Planta Med 2004; 70(10): 897-903
DOI: 10.1055/s-2004-832613
Original Paper
© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Skin Penetration Studies of Arnica Preparations and of their Sesquiterpene Lactones

Steffen Wagner1 , Andreas Suter2 , Irmgard Merfort1
  • 1Institut für Pharmazeutische Wissenschaften, Lehrstuhl für Pharmazeutische Biologie, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany
  • 2Bioforce AG, Roggwil, Switzerland
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Received: May 3, 2004

Accepted: July 26, 2004

18. Oktober 2004 (online)


Alcoholic preparations of Arnica montana are widely used for the topical treatment of various inflammatory diseases. Sesquiterpene lactones (SLs) are mainly responsible for their anti-inflammatory activity. Here we have studied the penetration kinetics of Arnica tinctures prepared from dried Arnica flowers originating from different chemotypes as well as of their respective dominating SLs, helenalin isobutyrate and 11α,13-dihydrohelenalin acetate. Some alcoholic preparations of fresh Arnica flowers and an Arnica fresh plant gel were also included in the study. We used the stripping method with adhesive tape and pig skin as a model and determined the quantity of SLs in the stripped layers of the stratum corneum (SC). Thus, we observed the penetration into and permeation through this uppermost part of the skin. Whereas isolated SLs permeate through the SC only in a very small amount, permeation of SLs was much higher when they were present in the tinctures. Furthermore, differences of permeation were observed between helenalin and dihydrohelenalin derivatives. Permeation through the SC could be determined for the tested Arnica preparations of fresh Arnica flowers with two preparations showing the best penetration behaviour of all the tested substances. Moreover, the effects of incubation time as well as of repeated applications were investigated with one preparation. Altogether, this study shows that a sufficient amount of SLs might permeate the skin barrier by using Arnica preparations to exert anti-inflammatory effects and that the topical use of plant preparations may be advantageous compared to the isolated compounds.


Prof. Dr. I. Merfort

Institut für Pharmazeutische Wissenschaften

Lehrstuhl für Pharmazeutische Biologie

Universität Freiburg

Stefan-Meier-Str. 19

79104 Freiburg


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