produces yellow-orange, daisy-like blooms in late spring and early summer. Also known as mountain tobacco, leopard’s bane and wolfbane, arnica is highly valued for its herbal qualities. However, before you decide to grow arnica or use the herb medicinally, there are a number of things you should know.
Arnica Herb Uses
What is arnica herb for? Arnica has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. Today, the roots and flowers are used in topical treatments such salves, liniments, ointments, tinctures and creams that soothe tired muscles, relieve bruises and sprains, ease the itch of insect bites, soothe burns and minor wounds, promote hair growth and reduce inflammation. Although the herb is usually applied topically, homeopathic remedies with highly diluted amounts of the herb are available in pill form.
Arnica is generally safe when used topically, although products containing arnica should never be used on broken skin. However, arnica should never be taken internally except when the doses are small and extremely diluted (and with the guidance of a professional). The plant contains a number of toxins that can cause a variety of potentially dangerous results, including dizziness, vomiting, internal bleeding and heart irregularities. Ingesting large amounts can be deadly.
Arnica Growing Conditions
Arnica is a hardy plant suitable for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 9. The plant tolerates nearly any well-drained soil, but generally prefers sandy, slightly alkaline soil. Full sunlight is best, although the arnica benefits from a bit of afternoon shade in hot climates.
How to Grow Arnica
Planting arnica isn’t difficult. Just sprinkle the seeds lightly on prepared soil in late summer, then cover them lightly with sand or fine soil. Keep the soil slightly moist until the seeds germinate. Be patient; seeds usually sprout in about a month, but germination can take much longer. Thin the seedlings to allow about 12 inches (30 cm.) between each plant.
You can also start arnica seeds indoors. Plant the seeds in pots and keep them in bright, indirect sunlight where temperatures are maintained at approximately 55 F. (13 C.) For best results, grow the plants indoors for several months before moving them to a permanent outdoor location after all danger of frost has passed in spring.
If you have access to established plants, you can propagate arnica by cuttings or divisions in spring.
Arnica Plant Care
Established arnica plants require very little attention. The primary consideration is regular irrigation, as arnica is not a drought-tolerant plant. Water often enough to keep the soil lightly moist; don’t allow the soil to become bone dry or soggy. As a general rule, water when the top of the soil feels slightly dry.
Remove wilted flowers to encourage continued blooming throughout the season.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.
Yarrow and Arnica Sprain and Bruise Cream to Keep in Your Travel Bag
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Our favorite homemade remedy for sprains and bruises is Yarrow and Arnica Bruise Cream. Arnica is known for its pain-relieving properties and yarrow herb is highly regarded for bruises and sprains.
Traveling can be fun. In fact, it may even be the highlight of your summer as you explore new places and trek new roads. All that trekking can also lead to bruises and sprains from bumping into immovable objects and taking missteps.
There is no better way to get relief than to combine the pain-relieving properties of arnica with the antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties of yarrow, which is highly regarded for healing wounds, bruises, and sprains.
How to Grow Arnica
- Hardy plant that’s suitable for USDA zones 4 through 9.
- Arnica likes any type of soil, but it prefers well drained, sandy and lightly alkaline soil.
- Plant arnica in a sunny spot.
- Sprinkle the seeds lightly on prepared soil in late summer and cover them with sand or fine soil.
- Keep the soil moist until germination occurs.
- Seeds will sprout within a month, but germination can take a little longer so have patience!
- Thin the seedlings to about 12 inches in between each plant.
- Arnica seeds can also be started indoors in pots placed in indirect sunlight. Keep the plant indoors until spring when all danger of frost has passed. Then, you may transplant your arnica plant outdoors.
Caring for Arnica Plants:
- Water regularly and don’t let the soil become dry.
- Arnica needs regular irrigation so keep an eye on it in hot, summer months.
- Remove wilted flowers to encourage blooming throughout the season.
So now that you know how to grow arnica herbs, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to planting!
Arnica: The Secret Native American Pain Reliever
There are many herbs in the world that can be useful when used appropriately. Misuse however, can lead to illness and even death. Arnica is such a plant.
