Arnica Benefits

Arnica
Latin Name

Arnica Montana

Also Known As

Arnica Flowers, Mountain Tobacco, Leopard's Bane, Wolf's Bane

Origin

Europe, North America

Parts Used

Flowers

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

Hailing from the lofty mountains of Siberia and Europe, Arnica has been extensively used to heal conditions ranging from bruising and swelling to shock and hair loss. This herb is known by some as "tumbler's cure all".

A variety of Arnica grows in North America where it is called “Mountain Tobacco” due to its leaves similarity to tobacco. It has also been used as a medicinal plant by the Native Americans for various ailments including bruising, swelling and other inflammatory conditions.

Two centuries of research initiated by the founder of homeopathy, Dr Samuel Hahnemann, have confirmed that Arnica has the remarkable ability to stimulate the body’s ability to heal injuries efficiently, minimising bruising and reducing swelling.

Arnica Benefits

Bruising/Swelling

Arnica is rich in the phytonutrient helenalin, and it is this potent compound that is responsible for the exceptional healing abilities of this plant. It works to relieve swelling and speed up the healing of bruises by stimulating the body’s white blood cells to break down the fluid and excess blood that is trapped in the joints, muscles and bruises. The increased numbers of white blood cells stop broken capillaries from bleeding into the surrounding tissue. Arnica also stimulates blood circulation to the affected area, bringing the resources and oxygen to heal broken blood vessels and produce healthy new cells.

Arnica contains lactones which are naturally anti-inflammatory and can work to bring down swelling and alleviate pain. They inhibit the production of Nuclear Factor Kappa Beta (NF-kβ), a protein complex that plays a key role in regulating the immune system’s response to infection and tissue damage. By preventing the activation of NF-kβ at the start of the inflammatory process Arnica can provide immediate pain relief and a significant reduction in swelling.

Arthritis

Arnica is particularly effective at treating the inflammatory pain caused by arthritis. Research appears to back this up, with a 2007 randomised, double blind study comparing Arnica with the NSAID Ibuprofen. They used 204 patients with osteoarthritis in their hands and found that Arnica gel worked just as well for pain relief as daily ibuprofen, with minimal side effects.

Another study of 79 people with arthritis of the knee found that when patients used Arnica gel twice daily for three to six weeks, they experienced significant reductions in pain and stiffness and had improved function. Only one person experienced an allergic reaction.

Carpal Tunnel

This painful condition is the inflammation of the very small opening just below the base of the wrist – common among typists and anyone who has a job that involve repetitive finger use. Arnica can help with the pain associated with this condition and can even prevent surgery in some case.

For patients who decide to have surgery, Arnica can also relieve the post surgery pain. Between 1998 and 2002 a double-blind, randomised comparison was conducted of Arnica administration versus placebo in post surgery patients. It was found that the participants in the group treated with Arnica had a significant reduction in pain after two weeks.

Muscle Soreness/Sports Injuries

The helenalin and other anti-inflammatory related compounds found in Arnica are particularly effective at reducing the muscle soreness and pain associated with sports injuries. It has also been found to reduce the muscle damage that can hinder athletic performance.

A study published in the “European Journal of Sport and Science”, found that the participants who used topical Arnica experienced less muscle soreness and pain 72 hours after intense exercise.

Arnica is also rich in thymol, which is an effective vasodilator of the capillaries found in the subcutaneous fat just under the skin. The widening of these vessels allows for the transport of blood and anti-inflammatory compounds which further aid the healing process.

Stimulates Hair Growth

Found in many shampoos and other hair preparations, Arnica promotes hair growth by nourishing the scalp and its vasodilating properties can stimulate the hair follicles that support the growth of healthy hair.

Interestingly, one of the leading drugs used in the treatment of alopecia (Minoxidil), works on the same pathway to stimulate hair growth as the compound helenalin, found in Arnica.

Typical Use

Arnica Flowers Oil

Apply directly to the affected area up to four times per day. Arnica Flowers Oil can be used to massage sore, tired muscles and can be massaged into the scalp to encourage hair growth. 

Folklore and History

Arnica has been used for its many healing properties for centuries, since its discovery by goat herders who noticed their goats went clambering up the mountains in search of its flowers to heal themselves after falling or stumbling. It is even named “Fallkraut” in German – meaning “fall herb”.

The 12th century German nun, Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), wrote about the healing properties of Arnica. She called the herb "Wolfsgelena", - the "wolf" does not refer to the animal, but to a skin disease still referred to as "Wolff" in some German dialects.

As with many herbs that entered the realm of folk medicine, Arnica was used in pagan times to curry favor with spirits. The blossoms were thought to be especially potent on the summer solstice, when bunches were gathered and set on the corners of fields to spread the power of the corn spirit and to ensure a good harvest. 

Arnica
Constituents

The active ingredients of Arnica are sesquiterpene lactones - such as helenalin, dihydrohelenaline and chamissonolid - essential oils, fatty acids, thymol, pseudoguaianolide and flavanone glycosides. 

Precautions

Perform a patch test - do not use if a rash develops on area of contact. May cause an allergic reaction in those who are sensitive to the Asteraceae or Compositae family. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds and daisies.

Do not apply to damaged or broken skin. Do not use herbal Arnica internally.

Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.