Arnica is a member of the daisy family native to mountainous regions of Europe and Siberia. Its flower has been used in herbal medicine preparations to treat muscle aches and inflammation for nearly five centuries.
Although arnica is available as a homeopathic remedy to be ingested, most scientific evidence points to topical application as a cream to be the most effective way to get the plant’s anti-inflammatory and pain relieving benefits. Those benefits, according to multiple studies, rival the effectiveness of NSAIDs like ibuprofen.
Arnica as an anti-inflammatory
The main therapeutic effects of arnica are derived from its compound helenalin. Although the complete process by which helenalin works is not fully understood yet, it appears to play a role as an inhibitor in the complex process of protein regulated immune response which leads to inflammation.
Arnica improves circulation and stimulates white blood cells to eliminate congested blood (such as hematomas) for faster relief of swelling and bruising. This decreased pressure typically results in less pain at the site of injury.
Medicinal uses of arnica
Besides treating muscle aches and pains, arnica has also been found effective at providing tendon and joint pain relief for conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. Some preparations have taken advantage of arnica’s antibacterial and fungicidal properties for treating other external conditions as varied as eczema, acne, and burns.
How to take arnica
Arnica is most commonly used as a component in topically applied pain relief creams which usage has been scientifically proven to benefit the recipient when applied externally. Some homeopathic remedies are sold with extremely diluted arnica in forms safe for internal use including tablets, liquid, powders and teas.
Arnica should never be directly ingested except in standard homeopathic preparations. Arnica should not be used while pregnant or breastfeeding, particularly as some compounds found in arnica may induce labor. Avoid rubbing arnica into open wounds or broken skin.