WHAT IS ARNICA?
Arnica is basically a genus of perennial herbs that belongs to the sunflower family. It’s essentially a herb that is indigenous to the sub-alpine regions of western North America but can also be found in arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Among its several species, the notable Arnica Montana contains an anti-inflammatory compound which helps in relieving pain, aches and bruises when used topically. As a result, Arnica is most commonly sold as an over-the-counter (OTC) medication product in the form of topical ointment, gel, cream or massage oil. It is, however, also available in other forms, for instance, an extract, oral supplement, aromatherapy oil, etc.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF ARNICA
Arnica is widely famous for its anti-inflammatory properties because of which it finds its most common usage in treating bruises. Research says that it’s popular among people who have recently undergone surgery, especially plastic surgery. As per a study conducted in 2006, people who underwent a rhytidectomy, a plastic surgery to reduce wrinkles, reacted positively to usage of homeopathic arnica as it significantly boosted their healing. More often than not, research studies have provided mixed results regarding its efficacy. This is simply because the clinical studies assessing benefits of arnica are poorly designed, extremely limited in number and hence, very contradictory in their inference. Regardless, arnica has proved beneficial in the healing of several postoperative conditions. As a result, the earlier skepticism emanating from the medical community has now diluted to some extent, which is why, people have started to rely on arnica-based products for a variety of reasons. Let’s dig into them!
- Pain Management
As mentioned earlier, arnica has a reputation for its anti-inflammatory properties. It is infused with a range of plant compounds that combat inflammation. These include sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids, and phenolic acids. As a result, arnica is believed to help with the management of one’s pain.
As one would argue that multiple studies have showed close to zero improvements during usage of arnica, it is important to note that these mostly pertain to the ones that were conducted much earlier in time. Moreover, one cannot neglect the inherent flaws present in the modus operandi adopted while conducting these studies. We have had newer developments since then. For instance, a 2003 study showed that a dosage of 5 arnica pills significantly eased muscle soreness. Further, a review study conducted in 2014 established that application of topical arnica gel was as effective, as topical ibuprofen which is a common pain reliever, at mitigating osteoarthritis pain and improving physical function.
2. Bruising of Skin and Post-Surgical Pain
Before we delve into how Arnica can help with skin bruises, it’s equally important to know how bruising occurs. When tiny blood vessels burst because of some form of trauma such as hitting your skin against an object or because of surgery, your skin bruises. Historically speaking, arnica has proved to be a very efficient homeopathic remedy against bruises. In fact, arnica is also believed to reduce bruising and swelling in the wake of one’s surgery, upon topical application or consumption in the form of oral supplements.
A 2016 study review called arnica montana a good alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in treating post-operative pain, Edema (swelling) and Ecchymosis (bruising). However, it was also clarified that the results may vary exponentially depending upon formulation, dosage and study.
3. Muscle Pain or Myalgia
One can get incur muscle pain because of an array of medical conditions. But the most common way is by simply overusing them.
Arnica has since long been used in sports supplements for treating post-exertional myalgia. Albeit the usual mixed result reported by research reviewers, athletes have recorded their positive practical experience in treating traumatic tissue injury by the usage of homeopathic arnica montana.
PROBABLE RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS
Before choosing to use any OTC medication, it’s important to be aware of the risk concerns, which is why, we also strongly recommend consulting your general physician once, before arriving at a decision.
People with a pre-existing allergy to plants of the Asteraceae family such as marigolds, chrysanthemums, daisies, etc., can incur a mild allergic reaction to arnica. Temporary increases in blood pressure and heart rate especially when used excessively or on broken skin can be caused by usage of arnica. This is because the active ingredient gets absorbed faster by the broken skin and can also cause localized stinging.
Moreover, pregnant or breastfeeding women must consult a doctor before using arnica.
Homeopathic arnica is extremely diluted and hence, mostly considered safe. However, the ones that have detectable amounts of helenalin may pose health risks. Arnica, when taken by mouth, can cause mouth and throat irritation, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, shortness of breath, easy bruising and bleeding, rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure.
One must certainly avoid oral preparations containing pure arnica. They can most likely damage the heart and increase the risk of organ failure, coma or can even lead to death. Large amounts of undiluted arnica, such as plant extracts and oils or Arnica in its whole plant form is extremely poisonous and hence considered too dangerous to be used.
DOSAGE AND STORAGE
As for oral preparations of arnica, they come in a gamut of varying doses. The most common ones are C12, C30, and C200, all of which are extremely diluted. In case of topical arnica gels, it is advisable to follow the instructions written on the label and stick to only using highly diluted products. Also, it’s best to store all forms of arnica in a cool, dry environment away from direct sunlight.
Regardless of the mixed reactions and the inconsistent study reviews, the bottom line is that Arnica Montana is, since times immemorial, being used in many homeopathic products and widely available as an over the counter medication in form of gels, ice coolant, tablets, massage oils, creams, etc. This wouldn’t be the case if people weren’t relying on its effectiveness. However, a prior recommendation from a health professional or a health care provider is always suggested before resorting to any sort of medication.