Arnica. Arnica montana.

Botanical name: 

Synonyms—Leopard's Bane.

Volatile oil, acrid resin, and a nauseous bitter substance, resembling cytisin, with gallic acid. A small quantity of an alkaloid called arnicin.


The tincture of arnica is a common preparation. It is in common use for external application. It may be given internally in doses of from one to ten minims.
Specific arnica, dose from one-half to five minims.

Physiological Action—The whole plant has a disagreeable, strong and irritating odor when fresh. The taste is bitter, acrid and permanent. In sufficient dose it causes vomiting and catharsis. It is also diuretic, diaphoretic and emmenagogue. In poisonous doses, it causes a burning sensation in the stomach, intense headache, and violent nervous disturbance, with marked abdominal pain. The pulse is reduced and often fails. There may be convulsions of a bilateral character, and ultimate death.

Specific Symptomatology—The agent is specific to bruised, sore, lacerated, contused, muscular structure. It may be applied diluted externally and should be used internally for the same purpose.

These symptoms may be present from disease, deep muscular soreness—tenderness on pressure in deep muscular structures. In advanced disease, where these symptoms are present with marked general enfeeblement, impairment of innervation, with weak circulation, with a tendency towards permanent prostration, the remedy is specifically indicated.

When there is muscular pain and soreness, which is increased by muscular movement, or soreness in the back, as if from strain, the remedy is useful.

Where there is inflammation of any organ, with general diffused muscular soreness, the agent in small doses is indicated. Where there is inflammation of any organ from traumatic causes—severe injury to the parts, this remedy must be given.

In the muscular soreness, pain, and general physical discomfort that follows confinement, especially after difficult labor, this agent used both externally and internally will produce immediate benefits. Internally from fifteen to thirty drops in four ounces of water, a teaspoonful every hour will quickly relieve the muscular soreness or extreme lameness from the severe protracted muscular strain. Externally one part to five of warm water may be applied on compresses over the lame parts, and as soon as soreness of the breasts occur it may be applied over the breasts for a time.

Therapy—In small doses, arnica causes increased perspiration, increased secretion of urine, and an accelerated pulse. Its tonic influence upon the nervous system, and directly upon the heart and circulatory organs, make it a useful remedy indeed. In adynamic fevers, we have so few remedies possessing sedative properties, which do not depress, that each should be studied in this line, and arnica is especially available. It must be given in small doses frequently repeated, in the line of its indications. The indications for bryonia, rhus tox, or belladonna, or perhaps cactus, may be present at the same time.

Arnica is selected for internal use when there has been a severe injury, with fever, or in surgical fever, where there has been shock and general prostration. In all cases after severe cutting operations, where there has been destruction of muscular tissue, soreness follows and pain, which is ameliorated to an excellent advantage by the internal use of small doses of arnica.

In low fevers, where the nervous system is greatly at fault, it not only controls the temperature, but increases the nerve-power, overcoming depression and debility, especially in severe, protracted fevers where the exhaustion results from loss of nerve force and where there is marked depression; if there be excessive night sweat, colloquative diarrhea, incontinence of urine or feces, feeble respiratory power where difficulty of breathing keeps the patient awake. It may be given in conjunction with other specifically indicated remedies to excellent advantage, where there is low muttering delirium, where the tongue is dry and where the mouth and throat seem to be clogged with foul, stringy mucus.

When there are typhoid conditions present, with inflammation of the respiratory organs, the influence of this agent is much like phosphorous, stimulating the respiration and encouraging the oxygen carrying power of the blood. Many of the milder forms of acute, or chronic paralysis, are benefited by this remedy.

It is useful in those forms where mania or delirium tremens are present.

In any case where it is indicated externally, it may be given internally at the same time. Its influence is greatly enhanced.

Soreness in the small of the back, lame back, general weakness of the muscles of the back, with soreness prevailing, sickening backache in the region of the kidneys, are all benefited by arnica. It not only relieves the soreness and the bruised conditions, when given internally, but quickly overcomes the ecchymosis.

As an external application, to cuts, bruises, lacerations, and sores, arnica has long been a popular domestic remedy. It is used in full strength, but the best results are not so attained. It is more serviceable when diluted with from one to six parts of warm water. It is a stimulant to the skin, promoting absorption of nutritive material. It undoubtedly assists in carrying off the broken down tissue, which results from the traumatism, and promotes rapid repair. I have observed its influence to be greatly facilitated by combining it with a nutritional substance. In cases where the muscles beneath the skin were severely lacerated, torn and bruised, I have applied one part of arnica with five parts of warm fresh sweet milk, keeping the application warm, covered with a protective dressing, and renewed every two or three hours. It is incredible how rapidly the restoration will take place under these circumstances.

In debilitated conditions, where there are old sores of long standing or cold abscesses, this agent may be applied in conjunction with bovinine and will accomplish excellent results.

It is desirable that the agent should be studied more thoroughly, in the line of its internal use, in surgical fevers with shock, and in conjunction with external applications after general bruising and laceration, and in extreme cases of adynamia.

When there are circumscribed sore spots in the muscular structures of the body—hyperesthetic areas—without apparent cause, this agent is indicated.

The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 1919, was written by Finley Ellingwood, M.D.
It was scanned by Michael Moore for the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine.