Authors: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer, Prof. Dr. med. Martina Bacharach-Buhles

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Last updated on: 07.11.2022

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arnica chamissionis; Arnica montana; Chamisso-Wohlverleih; Maguire; Meadow Carnica; Mountain lodging; Rental

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Origin throughout Europe, especially sunny areas of the Alps, Alpine foothills, now cultivated in fields. Herbaceous perennial belonging to the composite plants (Compositae), 4-6 leafy rosette lying flat on the ground with central up to 60 cm high hairy flower stalk with yellow flowers. Flowering time is June. Arnica is a protected plant in some countries. Ingredients of the essential oils extracted from Arnica montana are fatty acids (50%), terpene hydrocarbons e.g. azulene (12%), kerosenes, thymol and various thymol derivatives. Thymol derivatives. Furthermore flavonoids, coumarins, caffeic acid, phytomelanes, sesquiterpene lactones.

The dried flower heads (arnica flowers - Arnicae flos) are used phytotherapeutically.

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In Europe mainly found in the low and high mountains (up to 2800m) as well as in western North America.

Field of application/use
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Arnica is an old household remedy, used in Europe since the 16th century, since the 18th century also adopted in traditional medicine. Today, the "Red List" lists many finished preparations containing Arnica alone or in combination with others.

According to DAB9, Arnica chamissonis and Arnica montana are official parent plants for arnica flowers (Arnicae flos) from which Tinctura arnicae is also extracted. Similarly, Radix arnicae (off. ÖAB90) is extracted from the roots of these species.

The popularity of arnica preparations as "old home remedies" has been increasing again recently. The use extends to hygiene products, cosmetics, liqueurs (herbal bitters), shampoos, bath additives, soaps, massage oils, healing ointments, wound wipes for foot and mouth care. The most widespread is probably the use of tincture of arnica (Tinctura arnica) for minor injuries and sprains in compresses and poultices (sports medicine).

Activated osteoarthritis: In 204 patients with radiologically confirmed and symptomatically active osteoarthritis of the interphalangeal joints of the hands, ibuprofen (5%) was compared with arnica (50 g tincture/100 g, DER 1:20) as gel preparations in a randomized double-blind study. No differences in pain relief were observed after 21 days of treatment. The results prove that this arnica preparation was not inferior to ibuprofen in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the hands (Widrig R et al. 2007).

Undesirable effects
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Known allergens: Sesquiterpene lactones such as xanthalongin, helenalin, carabron, as well as other substances of this group not yet experimentally studied, must be considered as potential contact allergens.

Sensitization potency: Strong. Experimental sensitization showed strong sensitization potency with both the wild plants and the commercial drug material as well as the individual isolated sesquiterpene lactones.

Sensitization frequency: Compared to other plants, arnica allergy occurs relatively frequently due to its versatile use. Arnica is one of the most important contact allergy inducing species within the composite family. Sensitization occurs not only in individuals who grow, harvest, extract, and process the plants (occupationally), but especially in individuals who use tinctures of arnica and other externals containing arnica.

Improper use (not down-diluted) may initially cause irritant dermatitis with blistering, from which sensitization is subsequently possible.

Cross-reactions with other composites inbes. tansy, yarrow, chrysanthemum, motherwort and sunflower are observed. Furthermore, cross-reactions with other plant species (e.g. laurel and magnolia) which also contain sesquiterterpene lactones may occur.

Trade names
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ABC heat plaster N®, Arnica Kneipp® ointment, Arnikamill® wound and healing ointment, Artosenex® N ointment, Cesrasanol®, Combudoron® jelly, Derma-loges® N wound and healing ointment, Dolo-cyl® oil - muscle and joint oil, Dr. Klinger's stomach tea, Essaven® Sports Gel, Guttacor Balm® N, Hocura® Spondylose Ointment, Palatol® Ointment N, Phoenix Calophoen Ointment, Species Sclero Diabeticum, Tauma-cyl Ointment, Varicylum® S Ointment, Zeel® T Ointment

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For epicutaneous testing, either arnica tincture diluted 1:10, or arnica short ether extract 0.5% in Vaseline are applied.

The plant itself is under nature protection!

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  1. Arberer W (2008) Contact allergy and medicinal plants. JDDG 6: 15-24
  2. Mitchell JC et al (1979) Botanical Dermatology. Vancouver, Greengrass
  4. Ross SM (2008). Osteoarthritis: a proprietary Arnica gel is found to be as effective as ibuprofen gel in osteoarthritis of the hands. Holist Nurs Pract 22:237-239.
  5. Widrig R et al (2007) Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study. Rheumatol Int 27:585-591.
  6. Wenigmann M. (2017) Phytotherapy medicinal drugs, phytopharmaceuticals, application. Urban & Fischer, pp.71-72