Arnica, a member of the Asteraceae family, is a staple topical remedy in homeopathy, and in that system of medicine is most usually employed in creams and gels, mostly to relieve muscle pain and bruising.
There are various species of this herb, but the most famous is Arnica montana, also known as Sneezewort, Leopard’s Bane, Mountain Tobacco, Mountain Snuff and Wolf’s Bane. The name may have come from the Greek word „arna”, which translates as „lamb”, due to its hairy and soft leaves.
Nowadays, it is found in several hundred products, making it one of the most popular and widely used of the natural topical remedies.
It is an alpine plant, growing in nutrient-poor soils and reaching a height of 1 to 2 feet, with yellow-orange flowers similar to daisies. This alpine plant grows in meadows up to 3,000 feet above sea level. The higher the altitude, the more aromatic the flowers become. The plant is native to the mountainous zones of southern Russia and Europe. It is also found sporadically in the northwestern United States and Canada.
The herb contains sesquiterpene lactones (a chemical compound known to reduce inflammation and decrease pain), arnicin, arnisterol (arnidiol), flavonoids (isoquercitrin, luteolin-7-glucoside, astragalin and anthoxanthine), tannin, resin and manganese.
German researchers have isolated sesquiterpenoid lactones, dihydrohelenalin including and helenalin. These substances were found to possess the pharmacologic properties responsible for arnica’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
The root of this herb contains essential oils (such as thymol), which are powerful anti–inflammatory agents. Thymol has been clinically shown to be an effective vasodilator, as well as being fungicidal and antibacterial.
Arnica oil is a mixture of thymol, various ethers of thymol, phlorol isobutyrate and thymohydroquinone dimethyl ether. The other 50 percent is made up of about 50 percent fatty acids, including palmitic, linolenic, linoleic and myristic acids. The essential oil is not recommended for aromatherapy purposes because it’s too potent for inhalation.
Uses and health benefits of Arnica montana
The plant is approved for external use as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic by the German Commission E (the German equivalent of FDA), an advisory panel on herbal medicines.
Extracts from this plant have been extensively used in folk and homeopathic medicine as a treatment for boils, acne, bruises, joint pain, rashes, muscle aches, sprains, pains, inflammation from insect bites and wound healing. Recent studies suggest it may also be beneficial in the treatment of superficial burns and diaper rash.
The anti-inflammatory healing properties of this herb are mainly due to its sesquiterpene lactones. These chemicals compounds cause a reduction of inflammation by blocking the actions of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Many athletes use it to speed recovery workout or to recover from muscle strain.
Using extract from this herb on your scalp rejuvenates it and makes the hair follicles more active, thus helping the hair to grow healthy and thick, without falling off prematurely.
In addition, the plant has also been successfully used as a tobacco substitute and another of its names is ”mountain tobacco” or „smokeherb”.
Here are some studies, though it is clear that more in-depth studies need to be conducted.
1.Pain relief after carpal-tunnel release surgery.
Conclusion: The role of homeopathic and herbal agents for recovery after surgery merits further investigation.
2.Accelerated resolution of laser-induced bruising with topical 20% arnica: a rater-blinded randomized controlled trial.
Conclusion: It may be able to reduce bruising more effectively than placebo and more effectively than low-concentration vitamin K formulations, like 1% vitamin K with 0·3% retinol.
3.Homeopathic therapy in patients receiving knee surgery: results of 3 randomized double-blind trials.
Conclusion: In all 3 trials, patients receiving homeopathic arnica revealed a trend towards less postoperative swelling compared to patients receiving placebo.
Homeopathic doses of this herb are unlikely to exert any adverse reactions because of the minimal amount ingested. Ingesting it directly may cause tremors, dizziness, diarrhea, irritation to the gut, vomiting and heart irregularities. Never take this plant internally unless it’s in the form of homeopathic pills that contain too little active substances to cause harm. Never apply it in any form on broken skin or on an open wound.
The oil contains a chemical compound called helenalin, which may cause allergic reactions in people with sensitivity. If you develop a mild rash while using it, you are probably helenalin – sensitive and should stop using the oil.
If you are breastfeeding or pregnant, avoid using this herb and consult a qualified professional before using it on your skin. Talk to your physician before taking any medication, including herbs.