Arnica is a daisy-like plant with yellow flowers. Although high oral doses are poisonous, it’s used as a cream to reduce pain, bruises, swelling from injuries, and accelerate recovery following plastic or dental surgery. But does this actually work? Read on for an evidence-based overview of its advantages and side effects.
Arnica (Arnica montana L.), also known as mountain daisy, mountain tobacco, and leopard’s bane, is a plant using orange-yellow flowers that belongs to the same household as sunflowers, dandelions, daisies, also marigolds (Asteraceae).
Arnica grows best at an elevation of 500 — 2,500 meters and is native to the meadows and mountainous areas of Europe, western North America, and northern Asia. Since arnica is compromised in several European countries, its farming has improved but the harvesting of wild plants isn’t allowed.
The plant has been used for centuries to Decrease the inflammation and pain of:
Now, herbal and homeopathic arnica preparations are applied to the skin for:
- Soft tissue injuries (e.g., smashed fingers)
- Sprains, strains, fractures, and contusions
- Muscle soreness
- Post-surgical swelling and bruises
Arnica can also be formulated in oral homeopathic pills that are mainly used for:
- Mouth, gum, and throat inflammation
- Diabetic eye damage
- Post-surgical swelling and bruises
- Muscle soreness
The German Commission E has only accepted the use of topical arnica (creams, gels, ointments) for harms, effects of injuries, and inflammation (mouth and throat, insect bites, boils, veins). The FDA believes oral arnica unsafe due to its toxicity and the Canadian authorities prohibit its use as a food ingredient.
It is important not to confound Arnica montana with other crops popularly called”arnicas”, for example, Brazilian (Solidago chilensis and Lychnophora spp. ) and Mexican (Heterotheca inuloides) arnicas. They belong to the identical household and can also be utilized in traditional medicine, but might have different active substances and applications.
Arnica normally refers to Arnica montana L., also referred to as mountain daisy, mountain tobacco, or leopard’s bane. It’s long been part of traditional medicine, typically used topically to relieve pain.
Snapshot of Arnica
- May Improve arthritis
- Simple to apply
- Few side effects when applied to the skin or used as homeopathic tablets
- Insufficient evidence for most benefits
- Toxic at large oral doses
- Long-term usage can irritate the skin
- Endangered species
Active Components of Arnica
The main active compounds of arnica are sesquiterpene lactones like helenalin, dihydrohelenalin, and their derivatives.
Other elements of this plant include:
- Antioxidant compounds (polyphenols, flavonoids, lignans, carotenoids, and chlorogenic acid derivatives)
- Hazardous chemicals (alkaloids, polyacetylenes, and coumarins)
- Essential oils
Most active compounds are found in the blossoms , which are particularly full of sesquiterpene lactones (0.5 — 0.9percent ), flavonoids (0.4 — 0.6%), and essential oils (0.2 — 0.5%). The amount of sesquiterpene lactones increases with flower maturity.
Seeds would be the richest in polyphenols and flavonoids.
Roots and underground stems mainly contain essential oils and sugars.
The sesquiterpene lactone makeup in flowers strongly depends upon geography. Flowers from high altitudes mostly comprise helenalin, while people from lower meadows are more abundant in dihydrohelenalin.
Arnica is full of antioxidant polyphenols, but also in poisonous alkaloids, polyacetylenes, and coumarins. Most of its active chemicals are most abundant from the blossoms.
How Does Herbal Arnica Work?
When arnica’s sesquiterpene lactones penetrate the epidermis, they block the master inflammation pathway, NF-kb, and proteins that trigger an inflammatory immune response (RelA and NF-AT). This prevents the activation, division, and development of Th immune cells and prevents them from releasing inflammatory substances (cytokines).
Arthritis and Bruises
Arnica’s sesquiterpene lactones also block the production of two enzymes (MMP1 and MMP13) that degrade collagen in joint cartilages and blood vessels. By preventing collagen breakdown, arnica may protect joints in arthritis and strengthen blood vessels.
Herbal arnica includes sesquiterpene lactones that can penetrate the skin and obstruct the NF-kb inflammatory pathway. These compounds can also stop the degradation of collagen and blood vessels.
Benefits and Uses of Herbal Arnica
Though herbal arnica is not accepted by the FDA for almost any conditions, multiple supplements that contain it are available. Note that nutritional supplements generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing criteria but don’t guarantee they are safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before using herbal arnica for almost any conditions to prevent unexpected interactions.
