Bruise, before and after. Actually, this is Photoshop. But Arnica is almost as good 🙂
Although I mostly blog about food, occasionally I’ll thrill you with recommendations for amazing non-culinary products, too. I want to keep your body happy, inside and out, and to help you create a holistic home environment.
Arnica Montana is one of the most powerful substances in nature’s pharmacopeia It is primarily used for bruising, swelling, arthritis, and injuries. It can also relieve muscle aches, pulled muscles, spasms, sprains, cartilage pain, rheumatic pain, joint pain, and even soreness from dental work.
What is it? Arnica is a flowering alpine plant from the daisy family (Compositae), a close cousin of Calendula, Chamomilla, and Echinacea. It grows 3000 ft above sea level in Europe, Siberia, and in North America. Its roots and flowers have been used for hundreds of years as an anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial medicine.
When to use it. I use it when I stub my toe, walk into a glass door, fall off my bike, and to treat muscle soreness after exercise. I slather it on my kid for a thousand different reasons. It’s the first thing that gets pulled out of the medicine cabinet at my house. Even professional athletes use it as first aid for exercise related pain or injury. Arnica has been well studied and the research is ongoing. One study reported reduced muscle soreness after marathon running. According to Sloan Kettering, laboratory experiments on Arnica have shown that it can kill bacteria and decrease inflammation. Other studies show that topical Arnica applied to affected areas may reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis and heal bruising. A German study showed a preference for Arnica over Diclofenac for wound healing post-surgery and it is now recommended by some American surgeons to reduce post-surgical swelling.
Arnica can also be applied to the skin for insect bites, chapped lips, and acne, but not to open areas.
How does it heal you? Trauma causes blood vessels to break and blood leaks into surrounding tissue, resulting in pain and discoloration. Arnica contains compounds that help dissipate trapped blood and fluid in muscle, tissue, and joints. It is a vasodillator and, as such, relaxes small veins to allow blood flow. All Compositae plants contain selenium, and Arnica is rich in manganese. These are both powerful anti-oxidants. Manganese is essential for healthy bones and wound-healing.
Where to find it. Arnica is sold as a gel, cream, homeopathic pills, and a very concentrated oil (do not ingest and make sure it’s diluted) and can be found in health food stores and drugstores alike. The gels and cream are easily applied just like a moisturizer (but never on broken skin), and the pills are tiny balls that dissolve under the tongue. This safe, alternative remedy for pain, can be used instead of NSAIDs or prescription pain medicine without the negative side affects.
Warning: Pure Arnica (crushed flowers or essential oil) can be poisonous if ingested. Only the dilute version found in homeopathy is safe. If you suffer from allergies to marigolds or ragweed, you may get a mild rash from Arnica because of a substance in it called helenalin. If this happens, Arnica is not for you. However, I am extremely allergic to ragweed but use Arnica all the time.
Fun fact: Ski resorts in Europe are well stocked and massages and body wraps using arnica are readily available in many. There is even a Hotel Arnica in the Dolomites mountain range of the Italian Alps.