Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden
Arnica, Arnica montana, is another herb which is commonly called by its generic name. It’s also known as leopard’s bane, wolf’s bane, mountain tobacco and mountain arnica. It’s a big yellow daisy reaching about a foot in height, and a member of the Compositae family. It is not closely related to Mexican arnica, Heterotheca inuloides, which has similar properties.
Arnica is a perennial which is happy with most soil, even quite poor soil. It will grow in full sun or semi-shade. Propagation is by seed sown in Spring or Autumn – it can take up to 2 years to germinate, and will do better if it has been subjected to cold by stratification.
Having said all this, this plant is subject to legal restrictions. In the US, its use is prohibited altogether, and in the UK it may only be used externally. It can be toxic even at low doses if taken internally. It also sometimes causes contact dermatitis. If you live outside these countries, you would be wise to check what restrictions there are for the use of arnica in your own country.
If you are going to use Arnica for medical use, pick flowers when fully open on a dry day and hang in bunches to dry, then powder and store in an airtight container. Take care not to inhale the powdered flowers or you will likely get a sneezing fit. You can use them to make a liniment by mixing with rubbing alcohol in an airtight container and leaving in a cool, dark place for a week to 10 days, shaking every day until thoroughly mixed. Strain off the herbs and bottle the result, preferably in a brown glass bottle.
You can use this liniment for the treatment of bruises, sprains, and sore muscles. If you get dermatitis when you use it, cross it off your list of home grown remedies and do not use it again.
As with all herbs and plants grown for use in remedies, arnica must be grown organically to avoid its active ingredients becoming corrupted or inactive by the influence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic arnica visit the Gardenzone.