Leopard's bane (Arnica montana)
Leopard's bane (Arnica montana). Courtesy photo

Wild Roots: Leopard’s bane (Arnica montana)

This yellow-orange perennial from the daisy family — also known as leopard’s bane, wolf’s bane or mountain tobacco — found above 8,500 feet near light forests, and lime-free mountain meadows were first mentioned in herbal books in the late 1500s and gained popularity during the 18th century in the new world of developing science and medicine in Europe.

The Greeks reportedly used Arnica montana to bring on a sneeze as snuff and smoked it like tobacco (not recommended).

Today, it is used in small doses for bruising, arthritis, muscle strains, antiseptic and homeopathic medicine and is being studied for its anti-tumor effects. For those with tender, tired, sore feet, a few flower tops in a warm foot bath are the remedy.

Some mainstream surgeons are recommending Arnica for post-surgical bruising with fantastic results. Still, it’s essential to discuss the usage of this potent herb with your doctor as it has been found to interfere with certain medications, and a few people have experienced untoward effects.

Over half of Arnica montana is exported from the mountains of Transylvania and Ukraine and Portugal and Spain to a lesser extent. The US has a subspecies that is less potent and used for flavoring alcoholic beverages.

Unfortunately, as with so many healing plants, arnica is on the list of endangered species due to over-harvesting and fertilization and poor wildcrafting practices.

Organic, reputable companies such as the Super Salve Co have products I love and use often. You can purchase homeopathic tablets, organic gels, creams and tinctures online. CVS sells a homeopathic pill that works great for pain.

I make my salve now and then by boiling 1 part flower, three parts jojoba or olive oil, 1 tsp vitamin D oil, and 1-2 oz bees wax to keep in the fridge for my critters and grandkids with various bumps and bruises. Definitely a favorite!

Read more “Wild Roots” (formerly Herb of the Month) columns!

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