Arnica is a natural pain reliever that’s been used since the 16th century to help reduce swelling and inflammation, lessen bruising, accelerate wound healing, and reduce joint pain. It’s an absolute essential for your alternative first aid kit, but it is extremely potent and must be handled with caution.
This natural anti-inflammatory is part of the daisy family. Native to Europe and Siberia, Arnica Montana, the most common arnica variety, also thrives in the mountainous regions of North America. It goes by many names, including leopard’s bane, mountain tobacco, and wolf’s bane.
Arnica helps reduce pain, swelling, and bruising and promote wound healing by boosting circulation and exerting an anti-inflammatory effect, particularly due to its main constituent thymol. Thymol has all the antis you want in a pain treatment: it’s antifungal, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. Herbal practitioners also believe that arnica can help regenerate tissues, making it the ideal botanical remedy for sports injuries.
You can apply arnica topically or ingest arnica (but only as a commercial homeopathic remedy) to treat the following health conditions:
- Muscle pain or spasms
- Insect bites
- Hair loss
- carpal tunnel syndrome
Use with Caution
You can purchase topical applications of arnica in lotion, gel, and ointment form over the counter at most drugstores or natural health stores. Do not use arnica on open skin wounds. Arnica contains helenalin, which can trigger allergic reactions in those sensitive to the compound. Test sensitivity on a patch of skin, and if a mild rash develops then you may be allergic to the helenalin in arnica.
If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, then you should not use arnica. Arnica can cause nausea, vomiting, and other digestive upset, and homeopathic preparations should be used only while under the care of a licensed health practitioner.