RubmdHealth TipThe Medicinal Uses and Benefits of Arnica

The Medicinal Uses and Benefits of Arnica

Arnica is a flowering mountain plant that has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. This yellow-orange flowered plant that resembles a daisy has powerful health and healing properties that modern science and medicine continue to explore.

What is Arnica?

Arnica refers to a genus of perennial, herbaceous plants that grow in the mountains of Europe and Siberia. There are around 30 species in the Arnica genus, with Arnica Montana being the most commonly used for medicinal purposes.

Some key facts about Arnica Montana:

  • Common Names: Mountain Tobacco, Leopard’s Bane
  • Plant Family: Asteraceae
  • Parts Used: Flower heads
  • Native to Mountainous Regions of Europe and Siberia
  • Bright Yellow-Orange Daisy-like Flowers

The Arnica Montana plant grows 1-2 feet tall, with round shaped flowers that have orange-yellow petals and an orange center. The plant has stems with oppositely arranged green leaves and hairy rhizomes that grow horizontally under the soil.

Arnica can often be found growing in grassy meadows and mountain pastures up to 10,000 feet elevation. The arnica plant thrives in nutrient rich, well-drained and acidic soil located in alpine and subalpine climate regions.

Medicinal Uses of Arnica

All parts of the Arnica plant contain medicinal compounds, but the bright yellow flower heads are the most potent and widely used part of the plant. The flowers are harvested while in bloom, then carefully dried for medicinal preparations.

Arnica has a long history of medicinal use for treating a wide range of ailments and conditions. Some of it’s most common and well-researched uses include:

Bruises, Swellings and Sprains – Arnica is most famous for it’s ability to heal bruises by dispersing trapped blood from soft tissue and joints that cause swelling and discoloration. It also speeds the healing of sprains when applied topically soon after injury.

Inflammation and Pain Relief – The plant contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic compounds that are clinically shown to reduce inflammation, ease muscle pain and stiffness related to over-exertion or injuries.

Wound Healing – Arnica applied as a compress or ointment has been shown to quicken healing time for surface wounds, abrasions and post-surgical incisions by stimulating blood flow to repair damaged tissues.

Post-Surgery Recovery – The anti-inflammatory action following surgery when applied topically helps decrease swelling, pain and healing time. It’s also used to treat swelling or bruising from injections.

Insect Bites and Stings – The soothing properties of arnica give relief from the pain, itching and swelling from irritating bug bites.

Hair Health – Arnica infused hair tonics and rinses are popular home remedies to condition hair, stimulate growth and improve manageability.

Skin Health – Acne, eczema, age spots and blotchiness are common skin conditions said to improve with the regular application of arnica creams or gels.

Aching Joints and Arthritis Pain – Applied topically arnica alleviates painful joint inflammation. The German government endorses topical use of arnica preparations to treat the symptoms of arthritis.

Modern Research on Arnica Benefits

While arnica has been used as a traditional folk medicine for hundreds of years, recent scientific research has also identified the specific plant nutrients responsible for arnica’s wide ranging health benefits.

Laboratory studies have successfully isolated powerful medicinal compounds in the flowers that give arnica it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and pain relieving abilities.

Some of the key medical compounds found that support arnica’s ethnobotanical uses include:

Sesquiterpene Lactones – Healing sesquiterpenes specific to plants in the Asteraceae family have immune-regulating abilities that control inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokines. Other sesquiterpenes stimulate white blood cell activity.

Flavonoids – The flavonoid compounds of astersaponins and eupafolin also have marked anti-inflammatory effects.

Volatile Oils – The thymol derivatives in the essential oils are antiseptic, pain-relieving and soothing on skin.

Caffeic Acids – These organic acids improve localized blood flow via vasodilation to speed healing.

Carotenoids – Orange pigmented terpenoids like lutein build connective collagen tissue aiding wound healing.

Inulin – Starch compounds improve absorption and effectiveness of other ingredients to reduce pain.

So modern research validates that specific phytonutrients with nutritional and medicinal qualities give Arnica flowers their potent ability heal injuries, swelling and spasms of muscle tissue when applied externally.

Forms of Arnica Most Effective

Arnica is available in many forms including gels, creams, ointments, oils and herbal teas that can be applied externally or taken internally depending on the health concern.

Most clinical research has focused on topical skin application from well studied arnica extracts, finding measurable results for relief of muscle aches and post-operative healing. So using arnica liniments, ointments or salves directly on unbroken skin or on affected joints is considered safe and effective for arthritis, injuries, inflammation and localized pain.

Arnica herbal teas made from flowers or roots can also be ingested in small amounts as a botanical supplement. However arnica taken internally has potential liver toxicity so should only be used short term under medical supervision. Homeopathic arnica pellets which contain highly diluted concentrations are considered safe for internal use.

