The name of “Arnica” comes from a Latin deformation of the Greek term “pragmique”, which is related to “pragmos” and it refers to its capacity to induce cough. It is a very ancient remedy that became very popular in the Middle Ages in Europe and then reached the Americas with the arrival of the colonists.

Arnica belongs to the genus of Asteraceae, the sunflower family of plants. It is an aromatic plant measuring 20-60 of height with simple stems and with bright yellow flowers in a star or sunflower distribution that bloom from June through august in the Northern Hemisphere. There are two original plants from Eurasia but “Arnica Montana’ is the most widely distributed. It prefers the temperate zones of sub-alpine regions and avoids strong winds; it avoids the soils with too much clay and is a fixture of the spring meadows.

Its flowers contain between o.3% and 1.5/6% of Sespquiterpene lactones that are useful in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and neoplasia. Helenalin, one of the main sesquiterpenes found in Arnica Montana has strong anti-inflammatory properties, for which it has been used to treat the osteo-articular pain and limitation of movements for hundreds of years; it is very effective in stimulating the tissue regeneration in local inflammatory processes like arthritis or trauma. It is not an edible plant as it can be very toxic in large quantities. It is used as the main ingredient of creams and tinctures that are applied topically to skin; it is found in many homeopathic preparations. A scientific study found that applied topically it can have the same curative effect as Ibuprofen, a strong anti-inflammatory medication.

A few weeks ago I was suffering badly from my injured left knee—I had fallen from a horse almost twenty years ago and the resulting trauma has produced arthrosis of the joint—and I was limping badly. Blanca, a gentle nurse form Peru that works in my office saw my distress and offered help. She asked me to lay my bare knee on top of my desk and proceeded to apply a tincture of Arnica that her husband had recently brought from Lima. I cannot fully explain the almost instantaneous relief that I felt with it; its balsamic properties extended to my irascible mood at the time. The curative effect lasted for at least 5-6 hours, which enabled me to function adequately. Thank you dear Blanca.


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