Arnica montana L.


Asteraceae (Subfamily: Asteroideae)

[provided by Hugo de Boer, University of Uppsala]

Doronicum montanum Lam.
Doronicum arnica Desf.
Doronicum arnica Garsault
Doronicum oppositifolium Lam.
Arnica helvetica Loudon
Arnica petiolata Schur
Arnica plantaginisfolia Gilib.

Author:  Judith Ladner

Common names

Leopard`s Bane, European Arnica Mountain Tobacco Wolfsbane, Mountain snuff; Germany: Arnika, Wohlverleih, Wolfsblume, Wolfstoeterin, Donnerblume, Waldblume, Bergwohlverleih, Wolverly, Fallkraut, Luzianskraut, Engel Trank; France: Anrique, Arnica, Tabac des Vosges, Herbe aux chutes, Souci des alpes, Betoine des Montagnes; The Netherlands: Arnika, Val-kruid, Groot Luciaen-kruid; Sweden: Fibler; Spain: Arnica, Tobaco de Montana; Italy: Arnica; Turkey: Dagtutunu

Historical names: Doronicum plantaginis, D. oppositifolium, D. Austriacum quartum, Ptarmica montana, Panacea lapsorum, Nardus celtica altera, Chrysanthemum latifolium, Alisma/Caltha alpina.

The word arnica comes from the Greek "arnakis", meaning lamb's coat, and refers to the felt-like sepals covered in soft hairs that surround the flower.


Arnica is a herbaceous perennial plant. The plant height ranges from 30 –60 cm. One or two pairs of leaves form a flat rosette. They are entire, bright green, toothed and somewhat hairy on the upper surface. The lower leaves are clustered, ovate, ciliated and have rounded tips. The upper leaves are smaller, lance-shaped, opposite and attached directly to the stem. From the centre of the rosette rises a round and hairy stalk that ends in 1-3 flower stalks bearing each one orange-yellow daisylike blossom. The fruits are bristly achenes. The rhizome is dark brown, cylindrical, usually curved, and bears brittle wiry rootlets on the under surface.


Arnica grows on montane to alpine meadows and pastures and in light forests up to the alpine level. Arnica bears full light but prefers partial shade. The subspecies montana is widely distributed, occurs in mountainous areas and prefers poor meadows on acid soils, whereas subspecies atlantica (Bolós) is restricted to an area ranging from south-west France to south Portugal. In many countries, populations are decreasing in size and number owing to habitat loss, but also through exploitation for medical purposes.


This species thrives in a mixture of dry and humusy loam, peat, and sand with a pH of 5-6 but not on limy soils.


Arnica montana L. is distributed from south Norway and Latvia southwards to south Portugal, the north Appennines and south Carpathians. It is naturalized in North America.

Crop management

In many regions Arnica montana L. is a protected species. In some cases, the plants for the herbal remedies are specially cultivated for this purpose, especially in Germany. There are attempts in European countries to develop general guidelines for the sustainable collection of indigenous medicinal and aromatic plant species and the promotion of their implementation. In the case of arnica, Germany is a main importer, and Spain and Romania are important source countries of this species (TRAFFIC, 1998).


Crown rot (Cylindrocarpon sp.) may occur on Arnica montana L.


The plant can be propagated from root division, cuttings, or seeds, which are of short viability. Selection breeding using in vitro culture is possible (Bomme & Daniel 1993).


Botanical varieties: A. acaulis, A. alpina, A. chamissonis Less., A. ciliata, A. cordifolia, A. codifolia, A. coronopifolia, A. crocea, A. doronicum, A. foliosa Nutt, A. fulgens, A. gerbera, A. japonica, A. latifolia, A. longifolia Eaton, A. maritima, A. montana Linn., A. palmata, A. philoselloides, A. oporina, A. sachalinensis Gray, A. scorpioides, A. whitneyi Fern.


Sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids, volatile oil, mucilage and polysaccharides, tannins, misc. substances. The flowers are said to contain more arnicin than the rhizome, but no tannin. Helenalin and Dihydrohelenalin produce anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.

Products & uses

Medicinal use of the plant:

The roots and paricularely the dried flowers can be used for medicinal purpuses.


anti-inflammatory, vulnerary. External use: Treatment of bruises and sprains, rheumatic pain, phlebitis, inflammation of the skin. Internal use: Homeopathic preperations have been shown to be immuno-stimulant. They are even used successfully in the treatment of epilepsy and for seasickness. Further they are tested to treat tumour activity, to stimulate the immun system (EMEA 1999), to treat rare blood disorders, to neutralize Echinacea related TNF stimulation in HIV (Lewis 1996) etc. In veterinary phytotherapy, Arnica montana L. is used topically for the treatment of acute inflammations of tendons, joints and udder, but also for cleaning and treatment of wounds of skin and mucous membranes, eczema and skin inflammations in several liquid preparations (tinctures, fluids) and ointments. The use of homeopathy in veterinary follows the principles of homeopathic therapy and animals are diagnosed on basis of the indicidual pattern of clinical signs (EMEA 1999).


Helenalin may cause dermatitis in some individuals. Internal use can exhibit a toxic action on the heart and cause very large increases in blood pressure. Arnica flowers are sometimes adulterated with other flowers, especially Calendula officinalis, Inula brittanica, Kragapogon pratensis, and Scorzonera humilis.


In countries where arnica is indigenous, it has long been a popular remedy. American Indians made healing ointments and tinctures with native species (A. fulgens, A. sororia and A. cordifolia).

Nutritional Quality and Animal Production

Arnica is used in veterinary phytotherapy and homeopathy (EMEA, 1999).


  • TRAFFIC Network: Information about collection, cultivation and trade of Arnica montana L.
  • Herbal medicine: Short information about habitat, collection, constituents etc.
  • A Modern Herbal: Description and information about cultivation, constituents and medicinal action and uses
  • Arnica: The toxic treasure: Rich information of the Ontario Herbalists Association about names, varieties, history, phytochemistry, constituents etc.
  • Alternative herbal index: Overview and medicinal information; references
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  • Photographs of Arnica montana L. and other arnica species; link to species database
  • References

  • Bomme & Daniel 1993; EMEA 1999; Kowalchik & Hylton 1998; Lewis 1996