Does Arnica actually work?

What is arnica and does it actually work?


Earle Logan
BSc in Health Studies, Dip.Nut
@EarleLogan2
Ask Earle


26 September 2017

Homeopathic vs. herbal arnica

Firstly, it is important to understand there are different kinds of Arnica remedy – homeopathic and herbal. The different processing of the flower in these two produces different effects in the remedy.

What’s the difference between herbal and homeopathic?

Homeopathic remedies are great dilutions of the substances used to prepare them, so much so that very little or none of the original material can be detected. The principle is that such dilute preparations act upon the body's own energies, stimulating repair and healing. Herbal medicine employs measurable quantities of plant material to benefit the chemistry of the body, similar to modern medicine. In fact many modern medicines are derived from plants and herbal medicine still forms the basis of most of the worlds healthcare

Homeopathic arnica is treated in such a way that dilutes the amount of Arnica left in the solution. As a result of having little and often no traces of Arnica, homeopathic Arnica can be taken internally. Arnica that is homeopathic is well known and used for bruising, bumps, and healing traumatised tissue. 

Herbal arnica is made purely from the herb which makes it stronger and faster acting than homeopathic arnica. When herbal arnica is taken internally it can switch off the immune system so it should not be applied to broken skin or ingested, unless under the supervision of a medicinal herbalist. 

Herbal Arnica can be used for muscular aches, pains, stiffness, sprains, bruising and swelling after injury. As with homeopathic Arnica, herbal Arnica can be used for bumps and bruising but it can also be used for any type of inflammatory pain or discomfort.

Why do we need inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural bodily process; it is part of our defence mechanism. When an area of our body is inflamed it causes our blood vessels to widen and become more permeable and activates our immune cells. The immune cells can initiate heat production and help speed up the healing process.

However, prolonged inflammation can become detrimental to our health. Over a lengthy period of time it becomes part of the disease process rather than the healing process. As a result of consistent pain caused from inflammation the affected area starts to deteriorate under the continuous activity of the immune cells. 

Prolonged inflammation is why anti-inflammatory remedies, such as Arnica, are required. 

Does herbal Arnica actually work?

Arnica contains lactones which, in the herbal format, contribute to the anti-inflammatory effect. The lactones intervene at the core of the inflammatory process by inhibiting the production of an inflammatory substance known as Nuclear Factor Kappa Beta (NF-kβ). NF-kβ is a protein complex that plays a key role in regulating the immune system’s response to infection and tissue damage. 

Arnica works by preventing the activation of NF-kβ at the start of the inflammatory process. It is one of the fastest and most effective ways to prevent the activation of NF-kβ and can be used for as long as needed without the same side effects that are found in painkillers such as ibuprofen, which makes it a good natural alternative for long-term management of pain caused from conditions such as arthritis.

One study found that 3 out of 4 people suffering from mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knees experienced an improvement in their condition after using Arnica.1

Homeopathic arnica has been criticised in recent years regarding whether or not it actually works; having very little or no active Arnica in homeopathic remedies calls into question how effective the herb is in reducing inflammation. A 2003 study supported this statement and found that homeopathic Arnica had the same effects as a placebo in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.2 However, many people report good effects with homeopathic remedies, and it is possible that the mode of action will one day be discovered.

While there has been huge dispute regarding whether homeopathic arnica works, research into our own herbal Atrogel Arnica Gel found it to be just as effective as a topical painkiller such as ibuprofen gel.3 Other studies have found that herbal Arnica decreased pain measurements by 50% compared to 43% from using other medications.4

So does Arnica work?

While homeopathic Arnica has little scientific evidence to back up its anti-inflammatory benefits, herbal Arnica has been scientifically proven to help reduce inflammation and pain. Even although herbal arnica can only be applied topically it can be just as effective as ibuprofen gel without the same side effects.

Why not try our own herbal Arnica range? Our nurturing lightweight Arnica Skin Cream contains three essential herbs to help support the healing of skin in the case of bruising; Arnica Chamomile and Comfrey.

Chamomile is anti-inflammatory and is thought to soothe and calm the traumatised area whereas Comfrey contains alkaloid which helps speed up healing, improves cell proliferation and increases circulation to the skin.

Our Atrogel is also made from freshly extracted arnica flowers. It is vegan friendly and can be used alongside other pain medications without the same side effects.

1 Knusel O et al., Arnica Montana gel in osteoarthritis of the knee: an open, multicentre clinical trial. Advances in Therapy. 2002: 19 (5): 209-218.

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC539394/
3 Merfort I. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheikd 2003; 10 (suppl 1): 45-48.
4 Knusel O et al. AtrogMed-Gel bei rheumatischen Beschewerden am Bewegungsapparat. Sonderdruck Aus Ars Medici 13 2006: 1-3.

 

 

Here's what I recommend

As the A. Vogel Muscles and Joints advisor, I recommend Atrogel® Arnica gel to help ease the discomfort of bruising.

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