Common Name


Botanical Name

Arnica montana
Arnica chamissonis


Arnica flowers
Arnica root
Common Arnica
Leopard's Bane
Arnica chamissonis
Mountain tobacco
Arnica montana
Arnica chamissonis
Arnica flowers
Arnica root
Common Arnica
Leopard's Bane
Arnica chamissonis
Mountain tobacco
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“Today arnica is found in several hundred products, making it one of the most popular and widely used of the natural topical remedies.” – Chris Kilham

What Is It?

Arnica refers to the flowers of Arnica montana or Arnica chamissonis, and preparations made from them. Found as creams, tinctures and other topical preparations, Arnica products are for external uses, including sore muscles, pain and inflammation.1 Arnica preparations are also used for sunburns, superficial burns and diaper rash.2 ESCOP cites additional uses for sprains, inflamed insect bites, gingivitis, and for topical relief of rheumtaic discomfort.3 Arnica is a staple topical remedy in homeopathy, and in that system of medicine is most commonly employed in creams and gels, primarily to relieve bruising and muscle pain. Arnica also enjoys some limited use in hair tonics and dandruff preparations. 4

Medicinal History

Native Americans referred to arnica as mountain tobacco and leopard’s bane, and employed the plant for sprains, bruises and wounds. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Eclectic physicians and health practitioners used arnica for contusions, bruised muscles, painful breasts, chronic sores and abscesses.1

Traditional uses internally as to promote perspiration, as a diuretic and stimulant, and externally to counteract fever and inflammation, to relieve pain, as an antiseptic, to heal wounds and bruises, and to apply to dislocations, fracture-induced edema, and insect bites.4 Internal use of arnica extracts is no longer advised, due to toxicity concerns. This caution does not apply to homeopathic pellet preparations of arnica, which are extremely dilute.

In homeopathy, arnica has a long history of topical use for injuries, blows and contusions. Though homeopathic medicines are dilute by nature, homeopathic creams and gels actually contain tinctures of materials. Thus homeopathic arnica creams and gels in fact contain non-diluted extracts of the flowers.

Today arnica is found in several hundred products, making it one of the most popular and widely used of the natural topical remedies.

Habitat & Cultivation

Arnica is indigenous to mountain areas, and is readily identified by its large orange blossoms. Arnica montana is Native to mountainous regions of Europe.4 Arnica is cultivated in northern India. Arnica grows wild from Europe to Southern Russia. Major suppliers are former Yugoslavia, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, Germany.5

Arnica blossoms are harvested at maturity, and once dried are used to make various tinctures, extracts, oils, creams, gels and lotions.

How It Works

Arnica acts as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antimicrobial aid. Its anti-inflammatory activity may explain why arnica reduces swelling time in injuries, and also quickly reduces bruising. This same activity makes arnica useful for irritated insect bites. Arnica’s anti-inflammatory activity activity is probably due to a number of agents, including a compound known as helenalin. Arnica’s analgesic properties make arnica preparations valuable for relieving the pain of sprains, bruises and other injuries. The antimicrobial properties of arnica make it useful for minor skin irritations where infection is possible.1,2,4,5

Contemporary Uses Approved by Authoritative Bodies

Germany’s Commission E approves arnica preparations for:

  • Protects against certain toxins, including harmful bacteria in foods.
  • Topical use in cases of injury, and hematoma, dilocations, contusions, edema due to fracture, rheumatic muscle and joint problems, inflammation due to incsect bites, and superficial phlebitis.1,6
  • Orally Commission E approves use of arnica preparations for inflammation of the mouth and throat.1,6

ESCOP approves the use of topically for:

  • Treatment of bruises, sprains, inflammation due to insect bites.
  • Symptomatic treatment of rheumatic complaints.
  • Orally for gingivitis and ulcers of the mouth.

Potential Risks

Safety issues and concerns

Arnica gel and cream preparations are for topical and external use only. However, the use of arnica in the oral cavity (but not swallowed) is accepted.

  • Not to be used on open wounds.
  • Skin irritation may occur among some users.

Contraindications – based on conditions and medication intake, etc.

  • Arnica should not be used by people with arnica allergies.
  • Potentially harmful drug interactions: None known

Allergy precautions

Arnica may cause contact dermatitis among some people.1,3,4,5,6

Usage Tips

Apply arnica tinctures, lotions, oils, creams, ointments or gels to afflicted areas as directed. Discontinue in case of irritation or rash. Do not apply to open wounds.

Science Update

A double-blind, randomized comparison of Arnica administration versus placebo in patients between 1998 and 2002, found that in cases of carpal tunnel syndrome there was a significant reduction in pain experienced after 2 weeks in the Arnica-treated group.7


In conventional medical literature, there is dispute regarding the efficacy of arnica. Its use in homeopathic preparations, especially dilute oral preparations, is largely dismissed as ineffective. This position is at apparent odds with the long history of effective use enjoyed by arnica and its various preparations.


Arnica is sometimes called mountain tobacco, due to the shape of the leaves, which somewhat resemble tobacco.

Product Choosing/Buying Tips

Germany’s Commission E recommends:

  • Arnica ointments containing not more than 20 – 25% arnica tincture.
  • Arnica ointments containing not more than 15% arnica oil.

Homeopathic arnica preparations have been used for a long time, and are good product choices. These products must conform to standards outlined in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia, and therefore are consistent in quality.

  1. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J (eds). Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. 1st ed., (Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications. 2000). 7 - 9
  2. Bruneton J. Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants. 2nd ed., (Paris: Lavoisier Publishing 1993). 504-505
  3. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy. ESCOP Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. 1st ed., (Exeter, U.K.: ESCOP 1997). Fascicule
  4. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics, 2nd ed., (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1996). 40 - 42
  5. Wichtl M, Bisset NG (eds.). Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Trans from 2nd German ed., (Stuttgart: Medpharm GmbH Scientific Publishers. 1994). 83-87
  6. Blumenthal M, Busse W, Goldberg A, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Riggins CW, Rister RS (eds.). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. S. Klein, R.S. Rister (trans.). 1st ed., (Austin, TX: American Botanical Council. 1998). 83-84
  7. Use of Arnica to relieve pain after carpal-tunnel release surgery. Jeffrey SL, Belcher HJ Altern Ther Health Med 2002 Mar-Apr 8:2 66-8