You’ve probably seen this sunny, daisy-like flower growing on your homestead or in the surrounding landscape. It originated in the European alps and is an immigrant to North America. It likes poor soil and waste places at higher elevations. The next time you see it, remember where its growing because it is one of the most beneficial herbs for healing inflammation, bruising, sudden pain, accident, and paralysis. It is easy to collect, easy to make medicine from and highly beneficial.
Mountain Sunflower, or Arnica montana, is a bright yellow, daisy-like flower that blooms in Spring on nutrient-poor hillsides, rocky places, and stony plains. The plant is toxic if ingested in large quantity but highly beneficial when used topically or as a diluted tincture. Arnica was found to have the same pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory effect as Ibuprofen (5%) when used in a gel at 50% concentration. This is the concentration that you would get if you infused the flowers in olive oil. There are reports in the literature of paralysis being healed with the use of arnica, as well. Definitely an herb that is worth getting to know better. It has a pungent smell, its stem is slightly fuzzy, with broad sunflower-like leaves, and the whole plant can be used in herbal medicine.
It is one of the most famous remedies known to the herbalist for treatment of bruises, joint stiffness, wounds, swellings, and paralysis. – The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable, J. Levy
When to collect it:
Collect the fresh flower heads in Spring, before they wilt. As you drive into Grand Forks, BC, on highway 3, you’ll see a field of Arnica blooming, in a vacant field in May and June. If you are hunting for arnica you will find it blooming later, the higher you go. In hilly areas it will bloom for weeks in May and June. While the whole plant can be used, taking the flowers and leaving the leaves will allow it to continue growing.
Making Arnica Oil
You can steep the fresh flower heads in olive oil to make a massage cream for sore joints and bruises. To do this fill a wide-mouth quart jar with fresh flowers, and pour olive oil over the top. Remove air bubbles by sliding a knife along the side of the jar. Cap tightly and place in a warm place. Shake it daily and in 2 weeks, strain out the flowers and reserve the oil.
Making Arnica Tincture
You can also make a tincture from the fresh flowers. The tincture is traditionally used as a treatment for inflamed nasal passages. To make a tincture, fill a wide mouth jar with fresh flowers, and pour 100 proof vodka over the flowers. Use a knife to remove air bubbles from the jar. Cap tightly and place in a warm place. Shake it daily and in 2 weeks, strain out the flowers and reserve the infused alcohol tincture. Use the tincture to make other medicines. By making a tincture you can preserve the quality of the fresh herb longer than if you simply dried the herb. Arnica tincture can be used in place of arnica mother tincture in homeopathic medicine.
Making Arnica Infusion
Arnica flowers can also be dried to be used as an infusion. The flower tops should be dried in the shade, on screens, and away from electric heat, until they are completely dry before storing in paper bags, well labelled. Dried herbs will keep for 2 years, when dried this way. After 2 years you can put them on your garden and get a fresh batch of herbs.
To use place 1 large handful of dried flowers into 2 cups of boiled water. Allow to steep until the water is just warm. Squeeze out flowers and use it to massage the painful, swollen, or inflamed parts. Gypsies used this treatment on horses with sore, swollen legs.
I referenced the following books in preparing this article:
The complete herbal handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Bairach Levy
The complete illustrated Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman
The complete Family guide to Natural Home Remedies by Karen Sullivan, ed.
This article is part of a series of articles on Home-based Herbal medicine for your pets and livestock. Subscribe to my RSS feed so that you don’t miss any of these informative articles.
Other articles in this series:
Before you call the vet: 3 easy steps to get a baby lamb or kid on a bottle
No time to call the vet: Dealing with hypothermia in baby goats and lambs
No time to call the vet: How to removed ticks from llamas and alpacas
How to make herbal first aid salve for livestock
Herbal Medicine: Dealing with parasites in goats and sheep, part 1