Also called Mountain tobacco, arnica (Arnica montana) is a much-valued perennial herb in medicine and arnica ointment is used to treat bruises, sprains, varicose veins and other conditions. It is also used in homeopathy to treat epilepsy, high blood pressure and shock. It is also used internally, because of its irritant effect on the stomach. Its action is stimulant and diuretic.
As with all medicinal herbs, it should not be used in its natural state for the plant is poisonous and toxic and can cause skin irritation. It is not a large plant ( 30-60 cm by 15 cm) and carries attractive golden-yellow daisy-like flowers, held on a long stems. It is a popular plant for growing in containers. Period of flowering is in midsummer to early fall.
The leaves are bright green, the upper surfaces are toothed and slightly hairy. Foliage is held in a basal rosette of four to eight downy leaves. They are commonly found in the mountains of Europe and Siberia.
Arnica needs humus-rich, sandy and acid soil. Natural habitat of arnica are meadows, pastures, lawns etc. on all but the poorest soils. Plants do well in average garden soils but can tolerate poor soils as long as drainage is good. Once established plants also tolerate hot, humid summers and drought. In drought situations it will remain green after grasses have turned brown.
Sow arnica seeds indoors in late summer or early fall in a cold frame, using fresh seed if it’s available from a local source in your area. Fill the pot or flat to within ½ inch of its rim with potting soil and then scatter seeds on top. Press the seeds into the soil with your palm but do not cover with more potting soil. Then sprinkle well with a fine mist of water.
Place your flat or pots in an area that receives partial sunlight every day, keep them damp and maintain a temperature of around 55°F. Divide in spring. You can also take cuttings to root for new arnica plants during the summer months.