Arnica in Traditional Medicine
Arnica montana, a wildflower that grows in the high mountains of Europe, has likely been used as a healing herb since the Middle Ages1. The first documentation of the use of Arnica as a medicinal plant in Europe dates from the 1500s.
Folklore tells us that humans learned the value of Arnica by observing mountain goats, who would clamber to find the Arnica plant after falling or stumbling. Following the animals’ lead, locals began to apply the herb for bruises, mostly in the form of external salves or steeped in teas. This explains its German name, Fallkraut or “fall herb.”
A variety of Arnica also grows in North America, where indigenous people called it “mountain tobacco” and used it as a medicinal plant2.
Arnica’s Discovery in Homeopathy
When Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, was investigating the curative powers of Arnica, he conducted his initial provings on ten fellow doctors. Provings consisted of controlled tests in which doctors consumed large quantities of the original plant while other doctors took meticulous notes on every possible symptom that was experienced. A homeopathic preparation of the plant was given as an antidote to the toxic effects of the original substance. This, the core principle of homeopathy—”like cures like”—suggests that taking a very diluted amount of the original substance will help cure the symptoms that a large, natural dose would induce.
During their experiments in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Dr. Hahnemann discovered that when ingested, the raw, unprocessed Arnica plant caused traumatic effects on the tissues of the body. Therefore, the doctors hypothesized that as a homeopathic remedy, Arnica can actually stimulate the body’s ability to heal injuries efficiently, minimizing bruising, and reducing swelling3. Since then, over two centuries of study and applied use of homeopathic Arnica have confirmed its remarkable ability to do exactly that.
To learn more about the history of Arnica, check out our infographic Arnica Through the Ages!