Arnica Fact #4
Harvesting Arnica requires know‑how and experience. However, the species is threatened by human activity. To preserve it, all of the people involved in its growth have signed an exemplary agreement.
Adjust to Nature’s Rhythm
From the season to the weather to the harvesting equipment—everything you need to know about the conditions for harvesting Arnica.
Harvesting Arnica montana is something that is earned. First of all, you must not miss your window of opportunity: this wildflower is harvested in high‑altitude meadows (above 800 m), between approximately June 1 and July 20. The harvest period varies depending on the maturity of the plant, which depends on the regions and climate conditions. Nature also imposes its rhythm on the harvesters, who must follow the progression of the vegetation geographically: they start in the south of France and finish high up in the Alps.
In addition, the harvest greatly depends on the weather. “We have to adjust to the various climate changes; we change regions when the temperature drops to freezing, and we go higher in altitude when it is too hot in a region and we arrive too late for blooming,” explains Régis Buffière, a medicinal plant gatherer for 30 years.
“Sometimes, the weather can stop gathering for 3 to 4 days, or even longer, even though we know that the plants are at the optimal harvesting point,” adds Vincent Deschandol, a professional picker from Ardèche.
As far as picking is concerned, it requires a suitable tool (like a knife or pruning knife) only if the client’s order concerns the upper part of the plant or the flower. For Laboratoires Boiron, Arnica montana is hand‑picked by picking teams, which harvest the entire plant with several centimetres of roots (part of the rhizome is left in the ground). In this case, a pair of gloves is all you need to avoid blisters!
Finally, the pickers make sure that the plant has no weeds, dirt or insects in it; it must be as clean as possible.
Arnica Fact #5
The harvest is a key step: the Arnica must be picked, stored and delivered to Laboratoires Boiron in no more than 48 hours.
Ensuring Arnica’s Quality and Freshness
“A good day of picking generally starts…several days ahead of time, or even several weeks! Scouting is an important, fundamental and inevitable phase,” insists Régis Buffière.
For 30 years, this professional picker has been scouring the areas where Arnica montana grows and noting down everything in his notebook: the place to find it, the GPS coordinates, etc. And he even takes pictures with his smartphone! This preparatory work makes it possible for him to agree to orders.
Once the picking zone has been determined, organization is then necessary to optimize the harvest. This is even more important due to the fact that this is a seasonal job. The day therefore starts very early. “For a good picking day, you have to get up early, because you can’t arrive at 10 or 11 a.m. at the site, or it’s not worth going!” explains Vincent Deschandol, a professional picker in Ardèche.
- A few simple rules need to be followed to ensure the perfect quality of the Arnica:
- Perfect hygiene: Pickers wash their hands before harvesting
- Place the plants vertically in openwork bags (or in crates) to ensure better conservation
- Place the bags in the shade so the plants do not heat up
- Store and transport the Arnica in clean, refrigerated trucks
- Delivery to laboratories Boiron must take place within 48 hours
“For Arnica, like for all our wild plants, there is only 48 hours between picking and delivery. This way, we guarantee high quality raw material,” concludes Françoise Merceron, a pharmacist and head of plant‑purchasing for Laboratoires Boiron.
Did You Know?
Access to Arnica montana is not free. Though it is wild, the plant always grows on land that has an owner, either public or private (the state via the French National Forests Office, or ONF, the city, etc.). Therefore, the harvesters must ask for authorization to pick.
Arnica Fact #6
Arnica montana, which has been weakened by human activity, must be protected to survive. Signed by all the people involved in production, the Markstein Agreement is exemplary.
How to Preserve Arnica
Arnica montana is caught between a rock and a hard place. On one side, there is an increasing demand from pharmaceutical companies for this wild plant known for its medicinal properties. On the other, it is a species weakened by intensive agriculture and the fertilization of the soil.
As a result, we are witnessing the gradual disappearance of Arnica montana.
Good Practice at Boiron
To ensure the survival of the species and to promote biodiversity, Laboratoires Boiron has also set up good practices for picking in detailed specifications. The first rule followed by the pickers is that they agree to pick only 30% of a site’s potential.
This observation is particularly true in the Markstein region, south of the Vosges, which is one of the largest picking sites in Europe. To protect this place, which is unique in France, and to ensure the survival of the species, an exemplary agreement was signed in June 2007 by all of the people involved in production: farmers, mayors, pickers, pharmaceutical company representatives, the French National Forrest Office (ONF) heads, and the Vosges Association for the Mountain Economy (AVEM).
The Markstein Agreement aims to organize the people involved in the harvesting of Arnica montana in the Markstein‑Grand Ballon sector and to ensure the conservation of the plant as a common resource.
Among other things, it provides for:
- picking plants that are in full bloom,
- leaving one flowering stem in place every 5 m and the wilting capitula,
- and hand picking only.
Boiron has signed this agreement and is committed to respecting Arnica montana every day.