What is Arnica?

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From the mountainous regions of Central Europe, Arnica montana is recognized for its medicinal properties. It uses its ingenious properties to protect itself from its environment.

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How to Recognize Arnica ?

With its hairy stem and its large yellow‑orange flower, Arnica montana is an easily identifiable wild plant.

A vibrant plant that grows to be 20 to 60 cm tall, Arnica montana is most often recognized by its yellow-orange capitula (flowers). Arranged in a daisy shape, the flower is relatively large (6‑8 cm).It usually blooms alone (or in groups of three or four) and gives off a strong odor. Like many Asteraceae, the capitula is composed of female ligulated flowers and hermaphrodite tubulated flowers.

Arnica can also be distinguished by its pale green stem, which is covered in strong‑smelling glandular hairs (trichomes). In addition, it can be distinguished by the flowers found at its base, which are oval‑shaped and have longitudinal ribs that stand out on its underside; this is called the rosette.

Another characteristic is its 20 to 50 cm flowering stem, which often holds two small opposite or sub‑opposite caulinary leaves.

Finally, Arnica leaves are relatively thick and hairy. These hairs have two advantages for the plant:

  • by reflecting light, they protect it from burns, evaporation and drying,
  • and by sticking up in a bristly manner, they ward off the sensitive mouths of animals, such as cows, goats and sheep.

The fruit is an achene (dry fruit) topped with a feathery crest, the seed of which is slightly hairy.

Arnica has an important underground network. Its underground stem, called the rhizome, is used for reproduction. It is also pollinated by insects, and its seeds are scattered by the wind.

Related to Chamomile

There are approximately 30 species of Arnica, and these perennial, herbaceous plants belong to the Asteraceae family, as do chamomile and marigolds.

The most used species are as follows: Arnica montana and Arnica chamissonis, which are present in Europe, as well as Arnica fulgens, Arnica sororia and Arnica cordifolia, which come from North America.

Popular Names for Arnica

  • In French, “herb for falls:” This name refers to its traditional use for centuries in the treatment of pain related to an impact (bruise or bump) or muscle fatigue (cramps or aches).
  • In French, “herb for sneezes:” The word “arnica” is a deformation of the Greek word “ptarnica,” which means “which makes one sneeze.”
  • In French, Vosges tobacco or Savoy tobacco: in English, mountain tobacco: An allusion to the ancient uses of arnica leaves.
  • In French, “preacher’s herb”: A reference to an ancient use of Arnica to relieve

Photo credit ©Serge Sang