Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Arnica: An Essential Remedy for More Than Just First Aid

picture by Bernd Haynold
So far in my series on homeopathy basics, I've focused on homeopathy as compared to conventional medicine. Now I'd like to provide some guidelines for practical application of homeopathy, by discussing the homeopathic remedy Arnica montana and its uses.  Arnica montana is among the most well-known of homeopathic remedies, as it is used frequently for first-aid of bumps and bruises.  Arnica also has many other uses, including treatment for concussions, pre- and post-surgery, sore muscles, and labor and delivery.

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 learned that it made him feel better.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or licensed healthcare professional.  I am a mom who takes responsibility for my children's health by learning as much as I can. The uses of homeopathic remedies described below are provided for educational use only.  


Bumps and Bruises

Homeopathic Arnica montana is well-known as a remedy to use for injuries.  According to The
Family Guide to Homeopathy,  
"Arnica montana... is traditionally used to minimize the immediate effects of shock, falls, bruising, bleeding, and injuries caused by blunt objects." 
Arnica montana excels at treating bumps and bruises.  It is an essential remedy in my first-aid kit.  With two young children in the house, I use Arnica montana regularly, and it is the most often-used remedy in my collection.

I use Arnica montana anytime one of my kids has a particularly bad fall. My son typically falls down and gets right back up, laughing it off.  I know it is time to give him some Arnica when he falls down and starts to cry hard.

My daughter is a child who is rather clumsy (just like me) and she seems to be hypersensitive to pain. Even the tiniest fall or scratch can cause her to cry and cry. So I don't use Arnica every time that she falls down and cries.  But I do use it whenever she has had a particularly bad injury.

For instance, inexplicably, a rocking chair once fell on my daughter's forehead.  She, rightfully so, began to cry and scream, and I observed a large bump forming immediately.  This was a perfect time to use Arnica, and within a few minutes, my daughter was up and playing once again.

I know from past experience that my daughter can cry for a LONG time after she gets hurt, so for her to be up and playing so soon after a real injury is simply awesome.  Arnica montana seems to help with not only the shock of the injury, but also the pain and bruising that accompanies it.  I have been amazed at how little bruising and residual pain there can be if Arnica is used for an injury.

Labor and Delivery

According to Homeopathic Medicine for Children and Infants, Arnica montana 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 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."

Sore and Pulled Muscles

A lesser known use of Arnica montana is in the treatment of overworked muscles. Arnica can be used for muscles that are cramping as a result of fatigue, for sore muscles, and for pulled muscles.  I have used Arnica successfully to ease the pain in my muscles after particularly long hikes or vigorous strength training.

Rather than waiting for muscle soreness to set in, Arnica can also be used during activities that will lead to muscle soreness.  For instance, in two double-blind, placebo controlled studies, Arnica was shown to reduce the muscle pain in marathon runners.   


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.)


Topical Versus Internal Use

Homeopathic Arnica  is sold in topical form as well as pellets to be taken by mouth.  My family has only ever used the Arnica pellets taken by mouth, but that is only because that is what I have on-hand. I've been meaning to by the topical Arnica for a long while, but have used what I have in the mean time with great results.  I know others who have used only the topical Arnica (applied directly to the skin over the injured/sore area) and have had great results as well.

One thing to note: topical Arnica should NOT be used on broken skin.

Disclaimer: The uses of homeopathic remedies described in this article are provided for educational use only.  


Potencies and Dosing

I generally use Arnica in either the 30x or 30c potency.  While c and x potency remedies are prepared in different ways, a simplified way to think about them is that c potencies are roughly twice the strength of x potencies.  So a 30c remedy has roughly twice the strength of a 30x remedy.

Homeopathic remedies are typically given 4-6 times a day for many ailments, but for severe injuries they can be given more often (up to once every 15 minutes).  A general rule of thumb is that higher potencies will last for longer, so I give 30c potencies less frequently than 30x potencies.  I have never needed to give my kids more than one dose of Arnica for any of their injuries.  But I have taken more than one dose myself when treating sore muscles.

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).

Have you tried homeopathic Arnica?


Jeanette said...

We use both the pellets & the gel! I try to always have both on hand.

Patient Mom said...

Years ago when my daughter was about 13 months old, she broke my nose by slamming her head down onto my face as I lie still half asleep in bed. My husband is traumatized by the CRACK sound it made! After I ran to the bathroom to keep from bleeding anywhere, I started blobbing arnica gel on my face. A LOT of it. Why? Because we were getting married in a month!! (I didn't know how long the bruising would take to go away.)

