Arnica: An Essential Remedy for First-Aid, Concussions, Surgery, Sore Muscles, Labor, and More
Arnica montana is homeopathy's superstar remedy. It is well-known for first-aid of bumps and bruises, but it has many other uses as well. Alongside first-aid applications, Arnica can also work wonderfully to aid in healing concussions, pre- and post-surgery, sore muscles, labor and delivery, and more.
The Legend Behind the Plant
Homeopathic Arnica montana is a remedy made from the mountain daisy plant. Legend has it that a sheep farmer first discovered this plant's curative powers after observing his sheep: if any sheep were ever injured on the steep mountain slopes, they would go eat the mountain daisy. When the farmer was injured himself, he ate the mountain daisy and felt its curative effects.
Because of the way in which homeopathic remedies are made, homeopathic Arnica has even more-potent curative properties than Arnica in its herbal form. The specific preparation process for making homeopathic remedies, which includes dilution and vigorous shaking (also known as succussions), concentrate the energy of the substance and thereby increase their healing powers.
Arnica's Many Uses
Most first-aid situations are improved with Arnica. Homeopathic Arnica is excellent for:
Shock from injury,
Bumps, bruises, and swelling,
Injuries of all kinds,
Sore, overworked muscles,
Head injuries including concussions,
Cerebral hemorrhage (stroke),
Post-labor and delivery soreness and bleeding, and
Pre- and post-surgery to prevent hemorrhaging, bruising, swelling, and pain.
In Homoeopathy for the First-Aider, Dr. Dorothy Shepherd writes,
"Arnica is a treasure indeed. It does well in all injuries of the 'soft parts,' the muscles; in bruises, contusions, extravasations of blood, in sprains and in strains of the muscles due to over-exertion; whether due to tiredness after a long day of unaccustomed scrambling in mountainous country or too long a tramp after a week of sedentary work, and even the housewife when exhausted after hours of spring-cleaning will feel refreshed and will not have any tired aching limbs, if she would take a dose or two of Arnica when her labours are over... Pain, due to mental and/or physical shock is relieved rapidly by Arnica, such as pain and swelling after a troublesome dental extraction; sprains of joints; fractured bones; even in concussions good results follow the internal administration of Arnica."
In Materia Medica Pura, Samuel Hahnemann wrote that, in addition to its curative powers for "falls, contusions, blows, thrusts, straining, twisting, or tearing," Arnica is also effective for treating "even the most dangerous wounds by balls or blunt instruments... it is also eminently useful against the pain attending the pulling out of teeth, or other surgical operations, in which sensitive parts have been violently strained - such operations as reductions of joints, fractures, etc."
Shock From Injury
Immediately after an injury occurs, shock commonly sets in. When a person is in shock, the shock needs to be treated before other remedies are used for the specific first-aid condition. Besides Arnica, the other primary remedy for shock is Aconite.
Arnica is the most-commonly-indicated remedy for shock. The person who will benefit from Arnica for shock may exhibit any or all of the following characteristics:
Aversion to talking or being attended to, likely saying that he or she is fine and does not need medical help, even though obviously injured,
Skin that is pale, flushed, or ashen,
Skin that is cold and clammy and/or exhibiting a hot head with cool body,
Dizziness or fainting,
Nausea or vomiting,
Pulse that is rapid or irregular and weak, and/or
Change in mental state such as staring or confusion.
Dr. Dorothy Shepherd writes,
"Every accident, whether minor or major, is accompanied by shock... by far the best and most rapid improvement I have repeatedly found, follows the internal administration of Arnica..."
In Studies of Homoeopathic Remedies, Dr. Douglas Gibson writes about Arnica that,
"not only does it aid in the arrest of bleeding and promotion of healing, but it is also of value in allaying shock and counteracting the emotional trauma associated with the injury."
Bumps and Bruises
Arnica is the most-commonly-indicated remedy for bumps and bruises. Because of Arnica's properties in arresting bleeding, it is quite effective in preventing bruising when taken internally immediately after an impact or fall, and it speeds up the healing of bruises which have already formed.
Arnica can be applied topically for very minor injuries; however, for significant injuries Arnica will work more effectively if taken internally.
In Homeopathy in General Practice, Dr. R.A.F. Jack writes that,
"Arnica in high potency is so effective when taken internally that local treatment is rarely necessary... I used Arnica in the 30th potency to each family I treated... In one surgery session I prescribed Arnica six times to:
1. A sixteen-year-old girl with a bruised chin following a fall from her horse.
2. A housewife who had sprained her thumb when trying to open a sardine tin.
3. A man who had a concrete slab fall onto his shins.
4. A foundry worker complaining of an aching back and legs, after his first week of work in his new job.
5. A schoolboy with a sprained forefoot.
6. A keen soccer player who had stubbed his toes against a goalpost..."
In my experience with many families, Arnica has been used successfully countless times to treat impacts or falls. I have seen Arnica quickly resolve "goose egg" swellings on the forehead after falls, prevent bruising in instances where significant bruising would be expected, and work exceedingly well to deal with the after-effects of crashes and collisions.
When taken immediately after in injury, it is amazing to see how effectively Arnica can work to prevent bruising. For minor injuries, often only one dose is needed, but for more significant injuries Arnica can be used as long as there is bruising and/or swelling present. The dose should only be repeated when the symptoms relapse or plateau. Once the bruising and swelling have subsided, the Arnica should be discontinued.
