Arnica is also commonly called leopard's bane. The arnica plant has a bright yellow, daisy-like flower that blooms around July. Preparations made from the flowering heads have been used in homeopathic medicine for hundreds of years. It is popular in Germany and over 100 drug preparations are made from the arnica plant. Arnica is a perennial that is protected in parts of Europe.
Arnica has been used to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds. While arnica is primarily for external use, it has also been used internally as an herbal remedy for certain heart disorders. Arnica should only be used internally under the supervision of a healthcare provider.
The active components in arnica are sesquiterpene lactones, which are known to reduce inflammation and decrease pain. Other active principals are thymol (an essential oil), flavonoids, inulin, carotenoids, and tannins.
Arnica works by stimulating the activity of white blood cells that perform much of the digestion of congested blood, and by dispersing trapped, disorganized fluids from bumped and bruised tissue, joints, and muscles.
Arnica is known to stimulate blood circulation and can raise blood pressure, especially in the coronary arteries. The plant is used externally for arthritis, burns, ulcers, eczema, and acne. It has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities that can reduce pain and swelling, improving wound healing. Arnica is best known as a homeopathic remedy for muscle strain and soreness.
Arnica has been used externally in connection with the following conditions:
- tender feet (as foot bath)
- abdominal pain (hot compress)
- chill blains (if skin is unbroken)
- irritation from trauma
- muscle or cartilage pain
- sore or painful joints
in the form of an oil or tincture arnica works by:
Interactions and Precautions
- dispersing trapped, disorganized fluids from bumped and bruised tissue, joints and muscles
- stimulating the activity of white blood cells that relieve congested blood cells
- washing and cleansing wounds (very diluted)
Arnica may potentiate the negative effects of certain drugs known to cause a prolonged QT interval. These drugs include quinidine, procainamide, disopyramide, sotalol, amiodarone, chlorpromazine, amitryptyline, prochlorperazine, pentamidine, haloperidol, desipramine and doxepim.
Overdosage of arnica can cause cardiac arrhythmias, coma and death.Supporting LiteratureErnst E, Pittler MH. Efficacy of homeopathic arnica: a systematic review of placebo-controlled clinical trials. Arch Surg. 1998; 133:1185-1190.
Lyss G, Schmidt TJ, Merfort I, Pahl HL. Helenalin, an anti-inflammatory sesquiterpene lactone from arnica, selectively inhibits transcription factor NF-kappa B. Biol Chem. 1997; 378:950-961
Hart O, Mullee MA, Lewith G, Miller J. Double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial of homeopathic arnica C30 for pain and infection after total abdominal hysterectomy. J R Soc Med. 1997; 90:73-77.
Hausen BM. [Arnica allergy.] [Article in German.] Hautartz. 1980; 31:10-15.