Herbal arnica is devised to lotions, gels, and ointments. These products contain arnica tinctures or dried flowers (1 — 25%) and their effects rely on arnica’s bioactive components (unlike homeopathic tablets ). Arnica tea may also be used on the skin, but should not be consumed orally.
Creams or lotions should contain a maximum of 15% arnica oil or 20 — 25% tincture.
Possibly Effective for:
1) Pain Relief
In a clinical trial of 79 individuals with knee arthritis, arnica gel (2.5percent arnica extract) employed 2x/day for up to 6 months of reduced pain, stiffness, and disability. The identical gel 3x/day for 3 months decreased hand arthritis symptoms as effectively as a 5% ibuprofen gel in a clinical trial on nearly 200 people.
In rats, a high-dose arnica infusion (up to 500 mg/kg body weight) decreased joint damage, inflammation, and improved antioxidants.
Infection from Traumatic Injuries
A spray for sports injuries with 10% arnica tincture and an anti-inflammatory painkiller (hydroxyethyl salicylate) decreased the pain from ankle distortion and sports injuries in two clinical trials of over 600 people. The combination worked better than either material alone.
At a clinical study on 20 people, 2.5 g of a 1 percent arnica flower gel applied every 4 hours after a downhill run decreased muscle soreness better compared to placebo, but just after 3 days.
To sum up, limited evidence indicates that herbal arnica helps relieve pain, particularly from arthritis and traumatic injuries. You might try herbal arnica for pain relief if you and your physician determine that it may help in your situation. Significantly, never use herbal arnica in place of what your physician recommends or prescribes.
Pain relief is the most common usage of topical arnica as well as the best supported by clinical research. On the other hand, the proof is still considered insufficient to recommend arnica for this objective.
Insufficient Evidence for:
In a clinical trial on 16 people, a 20% arnica extract ointment employed 2x/day for 2 weeks reduced bruising in the laser process. It had been as effective as a low-dose vitamin K cream and much better than a placebo.
Steroids are most commonly used to reduce swelling and bruises after plastic surgery. But herbal remedies are also gaining popularity.
At a clinical trial on over 100 people undergoing nose plastic surgery, a lotion with arnica implemented 4x/day for 10 days decreased bruises and swelling. But a 10 percent arnica ointment failed to enhance swelling and bruises following eyelid operation in a trial on 136 individuals.
Based on the small number of trials and the combined results, there’s insufficient evidence to claim that herbal arnica enhances bruises.
3) Wound Healing
In newborn babies, the umbilical cord stump takes as many as 2 weeks to dry up and fall off. During this period, special care must be taken as a result of the risk of infections. In an observational study on over 6,000 babies, a powder containing arnica and echinacea 2x/day prevented illnesses and aided umbilical cord stumps to fall off within just 4 times on average.
In a small trial of 2 individuals with burns, a gel with 0.5% arnica extract and 9.5percent stinging nettle infusion helped the lifeless skin tissue drop off sooner and enhanced wound healing.
In an observational study on 50 individuals with chronic wounds, a powder blend with 0.01percent arnica and other herbs was rated successful by 85 — 89 percent of health professionals. The effects might have been because of other, more abundant components of the mix (mint, sandalwood, and calendula).
Considering that all of the research used arnica in combination with other herbal remedies and 2 from three had other design flaws (small size and subjective evaluation of the efficacy ) the evidence to support the use of arnica for wound healing is inadequate.
Animal and Cell Research (Lack of Evidence):
Researchers are exploring other potential health benefits of herbal arnica. Because the studies continue to be at the animal and mobile stage, there’s absolutely no proof that their results are the same in humans.
In hamsters, an arnica tincture cured skin injuries caused by a parasitic disease (leishmaniasis) better than the more conventional medicine meglumine antimoniate.
Arnica extract prevented the growth of several microbes that cause gum disease (Porphyromonas gingivalis, Prevotella spp. , Eikenella corrodens, Peptostreptococcus spp. , and Actinomyces spp.) In one cellular study.
5) Breathing Function
Back in Guinea pigs, arnica complicated safely decreased coughing and widened the airways. Its consequences were like an anti-asthma drug (salbutamol).
6) Skin Care and Gum Inflammation
Arnica lotions are sometimes used to decrease skin inflammation and acne, while dental washes may be used to whiten gum inflammation.
Based on mobile studies, arnica blocks the master redness pathway NF-kB, reducing the creation of several inflammatory compounds (IL-1, IL-2, IL-6, IL-8, along with TNF-alpha). It also blocks the inflammation-triggering enzyme COX-2 (like NSAIDs like Advil and Motrin — aspirin ) and reduces the expression of enzymes that aggravate resistant over-activation.
