URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/721.html

Arnica

What is it?

Arnica is an herb that grows mainly in Siberia and central Europe, as well as temperate climates in North America. The flowers of the plant are used in medicine.

People take arnica by mouth for sore mouth and throat, pain such as pain after surgery or wisdom tooth removal, insect bites, painful and swollen veins near the surface of the skin (superficial phlebitis), bruising, muscle pain, vision problems due to diabetes, stroke, and for causing abortions.

Arnica is applied to the skin for pain and swelling associated with bruises, aches, and sprains. It is also applied to the skin for insect bites, arthritis, muscle and cartilage pain, chapped lips, and acne.

In foods, arnica is a flavor ingredient in beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins, and puddings.

In manufacturing, arnica is used in hair tonics and anti-dandruff preparations. The oil is used in perfumes and cosmetics.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for ARNICA are as follows:

Possibly effective for...

  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Early research shows that using an arnica gel product (A. Vogel Arnica Gel, Bioforce AG, Switzerland) twice daily for 3 weeks reduces pain and stiffness and improves function in people with osteoarthritis in the hand or knee. Other research shows that using the same gel works as well as the painkiller ibuprofen in reducing pain and improving function in the hands.

Possibly ineffective for...

  • Reducing pain, swelling, and complications of wisdom tooth removal.In most research, taking arnica by mouth does not seem to reduce pain, swelling, or complications after wisdom tooth removal. One early study suggests that taking six doses of homeopathic arnica 30C might reduce pain, but not bleeding.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Bruises. Most research shows that taking homeopathic arnica by mouth or applying arnica to the skin does not reduce bruising. But one study shows that taking 12 doses of a specific arnica product (SinEcch, Alpine Pharmaceuticals) might reduce bruising under the skin in women following face-lift surgery. Also, applying an arnica ointment has been shown to reduce bruising when applied twice daily for 2 weeks.
  • Vision problems due to diabetes. Early research shows that taking homeopathic arnica 5C by mouth for 6 months reduces vision problems in people with vision loss due to diabetes.
  • Muscle pain. There is inconsistent evidence on the effects of arnica on muscle pain. Some early research suggests that taking homeopathic arnica by mouth does not prevent muscle soreness. Other early research shows that applying an arnica cream (Boiron Group, France) three times daily every 24 hours after performing calf raises does not reduce muscle pain. However, other research shows that applying an arnica gel on the leg muscles immediately after running and then every 4 hours while awake for 5 days might reduce muscle pain or soreness after 3 days. Also, taking homeopathic arnica D30 by mouth reduce muscle pain if started the night before a marathon and repeated every morning and evening for 3 days.
  • Pain after surgery. Most research shows that taking homeopathic arnica by mouth slightly reduces pain after surgery. In some cases, homeopathic arnica has been used together with an arnica ointment from 72 hours after surgery for 2 weeks. But not all reduces have been positive. Some research shows that taking homeopathic arnica for 5 days does not reduce pain following surgery.
  • Stroke. Early research shows that taking one tablet of homeopathic arnica 30C under the tongue every 2 hours for six doses does not benefit people who have had a stroke.
  • Acne.
  • Chapped lips.
  • Insect bites.
  • Painful, swollen veins near the surface of the skin..
  • Sore throats.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of arnica for these uses.

How does it work?

The active chemicals in arnica may reduce swelling, decrease pain, and act as antibiotics.

Are there safety concerns?

Arnica is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth in the amounts commonly found in food or when applied to unbroken skin short-term. The Canadian government, however, is concerned enough about the safety of arnica to prohibit its use as a food ingredient.

Amounts that are larger than the amount found in food are LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. In fact, arnica is considered poisonous and has caused death. When taken by mouth it can also cause irritation of the mouth and throat, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, shortness of breath, a fast heartbeat, an increase in blood pressure, heart damage, organ failure, increased bleeding, coma, and death.

Arnica is often listed as an ingredient in homeopathic products; however, these products are usually so dilute that they contain little or no detectable amount of arnica.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Don't take arnica by mouth or apply to the skin if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. It is considered LIKELY UNSAFE.

Allergy to ragweed and related plants: Arnica may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before applying it to your skin. Do not take arnica by mouth.

Broken skin: Don't apply arnica to damaged or broken skin. Too much could be absorbed.

Digestion problems: Arnica can irritate the digestive system. Don't take it if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers, Crohn's disease, or other stomach or intestinal conditions.

Fast heart rate: Arnica might increase your heart rate. Don't take arnica if you have a fast heart rate.

High blood pressure: Arnica might increase blood pressure. Don't take arnica if you have high blood pressure.

Surgery: Arnica might cause extra bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using it at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Are there interactions with medications?

Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Arnica might slow blood clotting. Taking arnica along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Herbs and supplements that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet herbs and supplements)
Arnica might slow blood clotting. Taking arnica along with herbs and supplements that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Some of these herbs include angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, and Panax ginseng.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The following dose has been studied in scientific research:

APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
  • For Osteoarthritis: An arnica gel product with a 50 gram/100 gram ratio (A. Vogel Arnica Gel, Bioforce AG, Switzerland) has been rubbed into the affected joints two to three times daily for 3 weeks.

Other names

Arnica cordifolia, Arnica des Montagnes, Arnica Flos, Arnica Flower, Arnica fulgens, Arnica latifolia, Arnica montana, Arnica sororia, Arnikabluten, Bergwohlverieih, Doronic d'Allemagne, Fleurs d'Arnica, Herbe aux Chutes, Herbe aux Prêcheurs, Kraftwurz, Leopard's Bane, Mountain Snuff, Mountain Tobacco, Plantin des Alpes, Quinquina des Pauvres, Souci des Alpes, Tabac des Savoyards, Tabac des Vosges, Wolf's Bane, Wundkraut.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

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Last reviewed - 06/10/2016