Aching for Arnica

Ah, summer weekends. They can be filled with exciting activities, but also with the potential for sprained ankles and bruised knees. Get ahead of the game with Arnica, one of the most common ingredients in pain-relieving homeopathic remedies.

What is Arnica?

Arnica (full name: Arnica montana) grows naturally in Europe, the northern U.S., Canada and eastern Asia, and has been used both topically and orally for centuries as a remedy for sprains and bruises. Arnica is also used at full strength in herbal formulations, but is diluted according to homeopathic principles in most over-the-counter preparations on the market today.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the homeopathic approach uses “minute doses of a substance [such as Arnica] that cause symptoms to stimulate the body’s self-healing response.” The minute doses are created through a precise process in which a substance is diluted, usually with distilled water or ethyl alcohol, in varying amounts. Homeopathy founder Samuel Hahnemann believed that the more repetitions of the dilution, the stronger the potency, since the vital essence or energy of the substance would intensify.

In arnica’s case, its herbal properties stimulate blood flow to the trauma—be it a sprained ankle, overworked joints or a bruised knee—and help the body work harder to heal itself. “Doctors are beginning to write prescriptions for arnica, especially before surgery,” says Bonnie Edmunds, homeopath at our La Jolla store. Arnica, she says, helps speed recovery and reduce bruising and swelling.

Common uses

For everyday bumps and bruises, Edmunds recommends the Arnica bonus pack from Boiron, Arnica 30C pellets, which are taken sublingually (under the tongue). “The pellets are helpful if the pain and bruising covers a wide area of the body,” says Bonnie. “They can be taken orally three times a day within the first few days, and the gel, because it’s not as potent, can be applied as often as needed.” Bonnie also loves Topricin, a cream that combines Arnica with homeopathic Rhus Toxicodendron and Ruta Graveolens and is very helpful for pain and inflammation.

When summer activities lead to soreness and pain in the muscles specifically, Bonnie likes Recovery Rub by All Terrain, which combines the healing properties of Arnica with cooling menthol that soothes tired muscles. She also recommends a homeopathic formulation of Magnesia phosphorica, which is good for muscle recovery, or Hypericum perforatum if there’s associated nerve pain.

For those bound for exercise this weekend, Boiron Sportenine can be taken sublingually before and after a workout. Sportenine includes Arnica, Zinc and Sarcolacticum to ease fatigue, soreness and cramps.

“The beauty of homeopathy is that it can be taken safely by anyone from babies to the elderly,” says Bonnie. Because Arnica can be found in multiple strengths and preparations, Bonnie advises speaking with a licensed homeopath to figure out the best delivery method and potency level for your needs.

To find out if Arnica or another homeopathic remedy might be right for your pain relief, speak with a homeopath at your nearest Pharmaca.

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