No matter which form is used medicinally, only the species Arnica Montana has been clinically evaluated for safety and potency. As more scientific confirmation substantiates traditional claims – standardized Arnica Montana extracts are now key ingredients in many over-the-counter muscle and joint treatments for sprains, swelling, bruises and post-operative recovery regiments.

Is Arnica Safe? Benefits Vs Side Effects

When used appropriately, arnica is generally considered safe with a low incidence of side effects. However, there are some precautions regarding it’s use, both topically and internally.

Potential side effects from improper use of arnica include:

  • Digestive upset when taken by mouth
  • Allergic reaction with rashes or hives
  • Increased bruising or bleeding especially before surgery due to effects on platelets.

Before using arnica topically, a skin test should be done applying a small amount to arm and watching for irritation or redness over 12-24 hours.

Safety precautions for arnica use:

  • Only use externally on unbroken skin to avoid irritations. Don’t apply to open wounds or mucus membranes.
  • Don’t use longer than 2-3 weeks maximum to avoid sensitivity reactions.
  • Use highly diluted homeopathics if taking arnica internally.
  • Avoid ingesting whole plant tinctures or teas without doctor supervision of dosing.

People who should not use arnica at all include:

  • Women who are pregnant or nursing
  • People with chronic health issues like liver, kidney or heart disease
  • Children under the age of 12 years old
  • People allergic to plants in the Asteraceae family like ragweed, marigolds or chrysanthemums

So when properly used topically at recommended doses, arnica is generally considered very safe. But side effects can occur if directions for preparations aren’t followed or people with contraindications use the remedy.

How To Use Arnica To Heal Bruises Fast

Using arnica to heal bruises doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. With a few simple steps you can make fast acting and effective arnica bruise remedies right at home.

Follow this basic bruise treatment regiment:

  1. Mix 20 drops of undiluted arnica essential oil with 2 ounces of a carrier oil like olive, sweet almond or coconut oil.
  2. Lightly massage arnica oil directly onto new bruises a few times per day until the discoloration fades keeping treatment localized to just the bruised area. The arnica quickly reduces swelling and speeds up healing by improving blood flow under skin.
  3. For old bruises that are nearly healed but still slightly discolored, prepare a compress by soaking a clean cloth in very strong arnica tea then apply to bruised skin for 10-15 minutes twice a day until fully resolved.
  4. Take arnica pellets orally 3 times per day as directed according to package instructions to resolve residual deep bruising not reachable by topical application alone. The homeopathic internal arnica works systematically speeding bruise recovery.

Using these simple yet effective home arnica remedies speeds the body’s natural healing ability to clear trapped blood from injured soft tissues and repair damaged capillaries caused by impacts that burst surface blood vessels resulting in painful bruising.

How Long Does it Take Arnica to Work on Bruises?

Arnica works very rapidly reducing the ugliness of bruises – usually showing noticeable improvement within the first 24 hours of treatment.

When applied promptly after getting a bad bruise, arnica quickly improves the bruise appearance, minimizing spread and associated aches.

Here’s a typical timeline you can expect using arnica to treat new or existing bruises:

  • Within 30 minutes – arnica ointments, gels and oils begin increasing localized blood flow to clear away blood leaking from traumatized tissues. Pain relief starts working almost instantly once applied.
  • After 2-3 hours – inflammation causing swelling visibly decreases as arnica blocks inflammatory enzymes, allowing body to reabsorb blood around damaged capillaries.
  • Within 24 hours – size, puffiness and discoloration of bruise improves noticeably. The skin clears by at least a shade or two as the bruise begins fading.
  • 3-5 days – continued use removes most traces of bruising, healing completely within a week with no lasting marks. The area may still feel slightly tender but looks normal again.

So arnica works very quickly to jumpstart self-healing – stopping bruising in it’s tracks if applied immediately or fast-tracking recovery if treating older bruises. Just a few applications per day delivers a dramatic difference you can see and feel almost instantly!

Arnica Helps Reduce Pain, Swelling and Bruising After Surgery

Due to it’s superb anti-inflammatory and pain relieving abilities, arnica has become a popular homeopathic remedy to minimize post-surgical trauma. Using arnica before and after operations, helps improve recovery and comfort.

Here’s why adding arnica to your post-op treatment plan helps:

Less Swelling – Powerful compounds reduce fluid retention and inflammation. Less edema means less pain and faster recovery.

Decreased Bruising – Arnica clears away trapped blood leaking from surgical wounds improving appearance faster.

Muscle Relaxation – Sore tissues and localized aching is eased.

Quickens Healing – Blood flow increases to nourish healing and let surgical wounds mend faster.

Emotional Resiliency – The natural mood lift makes optimistic attitude more likely during recovery.

Faster Mobility Return – Movement becomes less painful so activity returns sooner to build strength.

