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Arnica

Also listed as: Arnica montana; Leopard's bane

Overview
Plant Description
Parts Used
Medicinal Uses and Indications
Available Forms
 
How to Take It
Precautions
Possible Interactions
Supporting Research

Overview

Arnica (Arnica montana) has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s and is still popular today. Applied to the skin as a cream, ointment, liniment, salve, or tincture, arnica has been used to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds. It is commonly used for injuries such as sprains and bruises. As an herb, arnica is generally used only topically (on the skin) because it can cause serious side effects when taken by mouth. Oral homeopathic remedies do contain arnica, but they use an extremely diluted form that is not considered dangerous. If you have any question about whether you have the herbal or homeopathic form of arnica, talk to your doctor before taking it.

Plant Description

Arnica is a perennial that grows to a height of 1 - 2 feet with yellow-orange flowers similar to daisies. Stems are round and hairy, ending in one to three flower stalks, with flowers 2 - 3 inches across. Leaves are bright green. The upper leaves are toothed and slightly hairy, while lower leaves have rounded tips. It is native to the mountains of Europe and Siberia, and is cultivated in North America.

Parts Used

Fresh or dried flower heads are used in medicinal preparations.

Medicinal Uses and Indications

  • Arnica is used topically for a wide range of conditions, including bruises, sprains, muscle aches, wound healing, superficial phlebitis, joint pain, inflammation from insect bites, and swelling from broken bones.
  • Homeopathic preparations are also used to treat sore muscles, bruises, and other conditions caused by overexertion or injury. Homeopathic doses are extremely diluted. They have no detectable amount of the plant in them and are generally considered safe for internal use when taken according to the directions on the label.

Available Forms

Arnica is available in topical creams and ointments. It is most commonly found as a tincture, which can also be used as the base for compresses and poultices. Arnica oil may also be used in topical preparations.

A number of homeopathic remedies are available in pill, topical, or injectable forms.

How to Take It

You should not take arnica by mouth without direct medical supervision, except in dilute form as a homeopathic remedy, because side effects may be severe (see "Precautions").

Homeopathic products should be used according to directions on the label or the advice of your homeopathic practitioner. Health care providers may give homeopathic preparations by injection.

When using arnica topically, never apply it to an open wound without a doctor's supervision.

Pediatric

Homeopathic preparations may be used to treat bruising, swelling, and trauma to soft tissues. Follow the dosage instructions on the product label or consult a licensed homeopath. Use only in homeopathic formulations. Don’t use the herb itself.

Adult

Topical preparations of arnica may be prepared as follows:

  • Tincture: a 1:10 tincture prepared with 70% ethanol
  • Creams and ointments: 20 - 25% tincture or a maximum of 15% arnica oil made from one part dried arnica flower head and five parts vegetable oil
  • Compresses: tincture diluted 3 - 10 times with water
  • Poultices: tincture diluted 3 - 10 times with water
  • Mouthwash: tincture diluted 10 times with water (rinse but don't swallow)

Precautions

Arnica is generally safe when used on the skin. However, using it for a long time may irritate the skin, causing eczema, peeling, blisters, or other skin conditions. Arnica should not be used on broken skin, such as leg ulcers. Also, people who are hypersensitive or allergic to the herb should avoid it.

Arnica is rarely used as an internal herbal remedy because it can cause dizziness, tremors, and heart irregularities. It may also irritate mucous membranes and cause vomiting. Large doses can even be fatal. Do not take arnica by mouth except under close supervision of your doctor. Homeopathic remedies, which use extremely small amounts of arnica, can usually be taken safely.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid taking arnica, and ask your doctor before using it on your skin. Talk to your doctor before taking any medication, including herbs.

Possible Interactions

When used topically or in a homeopathic remedy, arnica does not interact with any conventional medications.

Supporting Research

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Brinkhaus B, Wilkens JM, Ludtke R, Hunger J, Witt CM, Willich SN. Homeopathic arnica therapy in patients receiving knee surgery: Results of three randomised double-blind trials. Complement Ther Med. 2006 Dec;14(4):237-46.

Conforti A, Bertani S, Metelmann H, Chirumbolo S, Lussignoli S, Bellavite P. Experimental studies of the anti-inflammatory activity of a homeopathic preparation. BiolTher. 1997;15(1):28-31.

Kotlus BS, Heringer DM, Dryden RM. Evaluation of Homeopathic Arnica montana for Ecchymosis After Upper Blepharoplasty: A Placebo-Controlled, Randomized, Double-Blind Study. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg. 2010 Jul 29. [Epub ahead of print]

Kowalchik C, Hylton W. Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Press; 1997.

Lussignoli S, Bertani S, Metelmann H, Bellavite P, Conforti A. Effect of Traumeel S, a homeopathic formulation, on blood-induced inflammation in rats. Complement Ther Med. 1999;7(4):225-230.

Lyss G, Schmidt TJ, Merfort I, Pahl HL. Helenalin, an anti-inflammatory sesquiterpene lactone from Arnica, selectively inhibits transcription factor NF-kappaB. BiolChem. 1997;378(9): 951-961.

Seeley BM, Denton AB, Ahn MS, Maas CS. Effect of homeopathic Arnica montana on bruising in face-lifts: results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2006 Jan-Feb;8(1):54-9.

Tveiten D, Bruset S, Borchgrevink CF, Norseth J. Effects of the homeopathic remedy Arnica D30 on marathon runners: a randomized, double blind study during the 1995 Oslo marathon. ComplementTherMed. 1998;6(2):71-74.

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. Clin J Pain. 1998;14(3):227-231.

Wijnsma R, Woerdenbag HJ, Busse W. The importance of Arnica-species in phytomedicine. ZPhytother. 1995;16(1):48-62.


Review Date: 10/11/2010
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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