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Leopard's Bane (Arnica montana) the Medicinal Garden

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Ever wake up and ache all over after a hard workout the day before? Many people have discovered the benefits of gathering arnica flowers and cooking them with oil, letting them cool, and applying this ointment to sore muscles to relieve the pain. While Europeans were using Arnica montana, Native Americans were using a native species for their aches and pains. 


• A perennial herb with round, hairy stems.

• Leaves: Entire, toothed, slightly hairy on upper surface. Lower leaves are ovate with rounded tips and up to 5" long. Upper leaves are smaller and lance shaped, opposite and attached directly to the stem.

• Fruit: Bristly achenes.


• Flowers are produced in summer.
• Flowers are solitary (occasionally 2 or 3), deep yellow or orange yellow rays, each 2 to 3" across.


• Native to Europe and Western Asia.
• Naturalized throughout North America.


• It's natural habitat is mountain woods and the pastures along the central part of Europe, the Pyrenees, and it' also found in large tracts of Siberia, in the mountains and plains of Canada, and in vast areas in the continental northwestern US.


• Folklore says that humans learned the value of arnica when mountain goats would clamber to find the Arnica plant after falling or stumbling.
• Ancient European treatment for bruises, sprains, and muscle aches.
• Native Americans made many healing ointments and tinctures with native species of Arnica.
• A North American indigenous tribe, the Cataulsa, prepared a tea from arnica roots to ease back pains.
• Goethe, a German writer, credited arnica with saving his life by bringing down a persistent high fever.
• Used in Russian folk medicine to treat uterine hemorrhage, myocarditis, arteriosclerosis, angina pectoris, cardiac insufficiency, and in numerous other unproven applications.
• Doctor John Milton Scudder, a 19th century physician, said in 1874: “I have frequently prescribed it [Arnica montana] for lame back, back ache, and feelings of debility, soreness, etc, in the small of the back. It is only useful in those cases where there is feebleness, with deficient circulation; but in these the influence is direct and permanent.”
• Recognized in the London Pharmacopeia, 1788
• In 1820, arnica was officially added to the U.S Pharmacopoeia and is still listed in the U.S Dispensatory.

Uses Today

• In 1981, a German study found 2 substances in the herb, helenalin and dihydrohelenalin, that produced anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
• Today, over 100 prescriptions in Germany contain Arnica.
• An arnica ointment relieves the pain and reduces the inflammation of sprains and bruises.
• A common liniment for sore muscles and bruises is to heat 1 ounce of Leopard's Bane (Arnica) flowers in 1 ounce of lard or oil for several hours. Strain and let the ointment cool completely before applying it to the injured area.
• To make an infusion to bathe unbroken skin surfaces and to provide relief for rheumatic pain , chillbains, bruises, and sprains; place 2 or 3 teaspoons of chopped arnica blossoms in a glass container. Pour 2 cups of boiling water over the herbs and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain. For external use only.
• A compress soaked in an arnica infusion may relieve the inflammation of phlebitis .
• A few drops of arnica tincture added to a foot bath will relieve fatigue and soothe sore feet.
• A hair rinse prepared with arnica extract has been used to treat alopecia neurotica, an anxiety condition leading to hair loss.
• It has been approved for external use as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antiseptic by the German Commission E, an advisory panel on herbal medicines.
• In foods, arnica is a flavor ingredient in beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins, and puddings.
• In manufacturing, arnica is used in hair tonics and anti-dandruff preparations. The oil is used in perfumes and cosmetics.
• It is also taken by mouth for sore mouth and throat, insect bites, painful and swollen veins near the surface of the skin (superficial phlebitis), sore gums after removal of wisdom teeth, and for causing abortions. Do not take Arnica internally except under close supervision of your doctor.

Part of Pant Used

•The flowers heads


Leopard's Bane (also known as Wolf's Bane and Mountain Tobacco)  Arnica is generally safe when used on the skin. However, using it for a long time may irritate the skin, causing eczema, peeling, blisters, or other skin conditions. Arnica should not be used on broken skin, such as leg ulcers. Also, people who are hypersensitive or allergic to the herb should avoid it.

Arnica is rarely used as an internal herbal remedy because it can cause dizziness, tremors, and heart irregularities. It may also irritate mucous membranes and cause vomiting. Large doses can even be fatal. Do not take arnica by mouth except under close supervision of your doctor. Homeopathic remedies, which use extremely small amounts of arnica, can usually be taken safely.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid taking arnica, and ask your doctor before using it on your skin. Talk to your doctor before taking any medication, including herbs. 

Source: Various sources including University of Maryland Medical Center, Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2005. 23 Feb. 2013, and WebMD

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand historical and medicinal uses of this plant. In no way are we suggesting or telling readers to use this plant as mentioned above.


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