Arnica montana. Leopardsbane.
Nat. Ord. — Asteraceae. Sex. Syst. — Syngenesia Superflua.
The Root and Herb.
Description. — Arnica Montana, is a perennial, herbaceous plant, with a horizontal, woody, blackish or brownish root, which terminates abruptly at the lower end, and which is furnished with many long, slender, dark-colored fibers. The stem, rises about a foot in hight, is simple, obscurely-angled, striated, rough, hairy, and terminates 'in one, two, or three upright peduncles, each bearing one very large flower of a deep yellow color, somewhat tinged with brown. The radical leaves are ovate, entire, ciliated, and obtuse ; the cauline ones are lanceolate, and in opposite pairs ; both are bright-green, and slightly pubescent on their upper surface. The involucre is cylindrical, and composed of fifteen or sixteen rough, hairy, lanceolate scales, of a dingy -green color, but purple at the points. The disk florets are very numerous, tubular, with a five-lobed limb ; those of the radius, about fourteen, ligulate, striated, three-toothed, and hairy at the base. The achenia are oblong, blackish, hairy, and crowned with a straw-colored capillary pappus.
History. — This plant is a native of the mountainous districts of Europe and Siberia, in moist, shady situations, flowering in June and July ; it is likewise found in the northern regions of this continent, west of the Mississippi. The flowers, leaves, and root, have been used in medicine, but the flowers are generally preferred. When fresh, the whole plant has a disagreeable odor, very strong when fresh, and exciting sneezing ; the taste is acrid, bitterish, and permanent. Its virtues are extracted by water. Analysis has detected in the flowers, gallic acid, gum, albumen, yellow coloring matter, an odorous resin, a blue volatile oil, some salts, and a bitter, acrid matter, supposed to be identical with cytisin, the bitter principle of Cytisus Laburnum. Cytisin is a yellow substance, of a bitter, nauseous taste, deliquescent, readily soluble in water and dilute alcohol, less soluble in strong alcohol, and insoluble in ether. Five grains of it are powerfully emetic and cathartic.
Arnicina is obtained from the flowers, by subjecting them to a process similar to that by which lobelina is extracted from lobelia inflata. It has a decided alkaline reaction, and combines with acids, forming a series of salts. It has a slightly bitter, but not acrid taste, with an odor of castor, and from the aqueous solutions of its salts, it is precipitated by tincture of galls in somewhat dense flocks ; it is more readily soluble in alcohol and ether, than in water. A high temperature decomposes it, which also obtains when subjected to the action of caustic alkalies. It has not yet been employed in medicine, though it probably possesses the active principles of the Arnica in a concentrated form.
Properties and Uses. — In large doses, it causes heat in the throat, nausea, vomiting, spasmodic contractions of the limbs, difficulty of respiration, and sometimes inflammation of the alimentary canal, and coma. Its poisonous effects are best counteracted by the free use of vinegar, or other dilute vegetable acid.
In small doses, it accelerates the pulse, increases the perspiration, excites a flow of urine, and is said occasionally to cause headache and giddiness. In Germany, it is esteemed as a stimulant in typhoid fever and other adynamic febrile diseases, in chronic palsy, and amenorrhea ; also, as a tonic in chronic rheumatism, and as a tonic and diuretic in the asthenic forms of dropsy. In intermittent fever it has proved very successful, also, in nyctalopia and amaurosis ; and is reputed to be highly serviceable in that disordered condition of the system which succeeds concussion of the brain, from falls, blows, etc. It has also been recommended in diarrhea, dysentery, nephritis, gout, chlorosis, and almost every disease where there is debility, torpor, or inactivity of function. Externally, it is used in the form of a fomentation, or diluted tincture of the flowers, both to prevent and discuss local inflammations, and to remove ecchymosis.
Dose of the powder, five to ten grains, two to four times a day ; of the infusion, made by adding half an ounce of the flowers to a pint of water, from half an ounce to an ounce ; of the extract, which is an excellent form of administration, from five to ten grains, four or five times a day. In preparing an infusion of the flowers, they should be loosely tied in a bag, in order to prevent the down or fine fibers from getting into the infusion, or else they will cause troublesome irritation of the throat, nausea, and vomiting.
Off. Prep. — Infusum Arnicae ; Tinctura Arnicae.