The ER xray confirmed the break and no aligning needed to be made. The swelling was pretty minimal at that point and it hurt a lot. I have no idea how painful a broken nose usually is so I can't say if the arnica helped with that or not. But I woke up the next day and you could BARELY tell anything happened!!! Very very slight swelling but you could see that I had the slightest darkness near my eyes. I was shocked and so was everyone else. You would seriously have to look carefully to see anything. I just went about my business.

NOTHING could touch my nose for I think a month. If my daughter even came NEAR my nose I ducked and dodged. LOL But it didn't hurt unless it was touched. :)

Anonymous said...

I use both the gel and the pellets. This last Saturday, I took a rather bad fall off a hidden curb. I fell to my knees, injured my ankle, both knees, I threw a rib out and injured my shoulder. I have used Arnica montana for the last several days and have loved the success it has given. I take it when I think of it and I smear in on my knees, ankle and shoulder. It has given much relief and I know I am adding healing to the pain reduction. thanks for the great article!!! karyn

Laurie Paul said...

I have added Arnica to our household arsenal as well. I have Traumeel and 30CH and 1M and I would love to get the gel as well. I love the articles about homeopathy. I have found with my constitutional remedy and others that I only need the tiniest amount to stimulate otherwise I prove the symptoms. Still fine tuning and I am not giving up.

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Laurie,
I have the same issue of being hypersensitive to remedies and able to prove them easily. I dilute all of my remedies in water for this reason.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, how do you dilute? I always end up with some proving symptoms. Even at a 6c dose:(

Anonymous said...

i have an 11 year old daughter who is approximately 112-116 lbs she recently sprained a lower back muscle while playing baseball. i was recommended to give her arnica by another parent. I have 30c pellets and was wondering if its best to give this to her directly under the tongue or by diluting? And should she only take 2 pellets twice a day?

Sarah Smith said...

With homeopathic remedies, the dosing has to be tailored to the individual and to their response to the remedy. For instance, if there is a noticeable improvement happening after a dose, then you should wait to give another dose until you see that the improvement has stopped or starts to regress.

In my family, we find than one pellet is enough per dose. It really depends on the sensitivity level of the person. If someone is able to take typical over-the-counter meds in their usually-recommended dosages with no problems, then 1-2 pellets will likely be fine. If the person tends to need to take less than the usual amount, then they might be hypersensitive, in which case smaller doses are warranted. I hope this helps and let me know if you have more questions.

Joann O'Leary said...

I am not so patiently waiting for my homeopothy "kit" to be delivered from India. I will have 100 remedies all in 200C formula. Do you have a suggestion on the best way to learn which remedy to use for what? I love the concept but I really need to learn how to use it.

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Joann,
200c is a fairly high potency to be starting out with. I generally recommend that people start out using 30c until they become more familiar with the process of selecting remedies and are doing so with a high level of success. With a 200c, there is more chance of a homeopathic aggravation, especially if they are used on hypersensitive people or if they are repeated too frequently.

I am curious: why did you order a kit from India? There are several different homeopathic companies here in the United States that sell kits. I like to order mine from txoptions.com, as they have a custom kit where you select the remedies you want and can get them in 30c or 200c.

As for learning which remedies to use for different ailments, I would recommend the following books:
Homeopathic Medicine at Home by Panos
Common Ailments of Children and Their Homeopathic Management by Santwani (This book is hard to find, but truly excellent)
Homeopathic Medicine for Children and Infants by Dana Ullman

zhr said...

What does 'proving symptoms' mean?

Sarah Smith said...

Homeopathic provings are performed to find out which symptoms are associated with any given remedy. Like-cures-like, so the specific symptoms that a remedy produces in homeopathic provers (who are just healthy individuals) will also be the same symptoms that the remedy can help with in a sick person. In hypersensitive people, proving symptoms can arise when using a homeopathic remedy if the dosage, potency, and/or frequency of repetition of the remedy is too high.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah, my 4 week old just had a tongue and lip tie revision. I'm trying bit to give him infant Tylenol, which is what was recommended, and instead using 30c arnica pellets. I'm just not sure on dosage so I have yet to give him anything.. ppoor little guy is in pain and I'm trying so hard not to break down and give him the pain reliever.

Sarah Smith said...

If it were me, I would dissolve one 30c pellet in a very clean jar with half cup of water, and give about 1/8 tsp from the jar as a dose. I'd watch for a response, and not repeat the dose until it seemed like the pain was returning. For subsequent doses, I would smack the jar of water (that had the pellet dissolved in it) against my hand firmly 5 times (which would raise the potency slightly). I would also start making the doses smaller over time if the symptoms are becoming less strong.

Please remember: I am not a doctor, so I am not giving you health advice, but am instead sharing this information for educational purposes.