NOTE: Because Arnica works so effectively at relieving pain in first-aid situations, people often get the mistaken idea that Arnica can be used as an all-purpose pain reliever or muscle relaxer. However, this is not the case. Arnica specifically reduces pain from injuries, and it is not likely to relieve chronic pain unless the pain is the result of an old injury.
Sore and Pulled Muscles
A lesser known use of Arnica montana is in the treatment of overworked muscles. In two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, Arnica was shown to reduce muscle pain in marathon runners when taken internally.
Arnica can be used for muscles that are cramping as a result of fatigue, for sore muscles, and for pulled muscles. Rather than waiting for muscle soreness to set in, Arnica can also be used preemptively by taking it internally prior to or during activities that will lead to muscle soreness. I have used Arnica successfully to ease the pain and fatigue in my muscles after long hikes, strenuous home-and-garden work, or vigorous strength training.
Head Injuries and Concussions
Arnica is also useful in the treatment of concussions. According to Dr. George Guess, MD,
"Both acute concussions and post-concussion syndromes (which can include such symptoms as headache, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, amnesia, apathy, depression, etc.) can benefit from homeopathic medicine... Of course, the use of homeopathy should by no means be used as justification for bypassing standard medical protocols for diagnosing and treating cerebral concussions/head injury. Self or family home treatment of concussion should be reserved for relatively simple cases after medical evaluation. More complicated or long-standing cases remain the province of the homeopathic professional...
Arnica... is the first and major remedy for concussion. Usually bruising or a hematoma accompanies the concussion. The striking peculiarity of this remedy, if the patient is conscious, is that the afflicted will profess that he is well and needs no care; he may recoil from efforts to examine him or touch him. He may be sleepy, going in and out of stupor. If asked a question, he will answer correctly, then go back to sleep. His face may be hot while the rest of the body is cold. Patients with chronic after-effects of head injury needing Arnica are often spacey and seem disconnected, almost as if they aren’t quite in their bodies."
Arnica is one of the primary remedies for treating the after-effects of stroke, including paralysis and motor issues. An open-label pilot study of people suffering from cerebral stroke found a statistically significant reduction in stroke symptoms with the use of Arnica and other remedies (including Causticum, Nux vomica, and Lycopodium). In the study, Arnica was used specifically for people suffering from paralysis, motor issues, and neurological issues.
Labor and Delivery
For labor and delivery, in addition to aiding with muscle fatigue and soreness, Arnica can help to limit blood loss. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, homeopathic Arnica (in conjunction with homeopathic Bellis perennis) was shown to reduce postpartum blood loss when taken internally.
According to Homeopathic Medicine for Children and Infants, Arnica is the primary remedy for the trauma of birth for both the mother and infant.
"[Arnica] is also good for the mother's muscle aches caused by straining during labor and helps to promote proper uterine contraction. It can also stop uterine bleeding during or after labor."
According to The Family Guide to Homeopathy,
"After the birth... bathing your vaginal area with Arnica solution (10 drops of mother tincture to 0.25 liter [1/2 pint] warm water) will take away some of the soreness and promote healing."
Arnica can also be used before and after surgery. According to the article A Homeopathic Perspective on Pre- and Post-Surgical Treatment by Dana Ullman, MPH,
"Once it is determined that surgery is medically necessary, homeopathic medicines can reduce complications of surgery and augment healing so that people can recover more quickly afterward... Arnica is another common homeopathic medicine given to people before and after surgery because of its ability to reduce surgical shock and minimize bleeding. Surgical shock is a condition that trauma or surgery can cause in which all the capillaries and small blood vessels are filled with blood at the same time. A randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover study showed that Arnica significantly decreased bleeding time."
(The same article goes into considerable depth on several different homeopathic remedies that are helpful for surgeries, so you may want to read the full text if you are planning on having a surgery.)
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, internal administration of Arnica was shown to reduce bruising after rhinoplasty surgery. The authors of that study concluded that,
"Arnica montana seems to accelerate postoperative healing, with quicker resolution of the extent and intensity of ecchymosis [bruising]..."
Another placebo-controlled study showed that Arnica, taken internally, reduced port-operative blood loss after mastectomy surgery.
Topical Versus Internal Use
Homeopathic Arnica is sold in topical form as well as pellets to be taken by mouth. Although topical Arnica can work well for mild injuries, taking Arnica internally (by mouth) leads to a much stronger healing response than just applying Arnica topically to specific areas.
NOTE: Never apply Arnica directly to broken skin, as it can create localized inflammation in those situations. Instead, when there are open wounds, Arnica should be taken internally only.
Potencies and Dosing
For most applications, Arnica 30c is a good potency to use. For mild injuries and hypersensitive people, Arnica 6c may be sufficient. For severe injuries, Arnica 200c may be of use, but make sure to consult with a medical professional.
With all homeopathic remedies, the least number of doses is always the best. Anytime there is a noticeable improvement, no more doses should be given. Homeopathic remedies work by stimulating the body to heal itself; once the body has started healing itself no more remedy is needed unless the symptoms start to regress (or unless there is a plateau, where the symptoms get better to a point but then stop improving). You can learn more about homeopathic dosing here.
Have you used Arnica? Please share your experience below.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or licensed healthcare professional. I am a homeopathic practitioner whose services are considered complementary and alternative by the state of New Mexico. The uses of homeopathic remedies described herein are not intended to replace medical treatment and are provided for educational use only.
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