Arnica flower (Arnicae flos)

Published December 5, 1984.
List of German Commission E Monographs (Phytotherapy)


Name of Drug

Arnicae flos, arnica flower.

Composition of Drug

Arnica flower consists of the fresh or dried inflorescence of Arnica montana L. or A. chamissonis Less. subsp. foliosa (Nutt.) Maguiere [Fam. Asteraceae], as well as its preparations in effective dosage.

It contains sesquiterpene lactones of the helenanolid type, predominantly ester derivatives of helenalin and 11,13-dihydrohelenalin. Additionally, the herb contains flavonoids (e.g., isoquercitrin, luteolin-7-glucoside, and astragalin), volatile oil (with thymol and its derivatives), phenol carbonic acid (chlorogenic acid, cynarin, caffeic acid), and coumarins (umbelliferone, scopoletin).


For external use in injury and for consequences of accidents, e.g., hematoma, dislocations, contusions, edema due to fracture, rheumatic muscle and joint problems. Inflammation of the oral and throat region, furunculosis, inflammation caused by insect bites, superficial phlebitis.


Arnica allergy.

Side Effects

Prolonged treatment of damaged skin, e.g., use for injuries or ulcus cruris (indolent leg ulcers), often causes edematous dermatitis with the formation of pustules. Long use can also give rise to eczema. In treatment involving higher concentrations of the drug, primary toxic skin reactions with formation of vesicles or even necroses may occur.

Interactions with Other Drugs

None known.


Unless otherwise prescribed:


2 g of herb per 100 ml of water. Tincture for cataplasm:

Tincture in 3 - 10 times dilution. For mouth rinses:

Tincture in 10 times dilution. As ointment:

Not more than 20 - 25 percent tincture. "Arnica oil":

Extract of 1 part herb and 5 parts fatty oil. Ointments with not more than 15 percent "Arnica oil." Mode of Administration Whole herb, cut herb, herb powder for infusions, liquid and semi-solid forms of medication for external application.


Especially when applied topically, arnica preparations have antiphlogistic activity. In cases of inflammation, arnica preparations also show analgesic and antiseptic activity.

Monograph Comments

[Ed.note: The following is additional information on Arnica flower that was not part of the Commission E Monograph. It is added for clarification.]

From the Bundesanzeiger. Published December 5, 1984.

Arnica Flower Oral administration of arnica is often accompanied by severe side effects. For this reason the monograph refers to the herb's external use only, in contrast to the comment section in DAB 8 (German Pharmacopoeia, No. 8), which refers to the internal use of a tea infusion of arnica for circulatory disorders of the heart and brain. (From Comments in DAB 8, 2nd Edition (1983), page 167.)

The identity testing of DAB 8 is inadequate; for example, a tincture produced from "Mexican arnica" (Heterotheca inuloides Cass.) did not contain detectable quantities of arnica. For reliable identification, thin layer chromatographic detection of flavonoids1 and/or the sesquiterpene lactones2 may be used.

In contrast to the possibility of internal use, occasionally practiced in folk medicine, (20 - 30 drops up to three times a day), mentioned in the DAB 8 comments, this monograph, correctly, contains information on external use only; oral use is considered potentially unsafe from the toxicological viewpoint.

1. H. Wagner, S. Bladt, and E. M. Zgainski: Drogenanalyse (Plant Drug Analysis) (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1983), p. 176.

2. G. Willuhn and H. D. Herrman, Pharm. Ztg. 123, 1803 (1978).