Everyone gets bruises, whether you fall over something, or accidently knock your hand against a radiator. You might have a dog that enjoys wrestling with you or an exuberant toddler who kicks and punches. Or you might have just had surgery.
Some of us bruise fairly easily, others do not. Bruising can lead to some raised eyebrows in the work place, and can cause a little embarrassment… So what do you reach for when you need a bruise to disappear quickly? Well those in the know reach for Arnica cream. It is also used for muscle and tissue pain relief, stiffness, and post-surgery recovery.
What is Arnica Cream?
First discovered in the 15th century, Arnica cream is created from the alpine plant, Arnica Montana, and has long been used for treating bruises. One plant supports a single flower head and it can grow up to 60 cm in height. The daisy-like heads are yellow and around 5 cm in diameter. The plant is a hardy perennial and is becoming increasingly rare due to land being cleared to make way for rising agriculture. The plant is also referred to as Leopard’s Bane.
What is Arnica Cream Used For?
Arnica cream has been used as a topical salve for bruising for centuries; however it has been shown to aid the following conditions too:
- Wound healing
- Muscular aches
- Joint pain
- Swelling from broken bones
- Superficial phlebitis, and
- Inflammation from insect bites.
The roots are also extremely beneficial, containing variants of thymol. Used as fungicides and preservatives, the root extract has also been noted as useful as an anti-inflammatory. As a gel compound, arnica is as effective as ibuprofen gel in treating osteoarthritis: 76% of patients confirmed they would use the treatment again as it provided effective pain relief and helped to overcome stiffness of the joints.
Many doctors working in plastic surgery recommend their patients use arnica to relieve inflammation and mend bruised tissue as it speeds recovery. Fitness coaches are relying on the herbal remedy to relieve soreness that comes from muscle sprains and bruised skin.
When used topically in a gel at 50% concentration, Arnica montana was found to have the same effect when compared to a 5% ibuprofen gel for treating the symptoms of hand osteoarthritis. 
When used after surgery Arnica Montana topical creams and gels may be applied over the surgical areas to reduce post-operative symptoms. Use only after wounds have healed and closed completely. More commonly used to reduce post-surgery bruising and swelling are homeopatic Arnica pills, capsules, or pellets. Click here for more popular surgery supplements.
What Other Remedies Are Available?
There are even some homeopathic remedies available which can be taken orally; however, these applications have been massively diluted from the original plant. As with prescription drugs, follow the advice of your homeopathic practitioner very carefully when taking arnica by mouth.
There are some rules you should follow when taking homeopathic remedies:
As with any new medication, please seek your doctor’s advice before you use something you have not used before.
There are some specific precautions you should take into account when using arnica, whether as a topical dressing or as a herbal remedy for internal use:
- The herb in its natural state contains helenalin, which can be fatal if eaten in large amounts, leading to complaints like gastroenteritis and some heart irregularities. This herb is not normally used as an internal remedy because the after effects can be quite serious!
- Arnica cream is best used for short-term solutions, as pro-longed contact with the plant can cause skin irritation, including eczema, peeling, blisters and other skin conditions.
- Topical cream and gel are very different from the homeopathic remedies and must not be taken internally. Under no circumstances should you apply arnica to open wounds, or on broken skin.
- People who are sensitive or allergic to the herb should avoid all arnica applications.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking arnica.
When used as a dressing or homeopathic remedy, the herb does not interact with other medications so is safe for those who have been prescribed other drugs.
If you have suffered an injury and are experiencing pain, some local inflammation and bruising, or you have joint stiffness and want a natural solution that will not interact with the prescribed medication issued by your doctor, then arnica is well worth a try.
Besides Arnica cream from Boiron, another p0pular gel is that by Boericke & Tafel , both are available on Amazon.
Also check out Penetrex which is a popular ointment containing the same Alpine herb.
1. Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study. http://www.springerlink.com/content/30225667517u7tr5/