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Complementary & Alternative Medicine
Index of Herbal Medicines, Supplements and Therapies
The decision to use products containing or claiming to contain arnica should be carefully considered.
Arnica (Arnica chamissonis, Arnica cordifolia, Arnica fulgens, Arnica latifolia, Arnica montana, Arnica sororia)
Be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and dietary supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products containing or claiming to contain arnica. Decisions to use herbs or supplements should be carefully considered. Individuals using prescription drugs should discuss taking herbs or supplements with a pharmacist or health care professional before starting.
Scientists have studied arnica for the following health problems:
Diabetic eye damage
Some studies suggest that arnica in very diluted (homeopathic) doses may improve vision in people with eye damage caused by diabetes. However, studies have been small, with flaws in the way the results were reported. Therefore, it is unclear whether there is any benefit from arnica for this condition.
Homeopathic arnica is typically used by homeopaths for trauma and bruising. Arnica may also help reduce pain in tonsillectomy patients. Some studies suggest that arnica in very diluted (homeopathic) doses may relieve pain after surgery. However, these studies have been small, with flaws in their designs, and results of different studies have disagreed with each other. Therefore, it is unclear whether there is any benefit from arnica for relieving pain after surgery.
Although there are several studies, it is not clear whether arnica in much diluted (homeopathic) doses has any beneficial effects for individuals who have suffered from stroke. Further studies comparing arnica with standard treatments are needed.
Muscle soreness caused by exercise
Although arnica taken by mouth appears to be safe in very diluted (homeopathic) doses for treating muscle soreness after exercise, most studies have not found any benefit when arnica is used for this purpose. Some studies suggest a positive effect on muscle soreness after marathon running but not on cell damage measured by enzymes. Further research is needed in the area of sports injuries to determine if arnica affects aerobic resistance, anaerobic capacity strength and flexibility.
Hematoma and recovery after surgery
Arnica in very diluted (homeopathic) doses has been proposed to reduce hematoma (bleeding and bruises) after surgery and to improve postoperative recovery. A pilot study of arnica D12 had a trend toward a beneficial effect with regard to reduction of hematoma and pain during the postoperative course after varicose vein surgery. Another recent study of prevention of pain and bruising in hand surgery reported negative results. Overall, most studies evaluating arnica for this use have not found significant benefit. Further research is needed to draw firm conclusions.
A meta-analysis of existing clinical trials suggests that there is evidence that homeopathic arnica treatment may reduce the duration of ileus after abdominal or gynecologic surgery. Well-designed research is needed to make a definitive conclusion.
Acute childhood diarrhea
One study suggests a decrease in the duration of diarrhea in children with homeopathic doses of arnica. Further study is needed to make a recommendation.
In one case report, 15 orthopaedic patients were treated with Arnica montana 200CH post-trauma. At discharge, patients rated homeopathic treatment successful in 67 percent of the specific complaints.
Arnica gel has been used on the skin for osteoarthritis pain and stiffness, due to its anti-inflammatory constituents. Although early study is promising, additional study is needed.
Arnica has been suggested for many other uses, based on tradition or on scientific theories. However, these uses have not been thoroughly studied in humans, and there is limited scientific evidence about safety or effectiveness. Some of these suggested uses are for conditions that are potentially very serious and even life-threatening. You should consult a health care professional before taking arnica for any unproven use.
Blood loss (postpartum)
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Chronic venous insufficiency
Central nervous system stimulant
Coronary artery disease
Diaphoretic (induces sweating)
Edema (swelling, secondary to fracture)
Furunculosis (skin disease)
Gonarthrosis (chronic wear of cartilage in knee joints)
Immune system stimulant
Irritated mucous membranes (nostrils)
Myocarditis/endocarditis (heart infections)
Post-laser treatment burns
Swelling after broken bones
People should avoid arnica if they have a known allergy to arnica or any member of the Asteraceae or Compositae plant families. Individuals who are allergic to sunflowers or marigolds may also be allergic to arnica. Signs of allergy may include rash, itching or shortness of breath.
Arnica has been well tolerated in studies when used in very diluted (homeopathic) doses for up to two weeks under the supervision of a qualified health care professional. However, at high doses, arnica may lead to serious side effects and death. Some people may experience stomach discomfort, including nausea and vomiting. Liver and kidney damage has also been reported. Organ failure may occur from high doses. Skin rashes, eczema or lesions in the mouth may occur. These side effects may be the result of arnica allergies. It is best to avoid using topical arnica on open wounds or near the eyes and mouth. There is a report of mouth ulcers caused by a mouthwash containing arnica and other ingredients.
