The Use of Arnica: Benefits and Contraindications

06 October, 2020
The use of arnica to relieve muscle pain and bruising dates back to ancient times. We'll tell you more about the benefits of this plant as well as its contraindications.

According to popular literature, the benefits of arnica vary greatly.

This is a plant from the family Asteraceae that’s native to Central and Southern Europe, but it’s also present in Asia and North America. You’ve probably heard of it because it’s a common ingredient in creams or ointments to relieve bruises and muscle pain. While the most common use of arnica is to treat certain inflammatory conditions, some say it can be beneficial for hair growth as well.

Do you want to know more about the benefits and contradictions of this plant?

In this article, we’ll you all about it.

The uses of arnica and its benefits

As we mentioned, the use of arnica, which is similar in its appearance to the daisy, dates back to ancient times. Generation after generation has used it to treat bruises and muscle aches.

Below, we’ll offer you details regarding the properties and health benefits of arnica.

A golden-colored arnica flower.
Arnica is a plant from Europe that has beneficial health properties.

1. It helps to relieve pain

Arnica is popular for its anti-inflammatory properties. This is because, according to a review published in The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, it contains several chemical compounds, including flavonoids and phenolic acids. Because of this, it supposedly decreases inflammation and relieves pain.

Also, research published in The Cochrane Library on the topical use of herbs to treat osteoarthritis showed that arnica extract gel can produce effects similar to those provided by ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug useful for the pain of people with osteoarthritis.

However, it is worth noting that studies are inconclusive regarding the effectiveness of the plant’s pain-relieving properties. Also, there is no detailed and accurate information regarding the current dose.

Read also: 3 Anti-inflammatory Creams that Help Calm Muscle Pain

2. It helps to reduce bruising

Bruises appear as a result of a blow or trauma to any part of the body. They originate when blood vessels on the surface closest to the skin break as a result of the impact.

Arnica could help to reduce these marks thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects. In this regard, a review published in the American Journal of Therapeutics indicates that this plant would be more effective than a placebo for the treatment of various conditions. For example, post-traumatic and post-operative pain, edema, and bruises.

On the other hand, a study published in The British Journal of Dermatology showed that 20% arnica gel was more effective than 5% vitamin K and a placebo given to people with small hematomas created by the use of lasers.

3. It helps prevent hair loss

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, arnica may have properties to promote hair growth and prevent hair loss. It seems that the use of the oil of this plant helps reduce irritation and inflammation of the scalp.

In this case, several sources of anecdotal data validate the effectiveness of the use of arnica for this purpose and in popular in hair care routines. However, there is very little scientific documentation of it.

You may be interested in: Seasonal Hair Loss: Why Does It Happen in the Fall?

The main uses of arnica and how to prepare it

One of the most popular uses of arnica for its benefits is topical. However, you can also use it to prepare infusions. We’ll tell you how to prepare both of these two options.

Gel

Topical use is the most suitable for treating inflammations and bruises. For this reason, and due to its absorption capacity, the gel form is a good idea in these cases.

To make your own ointment, follow the steps detailed below.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of coconut oil (400 ml)
  • 1/2 cup of dry arnica (50 gr)
  • 1/2 cup grated beeswax (62 gr)

Preparation:

  • First, pour the coconut oil and dried arnica into a pot and simmer for about 1 hour.
  • Then, strain the remains of the preparation and put the pot back on the stove. Next, add the beeswax and continue to simmer until it melts.
  • Remove from the heat and wait for a few minutes.
  • Now, pour all the ingredients into the blender and blend until you get a smooth mixture.
  • Finally, store the ointment in a glass jar with a lid in a cool, dry place.

Infusion

This way of consuming arnica is very easy to prepare. You just need a few ingredients and its elaboration will take you a few minutes. In addition to drinking it, you can also apply it directly if you have a bruise or any muscle pain.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of water (250 ml)
  • 1 handful of arnica leaves
  • Honey (optional)

Preparation

  • First, pour the water into a container and heat to medium temperature.
  • Before it reaches boiling point, add the handful of arnica leaves and let it steep for 10 minutes.
  • If you’d like, you can sweeten it with honey.
A bowl of mashed arnica flower.

Arnica gels and infusions are easy to prepare and can be applied to skin with bruises.

Possible side effects of the use of arnica

Although this is an herb that serves as a natural alternative to treat the conditions already mentioned, it’s important to consider the possible side effects of the use of arnica. In high doses, arnica leads to nausea, vomiting, and digestive problems.

At the same time, some people are allergic to the components of this plant. Also, pregnant or lactating women should avoid it because it would have negative effects on the health of the baby. Therefore, it’s necessary to consult a doctor if you have any questions or before using it.

  • Leu S, Havey J, White LE, et al. Accelerated resolution of laser-induced bruising with topical 20% arnica: a rater-blinded randomized controlled trial. Br J Dermatol. 2010;163(3):557-563. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.09813.x
  • Cameron, M., & Chrubasik, S. (2013). Topical herbal therapies for treating osteoarthritis. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews5(5), CD010538. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD010538
  • Kriplani P, Guarve K, Baghael US. Arnica montana L. – a plant of healing: review. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2017;69(8):925-945. doi:10.1111/jphp.12724
  • Salvador Llana, Irene. “Plantas medicinales en España. Uso, propiedades y precauciones en la actualidad.” (2017).
  • Waizel-Bucay, José, and María de Lourdes Cruz-Juárez. “Arnica montana L., planta medicinal europea con relevancia.” Revista mexicana de ciencias forestales 5.25 (2014): 98-109.
  • Andonegui, Arguiñe, et al. “Homeopatía durante la gestación: un análisis crítico.” Progresos de Obstetricia y Ginecología (2015).
  • del Puerto Horta, Myrna, Leivis Casas Insua, and Roberto Cañete Villafranca. “Usos más frecuentes de Arnica montana.” Revista Cubana de Plantas Medicinales 18.2 (2013): 315-326.
  • Knuesel, Otto, Michel Weber, and Andy Suter. “Arnica montana gel in osteoarthritis of the knee: an open, multicenter clinical trial.” Advances in therapy 19.5 (2002): 209.