While many of you may be unfamiliar with homeopathy, there is one remedy that most will recognize. The most popular homeopathic remedy by far is arnica, and it can be found in homeopathic gels, creams, liquids, and pellets. Homeopathic arnica is one of the top remedies used for inflammation, injuries, wounds, and bruises. It is must-have for any homeopathic first aid kit.
You might even call arnica the celebrity of homeopathic remedies. Many actual celebrities have praised the use of arnica, including soccer mega-star David Beckham and actresses Kim Cattrall, Jane Seymour, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Zeta-Jones, in particular, has said she used arnica for her strains, bruises, and sprains while filming her Academy Award-winning role in the musical film Chicago.
What is all the hype about? Read on to learn about homeopathic arnica and why it is so important for your health.
What Is Arnica Montana?
The homeopathic remedy is derived from the perennial European flowering plant known as Arnica montana. It is also called leopard’s bane, sneezewort, mountain snuff, arnica flos, and wolf’s bane. Arnica is sometimes called mountain tobacco because the leaves somewhat resemble those of the tobacco plant.
Arnica belongs to the plant family Asteraceae—also called Compositae—which also includes the daisy and sunflower. This is no surprise, as the arnica flower has a similar large, yellow-orange or bright yellow flower head, and blooms from midsummer to autumn.
The healing properties of the arnica herb have been recognized since the twelfth century, when German nun, Saint Hildegard of Bingen, first wrote about arnica. And since the sixteenth century, mountain people from the Swiss Alps have used arnica for relieving bruises and muscle aches. Arnica contains analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anticoagulation, and dermatological properties.
Uses and Health Benefits of Homeopathic Arnica
Physician and homeopathy founder Samuel Hahnemann first discovered the efficacy of homeopathic arnica, and published his findings in his Materia Medica Pura. People that respond best to arnica may actually deny they are ill. They also prefer to left alone, and tend toward restlessness and agitation. Other symptoms include forgetfulness, poor concentration, nightmares, and a morbid imagination.
Arnica is also a common first-aid remedy given after surgery, accidents, childbirth, bereavement, or dental treatment. It is often used for fever, joint and muscle pain, and certain skin problems. The following further details the purported health benefits of arnica.
1. Wounds and Injuries
Arnica is used for acute and chronic consequences of injury, shock, or surgery, including swelling, bruising, bleeding, and aching pains. The common patient may feel better from lying down or a cold compress; however, the condition worsens from dampness, touch, or at night. A review of three randomized, double-blind trials published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine in 2006 found that homeopathic arnica reduced post-operative swelling in 57 patients after surgery involving cruciate ligament reconstruction. Arnica is also used for bone injuries, overexertion, general soreness, muscular strains, ligament tears, and minor injuries.
French soccer players once used homeopathic arnica for recovery from bruises during the 2002 World Cup. Research suggests that arnica may prevent and treat bruising, especially after falls and surgery. The person requiring arnica may also bruise easily, with the color turning black and blue. Arnica should only be used for bruising without broken skin or an open wound. Shock and fearfulness are also common, and symptoms may worsen from being touched.
3. Joint and Muscle Pain
Arnica may also be ideal for treating stiffness, swelling, inflammation, and fatigue related to joint and muscle pain. The pain could be associated with strains, bruises, cramps, aches, and sprains that feel sore and sensitive. Arnica might also be helpful for arthritis, especially in the knees and wrists. Traumeel or Traumacare are homeopathic preparations used to treat inflammatory conditions like arthritis with similar effectiveness as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
A fever is a common sign of a cold or flu. Homeopaths tout arnica as the perfect remedy for fevers, especially when it involves a cold body and hot head. The sufferer’s gas, stools, and sweat will often smell like rotten eggs, and they may not have control of urination or bowel movements. Cold and dampness tend to worsen symptoms; however, symptoms seem to improve from lying down with the head lower than the feet.
5. Tooth and Gum Pain
Gum pain and toothaches that bleed from brushing are early signs of gum disease. Homeopathic arnica may be helpful for tooth pain, bruising, bleeding, or sore gums, especially following dental work. Patients may find that movement worsens gum or tooth pain, while lying down will improve the pain.
6. Skin Conditions
Homeopathic arnica skincare products are found in ointments, creams, and gels. Arnica could benefit dry, hard, and swollen skin due to bedsores, boils, insect bites, skin eruptions, and varicose ulcers. It is also commonly used for acne, dandruff, and may repair genetic damage from ultra-violet sunlight.
Homeopathic Arnica vs. Arnica Herb Supplements
The popularity of homeopathic arnica is at least partially due to its availability throughout natural health stores. Some products are homeopathic arnica, while others contain amounts of the arnica plant. Arnica is also available as a 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oil that must be diluted with carrier oil before being applied to the skin as an ointment, gel, cream, or oil. That being said, arnica oil is a product that often has already been properly diluted for safe external use. The arnica essential oil is also considerably strong when ingested at full strength, and excessive amounts of arnica can be poisonous and even deadly.
Arnica oil may also cause an allergic reaction in people sensitive to other members of the Asteraceae family, including marigolds, ragweed, daisies, and chrysanthemums. Arnica oil should never be used on broken or damaged skin because arnica can be toxic if it gets inside the skin. Breastfeeding and pregnant women, and people with hypersensitive skin should also avoid using arnica oil. On the other hand, homeopathic arnica has no known adverse effects, and is the only form of arnica that can be taken internally.
Final Thoughts on Arnica
Are you new to homeopathy? Arnica is a good remedy to introduce you to the alternative medicine. Homeopathic arnica may be ideal for inflammation, bruises, joint and muscle pain, injuries, wounds, tooth and gum pain, fevers, and various skin conditions. Other uses of homeopathic arnica include ramps, breast problems, stroke, angina, epilepsy, bladder infections, dizziness, tinnitus, jet lag, and erectile dysfunction.
Never confuse homeopathic arnica with the herb arnica, which can have serious side effects when taken in high doses. It is best to consult with a homeopath to confirm that arnica is the right remedy for your health problem.
Ullman, D., The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy (Berkely: North Atlantic Books, 2007), 5, 139-140.
Lockie, A., Encyclopedia of Homeopathy: The Definitive Home Reference Guide to Homeopathic Remedies and Treatments for Common Ailments (New York: DK Publishing, Inc., 2000), 37, 185, 187, 201, 213, 230-231, 264-267, 271.
Hershoff, A., N.D., Homeopathic Remedies: A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and Their Homeopathic Treatments (New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1999), 121, 197, 206, 208, 260-261, 288.
Brinkhaus, B., et al., “Homeopathic arnica therapy in patients receiving knee surgery: results of three randomized double-blind trials,” Complementary Therapies in Medicine, December 2006; 14(4): 237-246. Epub, Oct. 13, 2006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17105693.
Leu, S., “Accelerated resolution of laser-induced bruising with topical 20% arnica: a rater-blinded randomized controlled trial,” British Journal of Dermatology, September 2010; 163(3):557-63. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20412090
Schneider, C., “Traumeel – an emerging option to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the management of acute musculoskeletal injuries,” International Journal of General Medicine, March 25, 2011; 4: 225-234, doi: 10.2147/IJGM.S16709.
“Arnica,” University of Maryland Medical Center; http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/arnica, last updated May 7, 2013.