Arnica flowers are found throughout the world, mainly in the higher elevations of Northern Europe and Siberia Russia, but also in Mexico and the American Southwest. This Mexican variety (Heterotheca inuloidesis) is sometimes called telegraph weed or camphor weed. Mexican arnica is only used in topical applications such as salves, lotions, or other formulations developed for the skin and body. Arnica should never be taken orally as it causes vomiting, diarrhea, stomach irritation, and general irritation to the mucous membranes.
In natural medicine, Arnica is used is many different concoctions to temporarily relieve pain. It’s also used as a treatment for osteoarthritis, bruising, swelling (especially swelling that is post surgical), and mild sprains. In American folk medicine Arnica’s uses were extensive including being use to treat rashes, boils, acne, general aches and pains, and in some cases for mild wounds. [Using any herbal product on an open wound should only be done under the advisement of a physician.] It was also used as a hair tonic. When made into a tincture, Arnica has been used to treat sore throats and to help with conditions of poor circulation and fevers.
In Mexico this beautiful yellow flower has been used for generations, by the native population to treat a broad range of health concerns. Most of the applications are topical, and include skin inflammation, muscle pain, in treating rheumatism, colic, joint pain, and when highly diluted for dental and gastrointestinal disorders. Mexican Arnica was also used to treat diabetes and cancer, but the treatment methods are unknown in enough detail to write about.
Arnica should not be used when pregnant or breast feeding, as uterine stimulation can occur.