Herb Profile: Arnica

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Arnica is a popular medicinal herb and has a wealth of topical benefits. The type of Arnica that grows in the Colorado Rockies, and other high altitude areas, is Heart-Leaf Arnica.

When I first started wild foraging, I was delighted to stumble upon Arnica flowers.  In general this plant is over-harvested, and used in many different herbal remedies you can buy in the store. To this day I still love finding Arnica in the wild.

The reason this plant is popular is because it is so beneficial when it come to aching muscles, bruises, and skin inflammation. Arnica lessens the natural inflammation response of the body and stimulates white blood cell activity, speeding up healing. Arnica remedies are also useful in the unwanted events of bug bites, rashes, and acne.

Creating a salve from fresh Arnica leaves and flowers is a great way to harness the healing power of Arnica without having to buy products that have been sitting on the shelf for unknown amounts of time. An Arnica salve works create as muscle rub. In the summer when the fresh flowers and leaves are abundant, I like to make Arnica infusions using the fresh herb, which I’ll apply directly to my skin (it makes a great face toner). Although, it’s very important to keep in mind, this plant can be overharvested, so even though the flowers may pop up a few times along your high country hike, only take sparingly, and what you know you will use.

Wild Identification: Arnica is a yellow flower of medium height (roughly 6 to 20 inches in height) with opposite heart-shaped leaves along the stem. It is a member of the Aster family (which is the same as the sunflower) and has vibrant yellow leaves and a yellow to light-orange center, depending on the time of year. There is only flower per stalk.