With a long history in natural medicine, arnica is traditionally used to treat bruising, sprains, swelling, pain and fevers. It is also beneficial for arthralgia (joint pain), myalgia (muscle pain), arthritis, inflammation, relieving skin conditions and preventing hair loss.
Arnica (Arnica Montana) is a wild growing plant with tiny yellow flowers and can be found growing across Europe and North America. For such a tiny plant, often considered a weed, Arnica can boast some pretty big medicinal qualities, the cheery yellow blossom being the part most used for health preparations
You can use arnica fresh from the plant as a topical medicine or dried and extracted into alcohol, oil or salve. Arnica is not recommended for internal use unless as a homeopathic medicine.
The Many Uses Of Arnica
The most common use for arnica is as a pain relief herbal remedy in the form of oil, ointment, cream or gel and can be rubbed into the affected area several times a day to relieve pain, swelling and inflammation. Arnica is usually applied topically and is not taken internally except in the form of a homeopathic remedy.
There are approximately 150 bio active components in the arnica plant and not all their uses have been studied or are even known. What I do know, from personal experience, is that arnica is a powerful little plant in the field of natural pain relief. Some of it’s known components are highly antioxidant and cytoprotective (protects your cells) and when applied to your skin, has the same pain relieving properties as topical NSAIDs (non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) – see American Botanical Council study
Arnica can be used as a stand alone remedy as well as in conjunction with other therapies as follows;
- Muscle Pain: Apply arncia oil, balm, ointment or cream to the affected area several times a day. Use in conjunction with heat therapy and massage for maximum benefit. Acupuncture can be a very effective therapy for chronic muscle pain.
- Joint Pain: Gently massage arncia oil, balm, ointment or cream into the affected joint(s) several times a day. Other joint pian relieving therapies include heat therapies (heated pads, hot tubs, saunas), if there is no inflammation present. In some inflammation cases, cold therapies are found to be more effective (ice pads, ice baths). Acupuncture can be very beneficial in treating chronic arthralgia. Also see our article on using heat to combat inflammation.
- Swelling & Bruising: Apply arnica preparations to the affected area several times a day. Do not use on open wounds or broken skin, you may decide to apply around the broken skin with care not to get any into the open area. Hot or cold pads (or both) can also be helpful in relieving symptoms quickly.
- Sports/Training Injuries: Arnica preparations can be applied topically several times a day in conjunction with heat/cold therapies or a sports recovery session for maximum effectiveness.
- Inflammation: Containing many active anti inflammatory compounds, arnica is beneficial in easing inflammation. Use alongside acupuncture for a quicker result, especially if you suffer from chronic inflammation.
- Skin Conditions: A powerful antioxidant, arnica can be applied topically to help relieve skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Best used as an oil or cream but do not use if your skin is broken.
- Hair Loss/Alopecia: Widely used as a homeopathic medicine to promote hair growth and help prevent hair loss. Arnica is also commonly found in anti dandruff shampoos and hair oils. Due to it’s anti inflammatory properties, arnica is beneficial in treating head eczema and psoriasis, scalp irritation and dry scalp, thus providing a better environment for healthy hair growth.
When Not To Use Arnica
Although arnica oils, creams and ointments are wonderful, there are some times when it is not advisable to use arnica. You shouldn’t use arnica if;
- You are allergic to plants in the Asteraceae and Compositae families (sunflowers, marigolds, ragweed, daisy and chrysanthemum). If you are allergic to any of these, there is a good chance you will also be allergic to arnica,
- You already use products containing arnica or are taking arnica homoeopathically, as this may lead to overdosing,
- You take blood pressure medication, corticosteroids, anti coagulants, blood thinners or other herbal supplements that are contra indicated for arnica. Arnica can interact with ginkgo biloba, ginger, ginseng, saw palmetto and garlic,
- You have a blood disorder such as bleeding or clotting conditions as arnica may make this condition worse,
- You have severe kidney or liver disease.
- You have recently had, or are about to have, surgery. Arnica can thin your blood so it is best to avoid it for at least 2 weeks before and after surgery.
- Your skin is broken or you have a wound. This includes broken skin caused by eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis or other skin condition.
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding.
*Arnica is advised for use by adults only and is not recommended for babies or children.
If you are allergic to topical arnica you may notice the following;
- Skin redness, itching and/or irritation,
- Worsened bruising,
- Increased pain.
If you are concerned by any of your symptoms, it is advisable that you consult your healthcare provider.
Precautions When Using Arnica
- Never take arnica internally unless prescribed by a healthcare professional,
- Do not use arnica on broken skin or open wounds,
- Do not apply to mucus membranes,
- Long tern arnica use may cause skin irritation, peeling or rash,
- Do not take arnica in any form if you are pregnant or breastfeeding,
- Not advisable to use on babies or children,
- Not advisable to take if you have digestive or blood pressure problems,
- Avoid if you use medications for blood thinning, clotting, blood pressure or other blood conditions,
- Not recommended for use if you have severe kidney or liver conditions.
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