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Arnica Montana (A. Montana) has been used in homeopathic remedies for centuries. Writings of its healing attributes date back to the 12th century in Germany. Generations of German and Swiss mountaineers have used it for a wide variety of applications; flowers were used as compresses for sprains and bruises, leaves were chewed for energy and dried for smoking (hence the name “mountain tobacco”).
- Montana belongs to the Compositae (or Asteraceae) family, making it a relative to the common daisy. It is a mountain plant, native across northern and central Europe growing up to 28 in tall at altitudes of 9,800 ft. It is still harvested from the wild due to its difficulty to farm; fertilizer/ aerial fertilization can be detrimental to the flowers development and has even affected the wild population already. It’s not uncommon to find hybrids or crossbreeding for sustainability. There are other species of Arnica (like Narrowleaf, Arctic Arnica, and others), A. Montana is the specific plant we refer to when we talk about the therapeutic effects of the plant. But what exactly about the plant makes it so effective?
The active constituent of A. Montana is helenalin. Helenalin is a type of terpene, a sesquiterpene to be specific. Sesquiterpene lactones from this family (Asteraceae) can play a significant role in human health for its effects on the cardiovascular and immune system. The cardiovascular effects are the result of their ability to relax smooth muscle tissue by inhibiting iNOS up-regulation, and consequently increasing levels of Nitric Oxide (allows blood, nutrients, and oxygen to travel to every part of your body more effectively and efficiently. The cause of this effect is widely believed to be due to inhibition of NF-κB.
NF-Kappa transcription factors (NF-kB) play a significant role in inflammation. It is a specific cell signaling process, by which the pathway is activated upon appropriate cellular stimulation, most often by signals related to pathogens or stress (NF-kB is highly activated at sites of inflammation in diverse disease such as Rheumatoid arthritis, Atherocsclerosis, Multiple Sclerosis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and many more). Sesquiterpene lactones inhibit this process, reducing inflammation.
- Anti-bacterial – tested against anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that doesn’t require oxygen, with humans often affect the gut) and aerobic bacteria (does require oxygen, often affecting the respiratory system). Was found to inhibit the activity of these bacteria.
- Osteoarthritis in the hands – in one study, it was shown to be as effective as ibuprofen, both in pain intensity and hand function.
- Analgesic – tested against a placebo after tonsillectomy, A. Montana provided a small but statistically significant decrease in pain
We now know how A. Montana promotes blood flow and inhibits the release of inflammation while providing other healthy responses throughout the body. As with starting any new treatment, we encourage you to consult your doctor before using any concentrated A. Montana, especially if you are taking blood thinners or clotting medications for A. Montana can affect these. It you have recently had surgery or are going to have surgery we recommend not using A. Montana until you’ve fully recovered. If you are allergic to Asteracea (sunflowers, marigolds) you should refrain from using any form of A. Montana.