Arnica is native to the meadows and mountain areas of Europe and North America. Commonly arnica flowers are used in herbal ointments and oils to reduce the swelling and pain from aches, bruises, and sprains on unbroken skin. Arnica has also been used as a flavoring ingredient in alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, frozen dairy desserts, candy, puddings, gelatins, and baked goods. Do not take arnica by mouth.
arnica, European arnica
Arnica montana L. (Asteraceae)
The flowerhead of the arnica plant is used medicinally. It is an herb that is applied topicallytopicallyto be applied on the skin. In general, the doses are:
- infusioninfusionthe process of steeping or soaking plant material in hot or cold water to isolate its active ingredient – 2 g of arnica flower
- tincturetincturea desired active ingredient that is extracted from alcoholic solution – 200 g powdered dried flowers (1:5, diluted alcohol)
- tincture – 100 g powdered dried flowers (1:10, 45% alcohol)
- arnica oil – 1:5 ratio of arnica flower to vegetable fatty oil
Your health care provider may have recommended using this product in other ways. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.
Arnica is used for relieving pain and/or inflammation in muscles and joints (e.g., sprains, bruises, and joint pain).
People have also used arnica for:
- inflammation of the mouth and throat
- tooth removal
- inducing abortion
- insect bites
- diabetes related eye problems
- stimulating the immune system
- chapped lips
- back pain
Research suggests that arnica does not prevent or treat muscle soreness. Research also shows that arnica does not improve pain and swelling caused by tooth removal.
Some research shows that arnica products help with diabetes related eye problems and knee arthritis (pain and swelling), but more reliable research is needed to confirm this.
Reliable information is also needed to show that arnica is helpful for other uses including reducing mouth and throat inflammation; improving pain, swelling, and wound infection caused by tooth removal, inducing abortion; preventing pain and swelling from insect bites; stimulating the immune system; and treating chapped lips, back pain, and acne.
Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.
Severe side effects that may occur when arnica is taken orallyorallyto be taken by mouth (swallowed) include:
- irritation of mucous membranes
- muscle weakness
- kidney damage
- liver damage
- rapid heart rate
- shortness of breath
- significant increase in blood pressure
- stomach pain
Arnica taken orally can also cause death.
Side effects that may occur after applying arnica topicallytopicallyto be applied on the skin include: itchiness, dry skin, and rash. Long term use of arnica on injured skin may cause eczema (a skin condition that involves painful red, itching, and oozing wounds), allergic skin reactions with pus containing blisters, and dead skin tissue.
Arnica can interact with some medications. It increases the effects of blood thinning medications (e.g., warfarin, heparin) and herbal products (e.g., angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, Panax ginseng, and other herbs), and blood clot dissolving medications (e.g., alteplase) and increases the risk of bleeding. If you are taking any of these medications or herbal products, consult your health care provider before using arnica.
If your symptoms persist or worsen after taking arnica, you should consult your health care provider. You should stop using arnica at least 2 weeks before surgery (to prevent any severe bleeding).
You should avoid taking arnica if you have any gastrointestinal (stomach and intestines) disease. You should also avoid taking arnica orally and applying it on broken skin, open wounds, mucous membranes, and eyes.
You should not take arnica if you are allergic to plants in the daisy/asteraceae/compositae family, such as ragweed, chrysanthemums (“mums”), marigolds, daisies, and others.
Do not use arnica if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Consult your health care provider if you have any questions.
Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Arnica species (Arnica). Available at: http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/science-and-innovation/science-publications-and-resources/resources/canadian-medicinal-crops/medicinal-crops/arnica-species-arnica/?id=1300900418443. Accessed 15 March 2014.
- Health Canada. Drugs & Health Products. Monograph – Arnica. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=arnica&lang=eng, accessed 15 March 2014.
- American Cancer Society. Arnica. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/arnica. Accessed 15 March 2014.
- Natural Standard. Arnica. Available at: http://www.healthline.com/natstandardcontent/arnica#3 . Accessed 15 March 2014.
- Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Arnica.
- Davis Drug Guide. Alteplase. Available at: http://www.drugguide.com/ddo/ub/view/Davis-Drug-Guide/109178/6/alteplase?q=arnica. Accessed 15 March 2014.