When used appropriately, arnica can be a powerful medicinal. However, it also can cause severe liver damage if used under the wrong circumstances. For example, arnica should not be used internally. Ingestion can lead to gastroenteritis or cardiac arrest due to helanin poisoning. When it comes to wild harvesting and the preparation of medicinal plants, it is always a good idea to bring along a high quality guide book for identification and to work under the supervision of a more seasoned guide and mentor.
Now that we discussed that little piece of wisdom, I think it’s safe to move our conversation into all the ways that arnica is special.
Arnica is a perennial aster that is part of the sunflower family. There are more than 30 species of arnica. Of these 30 known species, two are most commonly discussed for medicinal use — one that is endemic to Europe and another that makes its home along the mountainous regions of the United States and Canada.
The European arnica is known as Arnica montana, and the North American counterpart is Arnica chamissonis. Arnica cardifolia (heart leaf arnica), another sub-species of North America, can be found as far east as Ontario and Michigan. They are all fairly similar in appearance. Other than its value for medicinal purposes, arnica is also an exceptionally beautiful wildflower. Even if you never use it as a remedy, it is still worth admiring for its brilliant golden hue, delicate bright green leaves and its ability to spread into dense clusters within the dappled sun of a western confer forest.
Arnica’s Uses Throughout History
Arnica has been used as a medicinal herb in Europe and North America for hundreds of years. Several Native American tribes used the roots to prepare a tea that would aid in the alleviation of back pain. Some of the first recorded European folk remedies date back to the early 16th century. Arnica was used as a preparation for black eyes, sprains and minor contusions. Although ingestion has been shown to cause severe liver damage, topical applications have proven to be effective at aiding the healing process for strained muscles and minor injuries. When used as a tincture or as a compress, arnica is known for its ability to stimulate blood flow. This helps to reduce pain, alleviate swelling and it aids in the healing of bruises and hematomas. Arnica also increases the rate of tissue regeneration.
The most commonly collected parts of the arnica plant are the flowers. Arnica typically blooms between June and August, depending on the altitude and availability of water. Blossoms should be gathered when fully open and can be used immediately for fresh use or dried for later use. The best temperature for drying arnica blossoms is between 70 and 95 degree Fahrenheit. Once dried, blossoms should be stored in a clean glass container away from direct sunlight. It is best to use the blossoms within 12-18 months of harvest.
Arnica blossoms can be used in the preparation of salves and tinctures. Ingestion of arnica can be fatal, and the overuse of concentrated essential oils is to be avoided. Some homeopathic preparations have been approved for internal use but should not be attempted without proper guidance.
Arnica cannot tolerate trampling or excessive foot traffic. For this reason, it is advised that wild crafters should be mindful of the delicate nature of arnica and not over-harvest it. The good news is that Arnica is relatively easy to propagate.
Arnica thrives in soils with an acidity of 6-7 pH and can tolerate full sun to partial shade. If enough water is available, it also can thrive in poor soils with high acidity. For these reasons, it can be an ideal plant to work into a home garden. The easiest way to propagate arnica is by collecting seed or by dividing the roots. The best time for division is during early spring. Seeds can be started indoors and transplanted out at any time. Some species of arnica are hardy to cold weather, while others are better suited to a milder zone 6 climate. The best place to plant arnica is in your herb garden, but it also can be used as a seasonal bedding plant (although its bloom time is relatively short-lived).
In closing, if you are not familiar with arnica, it is definitely a plant of value worth knowing. By protecting the wild and scenic places in this world, we also protect one of our greatest aesthetic and medicinal resources — our native herbs and flowers.
*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or cure any particular health condition. Please consult with a qualified health professional first.
Have you ever planted and used arnica? Share your tips in the section below:
Dandelion leaves, roots, and flowers
Ubiquitous in yards, gardens, parks, and cracks in the sidewalk, this hardy formerly European plant is a great spring foraging option. Dandelions have a distinctive rosette growing pattern, with long, heavily toothed, smooth leaves. The flowers grow in the center of the rosette on hollow stems, and are a distinctive brilliant yellow. All parts of the dandelion plant are edible. The size of the leaves will vary depending on how much water they receive, and if they are in fertile soil or not.
