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Arnica

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

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Updated May 23, 2014

Dried Arnica tea
Jessica Boone/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Arnica (or Arnica montana) is a perennial herb often used to prepare homeopathic remedies. Arnica's flowers and roots are also used in herbal medicine, typically in remedies applied directly to the skin.

Health Benefits of Arnica:

One of the most common uses of arnica is the treatment of wounds, bruises, sunburn, and other forms of skin irritation or inflammation. In these cases, an arnica-based gel, cream, ointment, or salve is topically applied to promote healing and soothing of the skin. Arnica gel is also touted as a means of relieving muscle soreness and sprain-related pain.

Several studies have found arnica to be no more effective than a placebo in relieving pain, swelling, and bruising. Still, other research suggests that arnica may be useful in treating the following health problems:

1) Arthritis

In a 2002 study of 79 adults with mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knee, researchers observed a significant decrease in pain and stiffness (as well as an improvement in function) among those who used arnica gel twice daily for six weeks.

Another study, published in 2007 and involving 204 people with osteoarthritis of the hand, showed that arnica gel lessened pain and improved hand function as effectively as ibuprofen.

See other Natural Remedies for Osteoarthritis.

2) Post-Surgery Swelling

Taking a homeopathic dilution of arnica may slightly reduce postoperative swelling, according to a 2006 study of 227 adults undergoing arthroscopy.

3) Post-Surgery Pain

In a 2007 study of 190 adults having their tonsils removed, scientists discovered that those taking a homeopathic dilution of arnica had a small but significant decrease in pain compared to patients assigned to a placebo.

A 2002 study of 37 people undergoing surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome found that taking a homeopathic dilution of arnica and applying arnica ointment also produced a significant decrease in post-surgery pain.

4) Muscle Soreness

Taking a homeopathic dilution of arnica may help ease muscle soreness, according to a 2003 study of 82 marathon runners. However, an earlier study of 519 runners found that homeopathic arnica was ineffective for muscle soreness following long-distance running.

Arnica is just one remedy that is used for sore muscles. Find out about other remedies for muscle soreness.

Common Uses of Arnica

In homeopathic medicine, arnica is used in treatment of these and other conditions:

  • arthritis
  • backache
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • eczema
  • fibromyalgia
  • influenza
  • headache
  • hemorrhoids
  • migraine
  • Safety

    Arnica should not be taken internally, except in the form of a homeopathic dilution. While arnica can be toxic when ingested, homeopathic arnica contains too small an amount of the herb to cause adverse effects.

    In some cases, topical use of arnica can cause skin irritation, itching, blisters, and other allergy-related problems. Be careful not to use arnica on broken skin.

    Where to Find It

    Homeopathic arnica -- as well as arnica gels, ointments, and creams -- can be purchased at most health food stores or obtained directly from a homeopathic physician.

    Sources:

    Brinkhaus B, Wilkens JM, Lüdtke R, Hunger J, Witt CM, Willich SN. "Homeopathic arnica therapy in patients receiving knee surgery: results of three randomised double-blind trials." Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2006 14(4):237-46.

    Ernst E, Pittler MH. "Efficacy of homeopathic arnica: a systematic review of placebo-controlled clinical trials." Archives of Surgery 1998 133(11):1187-90.

    Jeffrey SL, Belcher HJ. "Use of Arnica to relieve pain after carpal-tunnel release surgery." Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 2002 8(2):66-8.

    Knuesel O, Weber M, Suter A. "Arnica montana gel in osteoarthritis of the knee: an open, multicenter clinical trial." Advances in Therapy 2002 19(5):209-18.

    Robertson A, Suryanarayanan R, Banerjee A. "Homeopathic Arnica montana for post-tonsillectomy analgesia: a randomised placebo control trial." Homeopathy 2007 96(1):17-21.

    Tveiten D, Bruset S. "Effect of Arnica D30 in marathon runners. Pooled results from two double-blind placebo controlled studies." Homeopathy 2003 92(4):187-9.

    Vickers AJ, Fisher P, Smith C, Wyllie SE, Rees R. "Homeopathic Arnica 30x is ineffective for muscle soreness after long-distance running: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." The Clinical Journal of Pain Sep;14(3):227-31.

    Widrig R, Suter A, Saller R, Melzer J. "Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study." Rheumatology International 2007 27(6):585-91.

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