But, products with higher arnica concentrations employed over prolonged periods of time are more inclined to cause skin irritation too, particularly in people sensitive to similar crops.
7) Arnica Uses from the Food Industry
The food industry uses arnica as a flavoring in:
- Alcoholic and soft drinks
- Frozen dairy desserts
- Baked goods
Limitations and Caveats
For many health benefits, studies reported that a mixture of positive and negative outcomes. Those using homeopathic remedies most frequently showed no differences between the application of arnica and the placebo.
A lot of the studies were done on a couple of people (30 or less), which can produce unreliable results.
Some research lacked proper placebo management or had no controls at all.
The effects of arnica on breathing and infections have only been tested in animal and cell studies. Clinical trials in humans are needed to confirm them.
Study Funding and Conflict of Interest
Several of the research were funded by firms selling arnica preparations (Bioforce, Boiron, Alpine Pharmaceuticals, Similasan, Cearna) or performed by workers of these firms.
Many of the research of arnica’s potential advantages either report mixed effects or have serious flaws in the design, financing, and bias.
Negative Effects and Security of Arnica
Cosmetic arnica is quite poisonous at concentrations greater than those found in foods and homeopathic remedies. The intake of large arnica doses may cause:
- Digestive problems (gastroenteritis, stomachache, vomiting, diarrhea)
- Disposition disturbances (drowsiness, nervousness)
- Muscle weakness
- Increased heart speed
- Shortness of breath
- Coma, and even
- Death from heart failure (very Substantial doses)
In observational research on 86 women who took in different plants to induce abortion, 2 out of 3 women using arnica suffered multiple organ failure.
Because the dose of the active chemicals in homeopathic preparations is extremely low, homeopathic arnica is usually thought to have no risk of toxicity. However, a person who took in a very large amount (100-200 mL) of arnica 30C suffered from blood-stained vomiting and loss of vision. This might have been caused by the alcohol used in the dilutions.
Though topical arnica Is Usually well-tolerated, gels and ointments can cause mild to mild allergic reactions to the skin in people sensitive to its compounds, for example:
- Neighborhood rash
- Colored stains
The long-term use of arnica can sensitize the skin and increases the probability of allergic skin reactions.
In observational research on over 400 people with chronic dermatitis, 5 were allergic to arnica. Each of them reported implementing it on the skin or coming in contact with the plant as hobby-gardeners. A person who repeatedly used arnica tincture to get a skin ailment (rosacea) developed a contact allergy using blistering.
A person who used an undiluted arnica mouthwash (supposed to be diluted 1:5 with water) experienced a burning sensation with every rinse and mouth lining injuries.
Arnica is very toxic and shouldn’t be consumed orally. Arnica poisoning can lead to stomach symptoms (such as vomiting and nausea ), muscle weakness, drowsiness, shortness of breath, elevated heart rate. At high doses, arnica can cause coma and death by heart failure.
Importantly, arnica should not be applied to open wounds or broken, damaged skin to keep the absorption of too much arnica and its toxicity.
People with an allergy to plants of the same household (Asteraceae) such as marigolds and coneflowers should steer clear of both oral and topical arnica.
Although they still can utilize topical and topical homeopathic preparations, individuals with the following conditions should rigorously prevent oral arnica:
- Digestive problems
- High heart rate or blood pressure
- Scheduled surgery (due to decreased blood clotting)
Cosmetic arnica (excluding highly diluted homeopathic remedies) is generally considered dangerous, and particularly so for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Indeed, a breastfed baby whose mother was drinking tea produced from arnica flowers developed anemia due to red blood cell damage.
Since arnica is quite poisonous when consumed, it’s also advised to avoid using topical arnica near or on open wounds. Its safety profile can be incomplete in pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Potential Medication Interactions
Since arnica’s sesquiterpene lactones slow blood clotting, oral arnica may increase the risk of bruises and bleed in people taking medications that also decrease blood clotting, for example:
- Painkillers/anti-inflammatories (aspirin, diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen)
- Blood thinners (clopidogrel, dalteparin, enoxaparin, heparin, warfarin)
Because homeopathic arnica contains no or few molecules of its active compounds, this interaction may only happen in people taking high-concentration (‘low-potency’) tablets, for example, 3 — 5 D/X. The interaction is more likely with oral herbal arnica usage, which is very rare.
High-dose oral arnica is also not recommended in people using drugs for hypertension, since it might reduce their impact.
The sesquiterpene lactones in arnica lotions and gels may interact with other medicines that decrease blood clottings, such as NSAIDs and blood thinners.
