I love trail running, and living in Boulder, Colorado with the mountains literally just outside my door, there are plenty of great trails. Thing is, they are pretty rocky and steep. I was running down a steep rocky trail the other day, and just happened to put my foot down on a rock the wrong way, and BOOM—sprained my ankle!
It was a long walk back home, and given the current controversy about whether to ice injuries, I decided not to ice it, but to take some arnica that I keep around. I went from barely walking and in a lot of pain to walking normally on day three! I was amazed!
The arnica not only helped the swelling and trauma, but it helped the pain immensely—I didn’t even have to resort to Ibuprofen or Tylenol, both of which have serious health and liver implications.
Arnica, on the other hand, is a completely natural homeopathic remedy that is so effective and widespread, that even physicians and surgeons now recommend it to their patients to reduce pain, trauma, swelling, bruising and inflammation. Arnica helps to naturally speed healing to the affected area.
Arnica has been recorded as being used all the way back to the 12th century as a healing agent. It has been used extensively in Europe for literally thousands of years.
The most common type of arnica is Arnica Montana which is part of the daisy family. The daisy family contains several members which are used medicinally, including echinacea, calendula chamomile, yarrow, and dandelion.
Arnica contains a substance called helenalin, which is a potent anti-inflammatory. It can be used for traumatic injuries, surgery, or even just aches, pains, insect bites, and sore muscles. Since Arnica helps to decrease swelling, it also decreases pain associated with swelling. Arnica also stimulates the body’s healing processes and actually speeds up the time it takes injuries to heal.
Arnica is available in a variety of different forms, including topical oils, creams, gels, and ointments; as well as oral capsules and sublingual. Generally, the topical forms work best for superficial injuries and inflammation, and the oral capsules or tablets work for deeper injuries or trauma.
Arnica is excellent for treating the inflammation of osteoarthritis as well as injuries. This study done in 2007 and published in the Rheumatology International shows topical arnica as effective as an NSAID drug like ibuprofen in the treatment of the pain and stiffness of arthritis. Got sore, achy knees? Try arnica. Another study from Switzerland showed arnica’s effectiveness for moderate arthritis in knees, as well. In addition, arnica is effective at treating the pain, inflammation and stiffness from carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrists.
For us athletes, especially aging athletes, arnica oil is a godsend for inflammation, muscle soreness, and exercise-related injuries like sprained ankles. Applying arnica topically after a hard workout or training session can be very effective at reducing inflammation and muscle damage. In this study, participants who used arnica had less pain and muscle tenderness 72 hours after intense exercise, according to the results published in the European Journal of Sport Science.
Arnica is also known to stimulate white blood cells and to help flush out the toxins that accumulate in an injured joint or wound, speeding healing and easing pain. Arnica contains thymol (also found in thyme) which is a vasodilator. In other words, it dilates the blood vessels and even the tiny capillaries, which helps to increase circulation, cleaning out the wound and easing swelling.
Other uses for arnica include treatment for headaches, back pain, mouth and gum pain, and even leg cramps. One odd use for arnica oil is that it actually can stimulate hair growth, so it may be effective to add to your daily hair routine. Regular scalp massages with arnica oil can actually stimulate the hair follicles to grow new, healthy hair.
How to Purchase Arnica
Arnica is available in oil, tincture, homeopathic ointment, cream, salve and pills or capsules.
Since arnica is considered a homeopathic treatment, the potency is important. Lower dilutions are shown by smaller number next to the numeral X, C, etc., which means it has a higher concentration. For pills, look for homeopathic pills with 30x dilution. For oral products, potencies usually range from 4X-200C depending on the manufacturer.
Topical Arnica can be much higher, and it is common to find higher potencies such as 1X to 6X. (1X being the stronger potency.)
Arnica is toxic if it gets inside the body. Never apply arnica in any form on broken skin or on an open wound. Never take arnica internally unless it is homeopathic pills or capsules that contain too little arnica to cause harm.
Arnica oil can be found at health and supplement stores or online. Look for arnica oil that has few other added ingredients, but generally it will need to be diluted with a high-quality base oil such as olive oil, almond or grapeseed oil.
Some people may be sensitive to the compound helenalin found in arnica. If you develop a mild rash, then you may be helenalin-sensitive and should stop using arnica.
Arnica is one of the best, natural, pain-killing, trauma-soothing, healing substances you can use. It’s certainly a good idea to always keep some topical arnica and some homeopathic lozenges in your medicine cabinet. It is simply amazing!