Arnica has long been a popular homeopathic remedy for sprains, bruises, and heart problems in Europe, especially in Germany. The German poet, dramatist, and novelist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was known to have drunk arnica tea to relieve his angina; arnica is still widely used in Germany for heart conditions. Despite a large body of anecdotal evidence, however, many claims made for arnica’s healing properties have not been supported by scientific research. In 1981, German scientists identified an active ingredient in the herb called helenalin. In lab experiment, helenalin was shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and mild anti-bacterial properties. However, subsequent clinical trials have for the most part failed to show any positive effects of arnica preparations in relieving pain from common injuries such as bruises and strained muscles. An exception was a clinical trial conducted in Switzerland in 2002 indicating that fresh arnica gel preparations successfully reduced symptoms in patients who were suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee. Twice a day for six weeks, 53 women and 26 men applied arnica gel to their affected knees. By the end of the testing period, nearly all the participants had experienced significant relief of pain and stiffness as well as increased mobility in osteoarthritic joints. More than three-quarters of them said they would use arnica gel again for relief of symptoms.
Usage: Typically used as an ointment to treat bruises, strain muscle, breast pain, soreness, chapped lips, and acne. It was even used to treat depression, typhoid, pneumonia, anemia, diarrhea, and heart problems
Traditional and Current Medicinal Uses
Arnica has been used for centuries throughout Europe and North America to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and heal bruises, sprain, and wounds. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, alternative medicine practitioners recommended the herb for bruises and strained muscles, breast pain, and chronic sores or abscesses. Rubbed on the scalp, it was said to promote hair growth. It was also sometimes prescribed for depression, typhoid, pneumonia, anemia, diarrhea, and heart problems.
Currently, arnica is used for a wide range of conditions including bruises, muscle strains, sprains, bunions, dislocations, rheumatic muscle and joint problems, arthritis, wound healing, superficial phlebitis, inflammation from insect bites, and swelling due to bone fractures. It is typically rubbed on the skin in the form of a soothing, healing cream, ointment, or salve. Applied as salve, it is also considered an effective treatment for chapped lips, acne, and irritated nostrils. In the hands of an experienced homeopathic clinician, arnica preparations may occasionally by used for inflammation of the mouth and throat, angina, and coronary artery disease. These instances are rare, however, and must be carried out only under strict medical supervision. This is because, taken internally, arnica can cause serious side effects including vomiting, increase heart rate, and nervous disorders. Even prolonged external use of arnica can result in toxic skin reactions. Homeopathic preparations are typically very dilute.
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