Arnica ointment, which natural healer does not have it in their arsenal? I certainly do. I had the pleasure of seeing this cheerful plant in real life in the Drents-Friese Wold. Of course, I left it where I found it, because arnica, Arnica montana, is protected. I will not share where it lives either, since not everyone is equally conscientious when it comes to letting vulnerable plants be.
As a medicinal herb, arnica can be used internally, but only if you know exactly what you are doing. The difference between a therapeutic dose and a toxic dose is tiny. I therefore stick to the external applications in this vademecum, but that does not make this herb any less interesting.
Arnica is famous for its ability to deal with contusions, strains, haematoma and other things you can sustain in a fall. And we all take a tumble every now and then.
Magically, arnica is considered to be one of the typical midsummer plants, which is understandable given its sunny appearance. So, it is hardly surprising that it is used for protection against the somewhat darker sides of our existence, such as chasing away malicious entities.
Unfortunately, arnica is not edible. In the past, people would dry and smoke its leaves.
Arnica stands on a running, brown root that grows sideways. The first year, a rosette of one to three pairs of opposite leaves will grow on top of this root. The leaves are medium green, downy and have several distinct veins that run parallel to each other along the length of the leaves. The length of the leaves can vary from 5 to 15 cm. They are reminiscent of those of plantain and have an entire leaf margin.
Only in the second year the 30 to 60 cm long stem appears, on top of which a flower up to 10 cm in size appears. The stem is downy and has few to no lateral branches. Along the stem, we will find smaller variants of the bottom leaves.
The flower has bright yellow ray florets all around, with a centre of about fifty dark yellow tubular florets. The flower often looks as if it has been crumpled. Usually there is only one flower per plant, but there may be more. In that case, the extra flowers are usually smaller than the top one.
After flowering, a black, cylindrical seed appears with a beak and pappus attached to it.
Arnica is protected. So, leave it be if you encounter it in the wild.
Tradition teaches that shepherds saw injured sheep approaching arnica after sustaining their injuries. So, as often happens, we learned to use a powerful plant through the inherent wisdom of animals.
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