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Remedy of the Month - Arnica montana

Will Taylor, MDLast month's remedy, China (Cinchona), was the remedy that opened Hahnemann's eyes to the possibilities of cure by similars. This month I decided to feature the remedy that has likely introduced the possibilities of homeopathy to most of the rest of us. How many of us have had our eyes opened to homeopathy through the miraculous cure of a smashed thumb-in-the-car-door, unbruised the next day after a dose of Arnica … or the child (my child!) who took a swan-dive out of the shopping cart and hit the floor sounding like a coconut, waking out of his concussion after a dose of Arnica … the bird stunned after hitting the window, rallying after a sprinkling of Arnica water and flying off? Hahnemann credits empirical herbal practice with revealing at least this one aspect of the medicinal qualities of this plant. In the introduction to Arnica in his Materia Medica Pura, he wrote:

"All the artificial dogmas enunciated by the ordinary medical art, which is in its way a learned science, all its scholastic definitions, distinctions, and hair-splitting explanations were in all past centuries unable to discover the specific curative power of this plant or to find out the real remedy for the often dangerous general derangement of the health which is caused by a severe fall, by blows, knocks, contusions, sprains, or by over-stretching or laceration of the solid parts of our body. Common people had to do this for them, and after the fruitless employment of innumerable things they found at last by accident the true remedy in this vegetable, and hence they called it Fall-kraut (fall plant)."

Arnica Montana
Botanical illustration from Herman Kšhler's Medizinal Pflanzen, 1885 (Gera, Germany)

Arnica Montana, traditionally known as Fall-kraut, Leopard's Bane or Wohlverleih ("bestowing well-being"), is a wild flower of the mountain pastures of Central Europe, found especially on granite or siliceous soils at altitudes up to 2500 meters. We use as the basis for our remedy a tincture of the freshly expressed juice from the fresh root or the whole plant when near its flowering time.

Arnica was one of the earliest remedies proved by Hahnemann, published in his Fragmenta de viribus medicamentorum positivis in 1805. Although we may often tend to think of Arnica as a "specific" in soft-tissue contusions and head trauma, this is actually a remedy of great scope, listed in 4,796 rubrics in the Complete Repertory. I have Arnica cures in my case-files for patients presenting with such conditions as whooping cough, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic hepatitis, eczema, acne, thrombocytopenic purpura and chronic urticaria. John Henry Clarke in his Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica records clinical utility of Arnica (when the totality of symptoms matches) in: "Abscess. Apoplexy. Back, pains in. Baldness. Bed-sores. Black-eye. Boils. Brain, affections of. Breath, fetid. Bronchitis. Bruises. Carbuncle. Chest, affections of. Chorea. Corns. Cramp. Diabetes. Diarrhœa. Dysentery. Ecchymosis. Excoriations. Exhaustion. Eyes, affections of. Feet, sore. H¾matemesis. H¾maturia. Headache. Heart, affections of. Impotence. Labour. Lumbago. Meningitis. Mental alienation. Miscarriage. Nipples, sore. Nose, affections of. Paralysis. Pelvic h¾matocele. Pleurodynia. Purpura. Pyœmia. Rheumatism. Splenalgia. Sprain. Stings. Suppuration. Taste, disorders of. Thirst. Traumatic fever. Tumours. Voice, affections of. Whooping-cough. Wounds. Yawning."

Graph from MacRepertory
Graph from MacRepertory

In a 1798 paper in Hufeland's Journal, very early in homeopathy's development, Hahnemann described the successful use of Arnica in treating an epidemic of sporadic continued fever in young children. Arnica has served as an important remedy in illnesses including typhus, acute and chronic diseases of the liver, superficial ailments of the skin including acne, boils, eczema and urticaria (with a keynote of symmetrical eruptions), and angina pectoris (with the repeatedly verified keynote of violent attacks of anguish in anginal attacks).

Long used in domestic practice, Arnica was introduced to European old-school practice by the Belgian physician Fehr in the early 1600s, who referred to it as "panacea lapsorum." Its use was broadly confirmed in the treatment of "sanguinous effusions, sugillations and ecchymoses" in both internal and external application. In the mid-1700s, Stoll introduced its use in epidemic dysentery and intermittent fever, describing it as the "quinquina of the poor." Teste comments "The pathogenesis of Arnica explains to us the cause of these successful applications, which were purely accidental, and which, being deprived of a fixed principle, must have remained without result to the healing art until homeopathy was discovered."

Hering mentions an interesting tidbit regarding the toxicologic records on Arnica, which contain symptoms not confirmed in provings of the root. The bulk of the toxicologic reports are from the aerial portions of the plant, particularly the flowers, which invariably contain the eggs, worms or pupae of the "Arnica fly"—Atherix maculatus. Hering encouraged a formal proving of the insect, which he suggests produces symptoms reminiscent of Cantharis.

Arnica belongs to the large botanical family Compositae. T.F. Allen lists provings of 34 remedies in the Compositae family, including: Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort), Bellis perennis (daisy), Calendula officinalis, Carduus marianus (milk thistle), Chamomilla, Cina maritima, Echinacea angustifolia and purpurea, Eupatorium perfoliatum, Helianthus annuus (sunflower), Millefolium (yarrow), Senecio aureus (ragwort) and Taraxacum (dandelion).

Here is an Arnica case by Walter Williamson from the American Journal of Homeopathic Materia Medica, Vol. II, No. 5 (January, 1869). It is followed by a repertorization chart.

"In a case of hooping-cough, in a boy five years old, with light complexion, sandy hair, and sanguinous temperament. The paroxysms were attended with a great deal of 'hooping' and bleeding at the nose; the eyes were blood-shot. A single dose of three pellets of Arn. m. 30, was given in the evening, and he never hooped afterwards. He coughed occasionally for a few days, but in the course of a week, he was entirely well. There was but the one dose given."

About the author:

Will Taylor has a practice devoted to classical homeopathy in a small coastal community in downeast Maine. Initially trained in conventional medicine, he received his MD from the University of Vermont, did a residency in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and returned to rural Maine to practice as a family physician. His own intractable case of shingles led him in desperation to homeopathy and to the discovery of his own "true and highest calling" as a homeopathic practitioner.