Rising Demand and Shrinking Supply of Arnica Montana
Arnica montana is a wildflower that grows in the mountains of Europe, valued for hundreds of years in folk medicine, herbal remedies, and homeopathy. Now, as its medicinal benefits become more widely known, worldwide demand for Arnica is skyrocketing. As a result, the wild meadows where bright yellow Arnica flowers blossom are being overharvested. At the same time, conversion of land for agriculture and contamination by agricultural chemicals have resulted in habitat loss, further diminishing the supply of wild Arnica1.
Today, in many European countries, Arnica is a protected species with restrictions on wild collecting. Producers of homeopathic and herbal medicines are actively exploring ways to sustainably increase the supply of Arnica montana, in order to bring natural healing to all who need it.
Solutions for a Sustainable Arnica Harvest
It’s no simple matter to produce Arnica montana on a commercial scale. This wild herb resists cultivation and often struggles outside of its native alpine habitat. Options to sustainably expand the Arnica harvest include all of the following:
Although Arnica montana is the variety most sought after for medicinal preparations, there are additional North American species, all of which have differing healing properties2. A similar-looking plant, Heterotheca inuloides, also called “Mexican Arnica,” has been used in Mexican folk medicine and is also used in some commercial preparations3. Still, it is important to note that Heterotheca inuloides is not Arnica, nor do these plants have the same medicinal indications.
Homeopathic companies are working to protect Arnica montana’s wild habitat through land easements and other conservation measures.
Farmers and researchers are making progress developing best agricultural practices for cultivating Arnica, which is grown on mountain farms in Europe, the United States, Canada, and other countries. New Zealand is also exploring agricultural production of Arnica4. Some growers are finding success growing Arnica hydroponically5.
Researchers are developing methods to produce the active ingredients of Arnica montana using cell culture techniques.