Arnica is a popular herb for treating muscle aches, wounds and inflammation.
Arnica montana, as it is scientifically known, is a perennial herb that grows to a height of 30-60cm and has yellow daisy-like flowers.
It is native to the mountains of Europe and Siberia, and cultivated in North America.
Common names include leopard's bane, wolf's bane, mountain tobacco and mountain arnica.
The extracts of the arnica plant blossom and fresh and dried flower heads are all used in herbal preparations.
What is arnica used for?
Arnica is primarily used as a topical treatment but is occasionally prescribed as an internal herbal remedy for certain heart disorders – however internal use is not recommended without clinical advice.
Topical (external) use of arnica
Swelling caused by fracture
Coronary artery disease
Herbal preparations for internal use should only be taken on the recommendation of a clinician. Even though homeopathic doses are diluted and generally considered safe for internal use, it is advisable to seek guidance from a homeopath before taking them.
Arnica heating pads
Relief from abdominal pains.
How does Arnica work?
The active components in arnica are called sesquiterpene lactones, which are known to reduce inflammation and decrease pain as well as carry immuno-stimulant properties.
Other active principals are thymol, flavonoids, inulin, carotenoids and tannins. It is said that these constituents stimulate the blood circulation and thereby disperse trapped fluids from bruised tissue, joints and muscles. The stimulation of blood circulation can also raise blood pressure, especially in the coronary arteries.
Available forms of arnica
Arnica is most typically prepared as tincture used as the base for creams, ointments, compresses, and heating pads or bandages. Arnica tea may also be administered as an internal herbal remedy while homeopathic remedies are available in pill, topical, or injectable varieties.
Internal use of arnica is not recommended for children. Homeopathic preparations may be used to treat bruising, swelling, and trauma to soft tissues.
Since there is a variety of arnica herbal preparations, topical treatment should follow the indications on product labels.
The topical use of arnica is generally considered to be safe however prolonged use may cause skin irritations. Arnica should not be used on broken skin or by those with particularly sensitive skin.
As an internal remedy arnica may cause tremors, dizziness, heart problems, nervous disorders and vomiting.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult a physician before using any form of Arnica.
There are no known scientific reports of interactions between Arnica and conventional medications.