Types and Dosage of Arnica
Since both herbal and homeopathic arnica is not approved by the FDA for any conditions, there is no official dose. Users and manufacturers have established unofficial doses according to their expertise.
Arnica is available as many formulations Which Can Be applied on the skin, for example:
- Tincture: a 1:10 alcoholic extract of arnica flowers
- Oil: essential oil obtained in the distillation of arnica flowers
- Tea (2g herb/100 mL water) just for external use. Only people under strict medical supervision may drink tea, which is deemed dangerous.
- Mouth rinse: a 1:10 dilution of arnica extract
- Homeopathic lotions, such as Traumeel
Creams, gels, lotions, and salves typically contain 20 — 25 percent arnica tincture or 15% arnica oil.
It is important to purchase arnica from a trusted source as it’s a secure species in certain countries. Unreliable manufacturers can include different plants in their merchandise and fraudulently promote them as arnica.
Arnica is also included in decorative products such as:
- Hair tonics
- Preparations for dandruff and acne
- Shampoos and bath gels
- Homeopathic tablets or pills: typically 5C or 30C
- Less diluted, lower’potency’, for example 5D, 6D, 10D or 10X
- More diluted, greater’potency’, such as 1M or perhaps 50M
For more on homeopathic arnica, have a look at this post.
- Tinctures: Dilute 3 — 10x with water and apply to the affected area of the skin or dilute 10x to use as a mouthwash.
- Arthritis: Apply a 2.5% arnica extract gel 2-3x/day for up to 6 months.
- Sports accidents: Employ a 10 percent arnica tincture spray 5x/day for 10 times.
- Muscle soreness: Employ 2.5 g of a 1 percent arnica flower gel every 4 hours for 4 days or just take 5 arnica 30C pills 2x/day for 4 days.
- Bruises due to injuries: Apply 0.25 g of 20% arnica tincture ointment 2x/day for 2 days.
- Post-surgical bruises: Employ a cream 4x/day for 10 days or choose arnica 1M 3x/day for 3-4 times.
Arnica is commonly available as topical lotions, gels, ointments, or salves. Arnica is toxic and should not be absorbed by mouth.
Genetics Related to Arnica
Arnica’s helenalin blocks the activation of the pro-inflammatory protein RelA, which is part of this primary inflammation pathway NF-kB. It does so by binding to a particular amino acid (Cys38). Variants of the protein using a different amino acid may increase or lessen the effects of arnica by enhancing or preventing the action of helenalin.
Arnica also blocks the creation of those collagen-degrading enzymes MMP1 and MMP13. Mutations that impact these genes can lessen the consequences of arnica on arthritis and bruises.
The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of arnica users who might or might not have medical or scientific training. Their testimonials don’t reflect the opinions of us. We don’t endorse any particular product, service, or therapy.
Do not consider user adventures as medical information. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider due to something you have read on this website. We know that studying person, real-life experiences can be a very helpful resource, but it is not a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or therapy from a qualified health care provider.
Most people used Arnica such as bruises, pain, and swelling caused by injuries. Virtually all of them reported a quick and strong improvement in the symptoms. Individuals using topical formulations were more satisfied than people taking pills. Only one reviewer who employed arnica for sports injuries complained that it didn’t work.
Just two users reported negative effects. One needed to wash a cream off instantly due to a burning sensation on the skin and the other one seasoned digestive problems after taking the pills.
Likewise, most people using arnica on the skin or as homeopathic pills after plastic surgery reported that a fast improvement of bruises and swelling. Just one complained that the pills didn’t work.
Users taking arnica for inflammatory conditions usually reported satisfactory results but were concerned about its possible interaction with blood thinners.
Arnica generally refers to Arnica montana L., also known as mountain bikers, mountain tobacco, or leopard’s bane. It has long been part of traditional medication, typically used topically to relieve pain.
Pain relief is also the purported advantage of arnica having the most clinical research behind it. People with arthritis, pain from traumatic injuries, or muscle soreness have experienced an easing of their pain after using topical arnica lotions or gels, although several successive days of the program are sometimes required.
Other potential benefits with insufficient evidence include swelling and wound healing. All other reported benefits and uses of arnica have only been investigated in cells or animals so far. Furthermore, a number of clinical studies on arnica suffer from severe design defects or possible conflicts of interest.
Arnica is highly toxic and shouldn’t be absorbed orally. Side effects of ingestion may include nausea, elevated heart rate, drowsiness, weakness, and shortness of breath. Consuming higher doses might lead to coma and even death. Furthermore, the safety profile of arnica is faulty, especially in pregnant women and children.