Other side effects may include muscle weakness, organ damage, coma and death. Irregular heart rhythms, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure or failure of the heart to beat may occur when arnica is taken by mouth, especially in large doses. In theory, arnica may increase the risk of bleeding. If you have diabetes or use anticoagulants (blood thinners) or antiplatelet drugs and are considering using arnica, discuss this with a health care professional. It may be necessary to stop taking arnica before some surgeries.
Pregnancy And Breast-Feeding
Arnica cannot be recommended during pregnancy and breast-feeding because of the risk of birth defects or spontaneous abortion.
Interactions with drugs, supplements and other herbs have not been thoroughly studied. The interactions listed below have been reported in scientific publications. If you are taking prescription drugs, speak with a health care professional or pharmacist before using herbs or dietary supplements.
Interactions With Drugs
In theory, arnica may increase the risk of bleeding when used with anticoagulants (blood thinners) or antiplatelet drugs. Examples include warfarin (Coumadin), heparin and clopidogrel (Plavix). Some pain relievers may also increase the risk of bleeding if used with arnica. Examples include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve, Anaprox). Use of arnica with other pain-relieving medications may increase the analgesic effects. It is possible that arnica may decrease the effectiveness of drugs used to lower blood pressure. Theoretically, arnica may cause a decrease in the protein binding of drugs that are highly protein bound.
Arnica may have additive effects with corticosteroids.
Interactions With Herbs And Dietary Supplements
In theory, arnica may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with products such as Ginkgo biloba
). Use of arnica with other pain-relieving agents may increase the analgesic effects.
Arnica may interact with herb or supplements with anesthetic effects, steroid effects, or anti-inflammatory effects. Use with arnica may reduce effectiveness of blood pressure-lowering herbs and supplements. Arnica used with daisy (Bellis perennis) may reduce postpartum blood loss.
The doses listed below are based on scientific research, publications or traditional use. Because most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly studied or monitored, safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients even within the same brand. Combination products often contain small amounts of each ingredient and may not be effective. Appropriate dosing should be discussed with a health care professional before starting therapy; always read the recommendations on a product's label. The dosing for unproven uses should be approached cautiously, because scientific information is limited in these areas.
Arnica is toxic when taken by mouth unless diluted in homeopathic preparations. Homeopathic preparations are initially diluted 1:10 or 1:100. Serial dilutions are continued until desired concentrations are achieved. When a 1:10 dilution is diluted 30 times, it is said to be a 30X or 30D potency. When a 1:100 dilution is diluted 30 times, it is referred to as a 30C potency. There are no standard or well-studied doses of arnica, and many different doses are used traditionally.
Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)
Oral use: To treat diabetic eye damage, three pearls of 5C potency have been used three times daily for three to six months. For pain relief after surgery, two doses of a 30C preparation have been taken 24 hours after surgery, or one tablet of 2C has been taken by mouth twice daily. After mouth surgery, three tablets of 30D potency are taken every 15 minutes for the first three hours. Then three tablets per hour until bedtime have been used. The next day, three tablets, followed by three more tablets three hours later, then nine tablets daily for the next five days have been used. For hysterectomy, two 30C-potency tablets taken 24 hours before surgery and three tablets taken by mouth daily for five days afterwards have been used. A dose used after stroke is one tablet (30C potency) dissolved under the tongue every two hours for six doses. When used to treat delayed onset of muscle soreness after exercise, one regimen is one tablet of 30C potency taken three times daily beginning 24 hours before exercise and continued until muscles feel less sore. For hematomas, one tablet (5C) has been dissolved under the tongue before and after surgery.
Ointment/lotion: Ointment of 1X or 6C dilution has been applied to sore areas. It has been suggested that ointments should not consist of more than 20 percent to 25 percent arnica tincture or 15 percent arnica oil. This preparation has been applied two to three times daily to sore areas. A lotion consisting of a 1:5 tincture diluted five times with water has been applied two to three times daily.
Children (Younger Than 18)
There are not enough scientific data to recommend arnica for use in children, and arnica is not recommended because of potential side effects.
Arnica in very diluted (homeopathic) doses has been suggested as a treatment for many conditions. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of arnica for any medical condition. Arnica is toxic and may cause death if used at greater-than-recommended homeopathic dosages. It should be avoided in pregnant or breast-feeding women and in children. Arnica may increase the risk of bleeding. Safety of use beyond two weeks has not been thoroughly studied. Consult a health care professional immediately if you have any side effects.
