Arnica montana

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Arnica montana
Arnica montana - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-015.jpg
1897 illustration[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Arnica
Species: A. montana
Binomial name
Arnica montana
  • Doronicum montanum Lam.
  • Doronicum oppositifolium Lam.
  • Arnica helvetica Loudon
  • Arnica petiolata Schur
  • Arnica plantaginifolia Gilib.
  • Arnica lowii Holm
  • Cineraria cernua Thore

Arnica montana, sometimes mistakenly referred to as wolf's bane, has also been called leopard's bane, mountain tobacco and mountain arnica,[3] is a European flowering plant in the sunflower family. It is noted for its large yellow flower head.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Arnica montana

Arnica montana is widespread across most of Europe.[4] It is absent from the British Isles and the Italian and Balkan Peninsulas. Arnica montana grows in nutrient-poor siliceous meadows up to nearly 3,000 metres (9,800 ft). It is rare overall, but may be locally abundant. It is becoming rarer, particularly in the north of its distribution, largely due to increasingly intensive agriculture. In more upland regions, it may also be found on nutrient-poor moors and heaths.

Arnica montana has tall stems, 20–60 cm (7.9–23.6 in) high, supporting usually a single flower head. Most of the leaves are in a basal rosette, but one or two pairs may be found on the stem and are, unusually for composites, opposite. The flower heads are yellow, approximately 5 cm (2.0 in) in diameter, and appear from May to August.


Arnica montana is sometimes grown in herb gardens and historically has been used as medicine.[5][6] It has been used in herbal medicine for centuries.[7] The roots contain derivatives of thymol,[8] which are used as fungicides and preservatives and may have some anti-inflammatory effect.[9]

Clinical trials of Arnica montana have yielded mixed results:

  • When used topically in a gel at 50% concentration, A. montana was found to have the same effect when compared to a 5% ibuprofen gel for treating the symptoms of hand osteoarthritis.[10]
  • A scientific study by FDA funded dermatologists found that the application of topical A. montana had no better effect than a placebo in the treatment of laser-induced bruising.[11]
  • In 1998, a systematic review of homeopathic A. montana at the University of Exeter concluded that there are no rigorous clinical trials that support the claim that it is efficacious beyond a placebo effect.[12]
  • A 2013 Cochrane Collaboration systematic review of topical herbal remedies for treating osteoarthritis concluded that "Arnica gel probably improves pain and function as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs do."[13]
Arnica montana fruits and seeds


Arnica montana contains the toxin helenalin, which can be poisonous if large amounts of the plant are eaten. It produces severe gastroenteritis and internal bleeding of the digestive tract if enough material is ingested.[14][medical citation needed] Contact with the plant can also cause skin irritation.[15][16]


  1. ^ illustration from Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1897
  2. ^ The Plant List Arnica montana L.
  3. ^ Judith Ladner. "Arnica montana". Food and Agriculture Organization. Archived from the original on February 13, 2010. Retrieved March 16, 2010. 
  4. ^ Altervista Flora Italiana, Arnica montana L. includes photos and European distribution map
  5. ^ "Arnica". Flora of North America. Archived from the original on April 4, 2010. Retrieved March 16, 2010. 
  6. ^ A. L. Butiuc-Keul & C. Deliu; Deliu (2001). "Clonal propagation of Arnica montana L., a medicinal plant". In Vitro Cellular and Development Biology – Plant 37 (5): 581–585. doi:10.1007/s11627-001-0102-2. JSTOR 4293517. 
  7. ^ Knuesel, O.; Weber, M.; Suter, A. (2002). "Arnica montana gel in osteoarthritis of the knee: An open, multicenter clinical trial". Advances in Therapy 19 (5): 209–218. doi:10.1007/BF02850361. PMID 12539881. 
  8. ^ I. Weremczuk-Jezyna, W. Kisiel & H. Wysokińska; Kisiel; Wysokińska (2006). "Thymol derivatives from hairy roots of A. montana". Plant Cell Reports 25 (9): 993–6. doi:10.1007/s00299-006-0157-y. PMID 16586074. 
  9. ^ P. C. Braga, M. Dal Sasso, M. Culici, T. Bianchi, L. Bordoni & L. Marabini; Dal Sasso; Culici; Bianchi; Bordoni; Marabini (2006). "Anti-inflammatory activity of thymol: inhibitory effect on the release of human neutrophil elastase". Pharmacology 77 (3): 130–6. doi:10.1159/000093790. PMID 16763380. Retrieved January 27, 2008. 
  10. ^ R. Widrig, A. Suter, R. Saller & J. Melzer; Suter; Saller; Melzer (2007). "Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study". Rheumatology International 27 (6): 585–91. doi:10.1007/s00296-007-0304-y. PMID 17318618. 
  11. ^ Delilah Alonso, Melissa C. Lazarus & Leslie Baumann; Lazarus; Baumann (2002). "Effects of topical arnica gel on post-laser treatment bruises". Dermatologic Surgery 28 (8): 686–8. doi:10.1046/j.1524-4725.2002.02011.x. PMID 12174058. Retrieved January 27, 2008. 
  12. ^ Ernst, E.; Pittler, M. H. (1998). "Efficacy of Homeopathic Arnica". Archives of Surgery 133 (11). doi:10.1001/archsurg.133.11.1187. 
  13. ^ "Topical herbal therapy for treating osteoarthritis | Cochrane". Retrieved 2015-07-08. 
  14. ^ Gregory L. Tilford (1997). Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West. Mountain Press. ISBN 0-87842-359-1. 
  15. ^ "Poisonous Plants: Arnica montana". North Carolina State University. 
  16. ^ Rudzki E, Grzywa Z; Grzywa (October 1977). "Dermatitis from Arnica montana". Contact Dermatitis 3 (5): 281–2. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0536.1977.tb03682.x. PMID 145351. 

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