Arnica is a member of the sunflower family, with soft furry leaves that are most likely the origin of its name since arna is lamb in Greek. Only the flowers are used in herbal medicine, and while rare is a large part of local medicine where ever it grows. It is a fairly global phenomenon, growing in the more chilly higher elevations across Europe, Siberia and North America. Used for centuries for topical treatment of bruises, sore muscles, and healing. It is a great anti-inflammatory and analgesic, and personally I use it quite often to treat bruises and sore muscles.
It is great for after a session of Graston, after some intense exercise, or will even alleviate the irritation of sunburn. Graston sessions tend to produce bruising, and the application of arnica means less time between visits and therefore faster improvements in my mobility or reduction in pain.
One of the common ways to find arnica is as an oil infusion. You can apply this directly to any painful area, or sore muscles. Any bump or bruise is a good candidate for treatment. As an oil it isn’t easily portable for use on the go or at work, so when I am traveling I carry a spray version of it.
Arnica Bumps & Bruises Spray
- 2 oz spray bottle
- witch hazel or rubbing alcohol
- distilled water
- 1 tablespoon arnica infusion oil
Put the tablespoon of arnica oil in the spray bottle, fill halfway with witch hazel or rubbing alcohol, and the rest of the way with water. Shake well before using and just spray and rub into sore areas.
If you would like to make your own oil infusion, it is fairly easy.
Arnica Oil Infusion
- Clean mason jar (of any size)
- Arnica flowers (enough to fill the jar shaking them down but not packing tightly but leaving about a half inch from the top of the jar)
- A good quality oil (olive, avacado, jojoba, coconut, etc)
- A sunny spot
- citric acid (optional, will help to preserve and extend shelf life)
Fill jar with flowers, leaving gap at top for expansion, and then cover completely with oil. Sit in a sunny spot and everyday turn the jar over once and back then set it back in its spot. It is ready for use in 2-3 days but if you let it sit for six weeks it will be at its most potent.
You can also prepare a good salve for soothing achey muscles or bruises with this recipe, by WellnessMama.
WellnessMama Arnica Salve
- 3/4 cup arnica infused oil
- 1 1/2 oz beeswax
- 5-10 drops of wintergreen essential oil
Directions: Warm oil in double boiler. Add beeswax and stir until melted. Add Wintergreen Oil in desired amount (warning-wintergreen is very strong!). Pour into desired storage container (we use small tins or little jam jars). Let cool.
Can be used on bruises, sprains, strains, head bumps, etc.
Sometimes if it is a particularly sore or difficult bruise or painful area a tincture works great. You can apply it to a towel for a compress, or directly on a gauze for all day application. You can make a tincture just like you do the oil, except replace the oil with vodka or grain alcohol and store in a cool instead of sunny place. It is also commonly available at herb stores and online in pre-made bottles.
Arnica Tincture for Bumps and Bruises
- 1 tablespoon arnica tincture
- 1 pint water (warm but not boiling if you are using a compress)
- gauze pad or towel
Combine tincture and water and then dip towel in and wring out and apply for a compress, or dip gauze pad into it and wring out and tape to affected area.
Warning! Warning! Warning!
Like all remedies herbal or otherwise, treat this with respect. Arnica should never be taken internally. It is highly toxic, as it contains helenalin, and cause severe issues – liver, heart and kidney issues. No one wants those. Topically if you have sensitive skin it can cause irritation, always do a test patch first to see how you react before using it. Never use on open wounds, or take it internally at all.
Some sites do recommend that you can take homeopathic versions of it internally, since there is no actual molecules of the plant in most preparations they are basically safe. Personally, I do not encourage or endorse any homeopathic remedies, since they are proven through many clinical trials to do no better than a placebo, or contain even a molecule of the herbal item it is claimed to contain. So it is just a bit of a waste of time and your hard earned money.
Remember always do your research, check for interactions on sites like WebMD. If you are ever in doubt, ask a professional!