The information in this monograph was prepared by the professional staff at Natural Standard, based on thorough systematic review of scientific evidence. The material was reviewed by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School with final editing approved by Natural Standard.
- Natural Standard: An organization that produces scientifically based reviews of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) topics
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): A division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services dedicated to research
Selected Scientific Studies: Arnica
Natural Standard has reviewed all of the currently available medical literature to prepare the professional monograph from which this version was created.
Some of the more recent studies are listed below:
- Brinkhaus B, Wilkens JM, Ludtke R, et al. Homeopathic arnica therapy in patients receiving knee surgery: results of three randomised double-blind trials. Complement Ther Med 2006;Dec, 14(4):237-246.
- Daane SP. Potential for danger with Arnica montana. Ann Plast Surg 2001;46(3):349-350.
- Ernst E. The benefits of arnica: 16 case reports. Homeopathy 2003;92(4):217-219.
- Fisher P. Arnica and induction. Homeopathy 2003;Oct, 92(4):175-176.
- Jaggi R, Wurgler U, Grandjean F, et al. Dual inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase/cyclooxygenase by a reconstituted homeopathic remedy: possible explanation for clinical efficacy and favourable gastrointestinal tolerability. Inflamm Res 2004;53(4):150-157.
- Jeffrey SL, Belcher HJ. Use of arnica to relieve pain after carpal-tunnel release surgery. Altern Ther Health Med 2002;8(2):66-68.
- Kucera M, Horacek O, Kalal J, et al. Synergetic analgesic effect of the combination of arnica and hydroxyethyl salicylate in ethanolic solution following cutaneous application by transcutaneous electrostimulation. Arzneimittelforschung 2003;53(12):850-856.
- Macedo SB, Ferreira LR, Perazzo FF, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of Arnica montana 6cH: preclinical study in animals. Homeopathy 2004;Apr, 93(2):84-87.
- Natural Standard Research Collaboration, Chief Editors: Ulbricht C, Basch E, Natural Standard Herb and Supplement Reference. Evidence-Based Clinical Reviews, USA. Elsevier/Mosby, 2005.
- Oberbaum M, Schreiber R, Rosenthal C, et al. Homeopathic treatment in emergency medicine: a case series. Homeopathy 2003;Jan, 92(1):44-47.
- Pechter EA. Arnica montana and dosing of homeopathic medication. Plast Reconstr Surg 2004;Jul, 114(1):260-261. Author reply, 261. Comment in Plast Reconstr Surg 2003;Sep 15, 112(4):1164-1166.
- Petry JJ. Arnica and homeopathy. Plast Reconstr Surg 2004;May, 113(6):1867-1868. Comment in Plast Reconstr Surg 2003;Sep 15, 112(4):1164-1166.
- Ramelet AA, Buchheim G, Lorenz P, et al. Homeopathic arnica in postoperative haematomas: a double-blind study. Dermatol 2000;201(4):347-348.
- Raschka C, Trostel Y. Effect of a homeopathic arnica preparation (D4) on delayed onset muscle soreness: placebo-controlled crossover study. MMW Fortschr Med 2006;Jul 20, 148(29-30):35.
- Riley D. Arnica montana and homeopathic dosing guidelines. Plast Reconstr Surg 2003;112(2):693.
- Robertson A, Suryanarayanan R, Banerjee A. Homeopathic Arnica montana for post-tonsillectomy analgesia: a randomized placebo control trial. Homeopathy 2007;Jan, 96(1):17-21.
- Stevinson C, Devaraj VS, Fountain-Barber A, et al. Homeopathic arnica for prevention of pain and bruising: randomized placebo-controlled trial in hand surgery. J R Soc Med 2003;96(2):60-65.
- Totonchi A, Guyuron B. A randomized, controlled comparison between arnica and steroids in the management of postrhinoplasty ecchymosis and edema. Plast Reconstr Surg 2007;Jul, 120(1):271-274.
- Tveiten D, Bruset S. Effect of arnica D30 in marathon runners: pooled results from two double-blind placebo controlled studies. Homeopathy 2003;Oct, 92(4):187-189.
- Varshney JP, Naresh R. Evaluation of a homeopathic complex in the clinical management of udder diseases of riverine buffaloes. Homeopathy 2004;Jan, 93(1):17-20.
- Wolf M, Tamaschke C, Mayer W, et al. Efficacy of arnica in varicose vein surgery: results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd 2003;Oct, 10(5):242-247.
Last updated May 13, 2008
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