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Arnica To Treat Inflammation: A Review Of The Literature.

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

Herbal medicine is a growing topic of conversation as people look for alternatives to prescription and non-prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). There are multiple reasons why an individual may not be able to utilize NSAIDs, such as being in a current state of pregnancy, stomach complications, poor liver function, etc. To treat both acute and chronic states of inflation there are various other modalities that remain safe alternatives to NSAIDs; I would like to give a brief overview and understanding of the current literature on the use of Arnica for the treatment of inflammation.

Arnica is extracted from one of various plants belonging to the Aesteraceae family. Primary medicine in Germany has utilized Arnica for several decades and has been showed to produce minimal amounts of adverse reactions when administered topically. Several studies have shown the most effective compound found in Arnica for the use of treating inflammation is helenalin; helenalin has been found to act as an inhibitor, or stabilizer, of inflammatory cells. It is important to note that oral doses of Arnica are uncommon and extremely diluted (if administered) due to side-effects.

It is interesting to note that studies on the use of Arnica for the treatment of inflammation are by no means limited to typical joint swelling. There are several studies where topical Arnica was administered to fresh wounds (incisions) and it was observed that not only was the acute inflammation less than that of a control group, but the wound healing was also facilitated. Other studies which observed the effectiveness of Arnica were done on the following patients:

– Tooth removal – Acute ligament sprains – Observation of general soreness after long-distance running – Laser-induced bruising – Carpal Tunnel release (hand surgery) – Chronic knee arthritis – Varicose vein surgery – Post total knee replacement surgery – Traumatic injuries – Tonsillectomy – Knee ligament replacement surgery – Bunion surgery

From the above studies, Arnica had the greatest impact on surface-related trauma (such as in the varicose vein surgery or in skin trauma), musculoskeletal trauma (as well as muscle-related soreness after running), and mild-moderate cases of arthritis. It did not appear to be very effective after most invasive surgical procedures.

In conclusion, topical use of Arnica appears to be a viable alternative to NSAIDs for treating inflammation to the skin, muscles/tendons/ligaments, and mild cases of arthritis.


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