What is Arnica?

Arnica is a member of the sunflower family of plants. It is herbaceous and perennial. The name “arnica” is derived from the Greek word for “lamb,” arni, which is a reference to its downy soft leaves which are fuzzy like a lamb’s ear.1 It has a pleasant pine-and-sage-like scent that it imparts to the balm, which is said to be relaxing.

Arnica has been known by many names including “mountain tobacco,” “mountain arnica,” “montana arnica,” “leopard’s bane” and “wolfsbane” (the latter two are not to be confused with two other plants of the same name of entirely unrelated genus Aconitum).

The plant grows wild in the mountainous districts of the north and middle of Europe, blossoming in June and July. A few species of arnica are native to the arctic regions of Eurasia, like Siberia, and North America.

Only the flowers of the arnica are used in preparations. Arnica has bright yellow or orange daisy-like blossoms between two and three inches wide.2 Like other members of the sunflower or Asteraceae genus, arnica plants’ flowers appear to be a single flower, but upon closer inspection are revealed to be clusters of flowers, the appearance of which functions in attracting pollinators, like bees.3

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