Using Arnica for Remedies

Arnica has an ancient tradition as a remedy in Germany and Austria, mainly for bruising and sprains. It has also been used traditionally for heart complaints, taken as a tea. Today, the tea is not recommended to be taken internally. However, in Europe it is often used (in low doses) as a natural source of food flavouring, although this is banned in the US and considered unsafe, apart from in alcoholic beverages.

Due to its once vast availability, arnica’s flower was previously used for a variety of purposes, including for antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antineuralgic effects.

Arnica contains more than 150 active components, including alkaloids, amines, carbohydrates, coumarins, flavonoids and sesquiterpenes of the helenalin type, as well as volatile oil components.

Arnica is prepared homœopathically for both internal and external use but is prepared herbally in ointments, creams, gels and compresses.

As arnica can be toxic if taken internally other than as a homœopathic, today it is used topically. Its excellent counterirritant properties make it invaluable for sprains and strains, as well as unbroken chilblains, alopecia and rheumatoid complaints.

Commission E has approved its use for injuries and accidents: bruising, dislocation, oedema from injury (swelling) and rheumatic muscle and joint problems. It has also been approved for inflammation of the oral and throat region.

Contemporary studies demonstrate in-vitro antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, positive inotropic effects, respiratory stimulating and uterine activities.

Arnica was found to be as effective as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) in improving pain and hand function in hand osteoarthritis. It is also used by patients undergoing surgery to reduce post-operative pain, bruising and swelling and promote recovery.

Anti-inflammatory activity

The main anti-inflammatory component of arnica (working at multiple sites) is the sesquiterpenoid, helenalin. The Commission E reports that topical arnica preparations have strong anti-inflammatory activity. In cases of inflammation, arnica also shows analgesic and antiseptic activity. In animal studies, helenalin has analgesic, antibiotic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity.

The tincture has been used as a gargle or mouthwash for mouth and throat inflammation, particularly in its homœopathic form.

Antimicrobial activity

Arnica has shown both antimicrobial and antifungal activity against a range of organisms such as listeria and salmonella, plus Staphylococcus aureus, mainly via its chief active ingredient, helenalin. Immunostimulant activity Helenalin has also been shown to stimulate the immune system in vitro, while the polysaccharide components have been shown to stimulate the immune system in vivo.

Arnica also contains an adrenalin-like precursor and has cardiotonic activity.
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