Arnica (Arnica montana) in the herbal realm is like Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) in the essential oils. It's popular, works amazing and most people have heard of it. Arnica's healing properties have been recognized since the twelfth century thanks to Hildegard von Bingen, and most homeopathy products contain it. It is in the same family as the daisy and sunflower (Asteraceae) and contains Helenian, a compound that is toxic when taken unprocessed, but works wonders when applied topically for bruising and reducing inflammation. The flowers appear in the mountains of Northern and Central Europe and Siberia in the months of May through August. They are also sprinkled in small amounts throughout the Northwestern United States.
Arnica has a long list of benefits including reducing inflammation, relieving arthritis and muscle soreness, heals internal bleeding, and treats skin disorders including acne. It is effective for bruising, has analgesic abilities and is a natural rash remedy. It acts as a skin moisturizer, treats frost bite, promotes healthy hair, prevents hair loss, and is a solution to post-partum bleeding. Arnica plays a big part in healing injuries or acute situations / flare ups but it is discouraged to use for extended periods of time as it can cause irritation and sensitization.
Another plant commonly called Mexican Arnica, (Heterotheca inuloides Cass) is located in Central America and has similar properties to the montana species, however Arnica montana has stronger active ingredients and also has a higher commercial value. If you are searching for true Arnica, just make sure you refer to its Latin name. Another thing you need to be aware of is that Arnica montana has been over exploited and is now considered to be an endangered species in most areas. It is currently extinct in Hungary and Lithuania and if people don't start respecting its harvesting season, we will no longer be able to enjoy the many benefits it gives to us.
It is important to buy Arnica from reputable companies that pride themselves on sustainability. Mountain Rose Herbs is one I frequent often and their website is www.mountainroseherbs.com. Their inventory will adjust to the harvesting times of the plant, so once they run out, they won't have it again until production is sustainable. Another company I respect is St. John's Botanicals www.stjohnsbotanicals.com. You will pay a little more money for herbs from these companies but the quality is incredible and it will give you peace of mind knowing that you are not contributing to the downfall of important herbs like Arnica.
If you use Arnica products, ask questions and do your research. Make sure the companies that have Arnica as an ingredient are using plants that come from reputable sources. Future generations deserve to enjoy this plant as much as we have!
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