By incorporating safe topical arnica remedies into pre and post-operative care protocols, patients have less pain, swelling and scarring during convalescence and rehabilitation – getting back to normal faster!

How To Take Arnica Before and After Surgery

Using arnica montana both internally and externally before and after surgery is recommended to minimize trauma and cut recovery time. Follow these best practice guidelines:

2 weeks pre-op – Take homeopathic arnica pellets up to 3 times daily to prepare body to handle surgical stress and inflammation. Stop tablets 3 days prior.

Morning of operation – Apply arnica ointment or gel liberally over entire surgical area after washing to preemptively start therapeutic benefits.

Following surgery – Continue using arnica topicals around incisions as soon as dressings are removed to stimulate localized healing and encourage rapid scar remodeling.

1 week post-op – Begin taking homeopathic internal arnica again up to twice daily as needed to resolve residual deep muscle soreness as activity increases.

8 weeks post-op – Use silicone based arnica gel on matured scars daily to prevent keloids and continue improving scar appearance long term.

Using arnica montana supplements before routine events like dental work, botox injections or blood draws also minimizes discomfort and recovery downtime.

Arnica Warnings – Using Safely to Avoid Side Effects

When used according to recommendations under proper medical supervision, arnica is very safe with little risk for side effects. However arnica does have a few warnings regarding it’s use that should be heeded carefully.

Here are the key precautions regarding using arnica medicinally:

  • Only use externally on intact skin – arnica causes agitation on open wounds or mucus membranes if applied directly. Oral ingestion is irritating.
  • Dilute essential oil properly before applying topically. Only use highly diluted preparations internally like homeopathic pills.
  • Discontinue use if skin irritation or digestive upset occur – seek medical help for rash, hives or other allergic reactions.
  • Limit treatment duration to less than 2 weeks maximum to prevent sensitization and side effects.
  • Keep out of reach of children. Not for use in children under age 12 or in pregnant and nursing women due to toxicity concerns.
  • Patients scheduled for surgery should stop taking arnica 2 weeks beforehand due to effects on platelet function and clotting ability.

When using any herbal medicinal product like arnica montana, always review directions and contraindications carefully to guarantee safe administration avoiding any negative reactions. Pay close attention to guidelines for proper dosing methods and duration of use. And consult your pharmacist or doctor with any concerns before starting an arnica treatment regimen.

FAQs

What is arnica used for?

Arnica is commonly used for bruising, swelling, pain relief, wound healing, post-surgery recovery, insect bites, hair health, skin conditions, aching joints and arthritis pain when applied topically. It has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and analgesic properties.

Is arnica safe?

When used appropriately, arnica is generally safe. However, it can cause side effects like digestive upset, rashes, increased bruising/bleeding, etc when used incorrectly. It should not be used by pregnant/nursing women, children under 12 years old or people with certain medical conditions.

How do you use arnica for bruises?

To treat bruises, apply arnica essential oil mixed with a carrier oil directly to the bruised skin a few times per day. You can also prepare a compress with arnica tea or take arnica pellets orally. Continue treatment until the bruise fades.

How fast does arnica work on bruises?

Arnica begins working very quickly, often showing noticeable improvement in bruises within the first 24 hours. With continued application, most traces of bruising fade within 3-5 days.

Should you take arnica before surgery?

Yes, taking homeopathic arnica pellets before and after surgery is recommended to minimize post-op swelling, bruising, pain and recovery time. Stop taking it at least 2 weeks prior to surgery though.

What are the side effects of arnica?

Possible side effects include rashes, hives, digestive upset, increased bruising/bleeding. Discontinue use if negative reactions occur. Also use caution with broken skin, open wounds and in children/pregnant women.

Does arnica really work?

Modern research shows arnica contains compounds like flavonoids, essential oils and carotenoids that reduce inflammation, ease pain, stimulate healing. So when used properly, arnica can be an effective natural treatment.

Conclusion

With centuries of traditional use complemented by extensive modern research confirming it’s mechanisms of action – Arnica Montana has definitely earned it’s medicinal merits. When applied topically, this alpine flower safely and effectively helps resolve some of the most common causes of pain, inflammation and injury endured daily.

So keep a jar of arnica salve or bottle of diluted essential oil handy to stop bruising fast. And consider adding arnica supplements to your postoperative recovery plan or next athletic event preparation routine. You’ll heal faster and get back on your feet quicker thanks to this natural alternative with time-tested restorative abilities. Just be sure to follow usage guidelines carefully to avoid potential side effects.

Dr Nasurllah Hakro (Medicene)
Dr Nasurllah Hakro (Medicene)
Dr Nasurllah has 20 years of experience in his field. M.B.B.S, M.C.P.S (Medicine) F.C.P.S (Medicine). Internal Medicine, DABIM, M.D - Diplomate American Board of Internal Medicine. Specialization: Internal Medicine Specialist, Family Physician, Hypertension Specialist, General Physician.

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