Dandelion look-alikes include Cat’s Paw, which has similar flowers and growing pattern but the leaves are hairy and not smooth. Dandelion always has smooth, non-hairy leaves.
Dandelion greens are great in springtime salads, dandelion pesto, and more. Dandelion flowers can be used for tea, wine, and even bath bombs. Dandelion roots are useful in herbal tinctures, and as a coffee substitute.
Arnica montana is a flowering plant about 18–60 cm (7.1–23.6 in) tall aromatic fragrant, perennial herb. Its basal green ovate 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.   Arnica montana is a hemicryptophyte,  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. 
The Latin specific epithet montana refers to mountains or coming from mountains. 
Arnica montana is widespread across most of Europe.  It is absent from the British Isles and the Italian and Balkan peninsulas.  In addition, it is considered extinct in Hungary and Lithuania.  Arnica montana grows in nutrient-poor siliceous meadows or clay soils.  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,  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.  Nevertheless, it is cultivated on a large scale in Estonia. 
The main constituents of Arnica montana are essential oils, fatty acids, thymol, pseudoguaianolide sesquiterpene lactones and flavanone glycosides.  Pseudoguaianolide sesquiterpenes constitute 0.2–0.8% of the flower head of Arnica montana. They are the toxin helenalin and their fatty esters.  2,5-Dimethoxy-p-cymene and thymol methyl ether are the primary components of essential oils from both the plant's roots and rhizomes.  The quality and chemical consitution of the plant substance Arnicae flos can be monitored by near-infrared spectroscopy. 
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/m 2 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. 
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. 
Arnica montana is sometimes grown in herb gardens. 
Historically, Arnica montana has been used as an herbal medicine for centuries.    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 effectiveness (albeit with possibly worse side effects) as a 5% ibuprofen gel for treating the symptoms of hand osteoarthritis. 
- 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. 
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 at the concentrations used in homeopathy. 
The US Food and Drug Administration has classified Arnica montana as an unsafe herb because of its toxicity.  It should not be taken orally or applied to broken skin where absorption can occur.  Arnica irritates mucous membranes and may elicit stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.  It may produce contact dermatitis when applied to skin. 
Arnica 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.   Contact with the plant can also cause skin irritation.   In the Ames test, an extract of A. montana was found to be mutagenic. 
The demand for A. montana is 50 tonnes per year in Europe, but the supply does not cover the demand. [ citation needed ] The plant is rare it is protected in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and in some regions of Switzerland. [ citation needed ] France and Romania produce A. montana for the international market.  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. 
Some garden for food, others for beauty. But for many centuries, apothecary gardens were one of the most common plots to be found around the home. The perfect herb for making topical ointments for gardeners’ achy hands and sore backs, Meadow Arnica is a medicinally interchangeable substitute for Mountain Arnica, which only grows well at high altitudes. Plant this wide-spreading perennial to enjoy the dense green foliage, yellow flowers, and the soothing effect it has on achy muscles. Please note that Meadow Arnica is naturally an erratic germinator oversow and expect only the minority of seeds to germinate in a timely manner.
Seeds Last: A Few Words on Fall-Sold Seeds
On the back of each of our seed packs you will find the year for which the seed is packed. Usually, by November, we remove from our inventory any remaining seed packs that are labeled for the current year. We do this to focus on preparing our inventory for the next year. However, due to the higher demand for seeds this year, we want to make as much viable seed available to our customers as we can.
Seeds labeled "Packed for 2020" are guaranteed to grow if planted before the end of the year (in climates that permit fall and winter growing). Although we cannot guarantee seeds labeled as "Packed for 2020" for the 2021 year, they remain "shelf-legal" until the end of the year—and the vast majority of them will remain viable into next year. When kept in cool, dry conditions, most seeds maintain good germination rates for multiple years.
As our germination testing continues, "Packed for 2021" seeds will continue appearing. At the start of the new year, any remaining seeds available only as "Packed for 2020" stock will be taken offline until a satisfactory germination test is complete on that lot.
To learn more, check out our short blog post on seed longevity here: How Long Do Seeds Last?