Arnica and its Application

Arnica is an herb with a “strange history”, as herbalist Rudolf Weiss comments,

“It used to be very popular, being used internally as well as externally. It is said that the German writer, poet and scientist Goethe would ask for Arnica tea when in his old age he experienced anginal pain due to coronary arteriosclerosis” (Weiss: 1994, 169).

In fact, Goethe claimed that Arnica had saved his life. He sang the praises of Arnica, holding it up as an archetypal healing herb with associations to Helios (the all-knowing God of the sun, of prophecy, and of healing) and Asclepias (son of Helios, the caduceus wielding God of medicine, healing, and rejuvenation who oversees physicians and the practice of the healing arts amongst human beings). Goethe writes:

“Thus I assign Arnica to Helios among the gods. And among men? To the follower of Asclepias who wanders among the lonely heights. Here we have a plant of rapid healing, of firm decision. If you suffer violence and injury, from fist, cudgel or blade, wondrous healing is nigh in this herb. The vital energies are flowing, the pulse grows stronger, the heart takes courage; if the blood has lost its way in a bruise or an effusion, arnica will remind it of its proper courses. Muscles and sinews grow firm; the body form, having suffered insult and injury, is restored, and so is the nervous system where it is so difficult to achieve healing. The organic revolt at injury sustained — we call it pain — lessens and passes.”1

Topical Verses Internal Use

Despite Goethe’s praises, most contemporary authors and practitioners of herbal medicine warn of the dangers of the internal use of Arnica, though it is still widely used topically. The chief indications for the topical use of Arnica include bruises which have resulted from a fall, a blow, or other accidents, as well as poorly healing wounds and leg ulcers.

Weiss notes a traditional use of Arnica tea or tincture (5-10 drops per cup of water) as a gargle to treat sore throat and pharyngitis. “This was found to be most effective with chronic conditions where the circulation was poor in the pharyngeal region, particularly chronic granular pharyngitis, and for chronic smoker’s cough, giving symptomatic relief” (Weiss: 1994, 170).

Arnica provides some of its greatest curative effects in patients who suffer from poor circulation, given its special affinity for the vascular system. In this respect, Arnica covers some of the same clinical indications as does Hawthorn, specifically “senile hearts and coronary artery disease with or without angina” (ibid). Both Arnica and Hawthorn serve to improve the blood supply through the vessels of the coronary artery, though Arnica exerts a pronounced stimulating action in this region and as such is indicated in acute conditions, such as acute weakness of the heart, whereas Hawthorn is better suited for long-term use in chronic cardiovascular conditions such as coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, and congestive heart failure.

In this author’s opinion, Arnica can and should be used internally by clinical herbalists who have been carefully instructed with respect to its specific indications and proper posology. The risks of the internal use of Arnica include gastric irritation, intoxication with dizziness, tremor, tachycardia, arrhythmia, and collapse (ibid). This is to emphasize the importance of working with a well-trained herbalist, especially when it comes to herbs that carry the potential for adverse events.

Arnica Flower

Arnica in Homeopathy

To further understand the healing actions of Arnica, let us turn now to homeopathy. Arnica is a very well-known and widely utilized remedy in homeopathic medicine. As in herbal medicine, Arnica is recognized in homeopathy as a remedy that has strong associations with physical trauma and is widely used in the treatment of acute injuries as well as chronic conditions that have resulted as a consequence of a blow, a fall, or some other significant affliction. Examples of such chronic conditions resulting from a significant injury can include: post-traumatic arthritis, neurological damage (e.g. post concussive syndrome), or even a variety of psycho-emotional and cognitive disturbances, such as depression, irritability, uneasiness, and nervous sensitivity. Arnica treats the effects of shock and trauma that have become impressed on the central nervous system.

Arnica, as noted in the above herbal indications, has a strong association with bruising, and is often called upon to help with the reabsorption of blood after surgery. It is always important to treat bruises: bruises create a condition that we can describe as ‘bad blood’, ‘stagnant blood’, or ‘congealed blood.’ This can, in turn, lead to cancerous conditions in the distant future. Put otherwise, where there are bruises on the body, the oxygen supply in the bloodstream to the affected area is compromised. Limited oxygen supply promotes the development and growth of tumours.

Homeopathic medicines are prescribed on the basis of the totality of a patient’s symptomatology, including the mental-emotional and even spiritual levels. The mental-emotional picture of the Arnica patient is someone who feels “bruised by life.” There can be a long history of emotional trauma and a life path that is characterized by difficult knocks and hard falls. This in turn results in a melancholic, morose, and withdrawn disposition. The Arnica patient can come off as standoffish and distant, as someone who dwells on their suffering and wants to be left alone with their pain. They may also be very obstinate and headstrong, unwilling to listen to the opinions and feelings of others. Arnica patients can feel at odds with the world, convinced that it is their fate to always be facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Such a patient may have a fear of being touched, and a fear of others approaching, lest she be touched. There may be a fear of death, especially as a consequence of heart disease or a sudden heart attack (this fear may be especially amped up during the night). There can be frightful dreams of being buried alive, of black cats, and of death, nightmares that can startlingly wake the patient from sleep, and which may have commenced after an accident or injury. The Arnica patient can be easily startled as a consequence of prior shocks that have become deeply set in the nervous system. This history of being beaten down and emotionally battered can give rise to chronic rheumatic and arthritic complaints, as well as a variety of skin eruptions and other painful conditions of the skin.



1 Johann Peter Eckermann, a close associate of Goethe’s towards the end of his life, recorded a detailed account of Goethe’s profound healing experience with arnica in his book ‘Conversations Of Goethe’ (Eckerman: 1998).

References and Recommended Titles:

  • Eckermann, Johann Peter. Conversations of Goethe. Massachusetts: Da Capo Press, 1998.

  • Morrison, Roger. Desktop Guide to Keynotes and Confirmatory Symptoms. Grass Valley: Hahnemann Clinic Publishing, 1993.

  • Sharma, Yubraj. Spiritual Bioenergetics of Homeopathic Materia Medica. London: Academy of Light Ltd., 2019.

  • Weiss, Rudolf. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg: Ab Arcanum, 1994.

Photos Provided by Serena Mor