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Arnica is at its happiest on sunny mountain meadows with nutrient-poor soil.
The sleepy community of ‘Kleines Wiesental’ is located in the far south-west of the Black Forest, near Lörrach. Surrounded by green hills, the ‘Wiese’ river weaves its way through the valley with its water glistening brightly. In the distance is a hazy view of both the Alps and the Vosges mountains. The scene is like something from a Black Forest fairy tale. WALA has leased two meadows in this rural idyll. They are located at about 900 meters above sea level and are primarily characterised by their arnica stocks. We have cultivated one of the meadows since as far back as 1980. Even today, we still regard the project as exemplary as it combines the sourcing of the high-quality raw materials that we need as a manufacturer of medicines and natural cosmetics with the topics of conservation, extensive agriculture and regional development.
Arnica is an endangered plant
Due to the lack of profitability offered by the steep slopes in this region of the Black Forest, agriculture is on a constant decline. As many fields are no longer tilled, they are gradually becoming overgrown with bushes and trees. As a result, the area’s biodiversity is also decreasing. This means that there are ever fewer animals and plants. These conditions are also detrimental to the arnica as it favours sunny mountain meadows with nutrient-poor soil. The increasing over-fertilisation of agricultural land poses a further threat to the yellow-flowering plant.
Protection through use
WALA has now leased three hectares of land in Kleines Wiesental. To support and protect the arnica stocks there, we tend to the fields throughout the year. We commission a part-time farmer and a forester to conduct most of the work but they always remain in close contact with both us and the local conservation authorities. So that the arnica not only propagates vegetatively via its roots but also generatively through the spreading of its seeds, we only mow the meadows once the plants have already scattered their seeds.
The plants are harvested by hand
Every June, our experienced wild collector harvests the flowers from the arnica plants (which grow to heights of up to 60 centimetres). And he does so by hand – and on foot. The entire plant, or ‘Planta tota’ to use the pharmaceutical term, is also required for certain medicines. The wild collector knows exactly how many plants he can harvest for the arnica to continue flourishing without issue. This results in 30 to 45 kilogrammes of plant material per year. Once harvested, the valuable commodity is transported to WALA as quickly as possible. We then obtain mother tinctures by, for example, subjecting the fresh plants to our rhythmic procedure.
The healing effects of arnica
Ever since the days of Hildegard of Bingen, Arnica montana has been recommended as a herbal medicine for blunt trauma injuries such as strains or bruises caused by impacts or falls. Arnica also relaxes the tissue in the case of sore muscles. In WALA medicines, arnica is able to take full effect. It not only has wound-healing and anti-inflammatory properties, but also reduces swelling and alleviates pain. In addition to flavonoids, tannins and a little essential oil, the bitter sesquiterpene lactone primarily suppresses the formation of inflammatory substances or ‘cytokines’.
In spring 2020 WALA was nominated with the Arnica Project for the EU Green Week 2020 on the theme "Nature and Biodiversity in the Cosmetics Industry".
The programme of the EU Green Week Conference in Brussels (01.06.-05.06.2020) includes several sessions to assess the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2020.