Did you know that the attractive star shaped Arnica Montana belongs to the same botanical class as the bright and cheerful sunflower? The Arnica Montana usually grows to a maximum height of around 2 feet and can be spotted anywhere by its bright yellow flowers with a slight orange tinge. Although this plant is grown specifically for its multi medicinal purposes, it is actually a native of Europe and Siberia where it can in fact, be spotted growing in the wild on the mountainside and in pastures. This plant grows just as well in soil that may be deficient in nutrients although it requires ample sunshine to grow properly. The natural perfume of this herb becomes even stronger when it grows at a higher altitude on the mountainside.
It is believed that the healing medicinal properties of the Arnica Montana were identified in as early as the 16th century. Many medicines which could be administered both internally and externally were often prepared by using arnica flowers. Not surprisingly, this lovely yellow flower has an important place in European folk medicine and was used to treat a range of aches and ailments. According to folklore, mountain guides would often chew the leaves of this plant in order to combat fatigue while climbing the steep slopes of the mountain and tea brewed using the leaves of the arnica plant was considered the best cure for chest pain. Arnica Montana is sometimes also called the ‘snuff plant’ because it was often used as a poor substitute for the more expensive tobacco. Even today, the properties which make Arnica so useful in many ways are still being studied.
Arnica, Arnica Gel, Arnica Cream, etc!
Arnica is available in a liquid, gel, cream and pill form. Since arnica is quite a strong herb, direct consumption of the roots and flowers makes it makes it unsafe and dangerous. However, liquid medicines (made using the flowers) which use a highly diluted form of arnica are administered in some cases under the advice and guidance of medical practitioners. Homeopathy too, uses a highly diluted concentrate of arnica which is considered safe for general consumption. On the other hand, the real benefits of Arnica can be best felt on application of external medical preparations such as creams, oils and tinctures which are all easily available. Arnica creams for external use contain a minimum concentration of 15% arnica oil whereas the concentrate level in tinctures is usually between 20 – 25%.
So What Are People Using Arnica For?
As an Effective Painkiller
Arnica is highly effective in reducing the pain associated with sprains, muscle pains and even in dislocation of joints and bones. Its natural anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties help to heal open wounds faster in comparison to other forms of medical treatments. Moreover, it works wonderfully to relieve patients who may be recuperating after surgery from any kind of external ache or pain. So, the next time you have a nasty sprain, try some arnica cream instead of using an oral painkiller.
No More Bruises
We all hate the sight of big blue ugly bruises on our skin and children, understandably feel very conscious about being picked on especially if the bruise is in an exposed part of the skin. When arnica is applied to the skin immediately after a cut or wound is inflicted, its anti-bacterial properties stop the capillaries present in the skin from bleeding further. Furthermore, it helps the white blood cells present in the body to work faster in healing nerves and clears any fluids that may be trapped in the body joints.
Bye Bye Soreness
After a long tiring day at work or home, one of the best ways to relax includes using arnica oil tincture. All you need to do is to add a teaspoon of arnica tincture to a tub containing warm water and simply let your aching feet soak in it. You’ll feel relaxed in no time and any soreness that you may be feeling will be soothed away within minutes. To enhance your spa experience, add a drop or two of lavender oil to the warm water as well. Arnica is a very common ingredient that is used by established spas and rejuvenation centers in their mud packs, body wraps and even as an oil for massages.
To Relieve Arthritic Pain
Seniors and elderly people often suffer from arthritis of the joints and this painful condition can make moving about or even simply getting up from a chair, a highly painful experience. In a number of studies conducted, arnica oils and creams have proven to be very effective in treating this form of arthritic pain because of the anti-inflammatory compounds that are present in the roots of this herb.
For an Easier Labor
Midwives have a well-kept secret to help women suffering from intense labor pain - arnica oil. Yes, you read that right! Arnica oil is a well proven remedy to help new mothers as they give birth and also to relieve body stress post-delivery. While it reduces overall bruising, it also helps to minimize the general trauma that new mothers feel while giving birth. Most importantly, it reduces the physical stress on the mother’s body by preventing the soft tissues from being strained during the labor process. In fact, the usage of arnica is even recommended for newborn babies who may suffer mild bruising during the delivery.
To Sooth Athletic Aches
It has been proven that athletes and even fitness buffs who use arnica on a regular basis can recover much more quickly from aches, pains and bruises of all kinds. Arnica Montana has also been proven to heal damaged tissues in the body and control bleeding spurts. It’s not uncommon for coaches and for medical practitioners to recommend arnica in small doses to athletes who may be recuperating from a grave physical injury or even from an emotional shock.
As a Natural Sweetener
The arnica plant contains inulin which can be used as a natural food and liquid sweetener by diabetic patients without any fear of their blood sugar levels spiking up suddenly. It can be added to desserts and cakes while baking as well. In fact, arnica is a very popular food flavoring agent that is used by food manufacturers and well-known brands in small quantities in many consumable products such as gelatin, candy, puddings and frozen dairy products.
For Flawless Skin
If you’ve tried everything under the sun to get rid of cystic acne, then maybe all you really need is a touch of arnica. Arnica gels work superbly to rid the skin of any persistent acne problems. Many users claim that 24 hours is all it takes to see visible results! In fact, you can even wear any other makeup after application of the arnica gel, without any problem. Arnica oil is naturally fragrant and that makes it a commonly used ingredient in many soaps, creams and perfumes.
No More Hair Woes
All of us have our pet peeves when it comes to our manes but here’s the good news- arnica is a one stop solution for hair problems of almost any kind. It prevents hair fall, helps hair grow faster, strengthens hair roots, improves hair density, fights dandruff and even takes care of split ends. In short, beautiful healthy hair can be yours for real.
But Be Warned
Just like any herb, Arnica too has its share of side effects and can sometimes prove fatal too. It is important to remember that the side-effects cannot be generalized and that while some users may suffer an allergic reaction on application, there are many other users who are happy with the results. Here are a few possible side-effects you could experience:
- Using arnica creams directly on broken skin or open wounds can cause irritation in the form of redness, eczema, blisters and even skin ulcers. Mothers who are breast feeding their babies and pregnant women too are advised to consult their respective doctors first before using arnica in any form.
- Arnica has been proven to be highly fatal when ingested in large quantities. It can cause abortions in expecting mothers, dizziness, increase the heart rate and also spike up one’s blood pressure.
- The high levels of toxicity are due to the presence of a component called Helenalin which can irritate the stomach. That is why the flowers should never be eaten directly as they can cause vomiting and severe diarrhea. In fact, even ingesting the roots is believed to result in sudden drowsiness and can induce a coma like state in children.
- Although arnica has been shown to be highly beneficial for patients who are recovering from surgery, there is also a risk that the patient may suffer from sudden bleeding while taking homeopathic arnica medication. Most doctors advise patients to stop such medication at least two weeks before undergoing surgery and for two weeks after the surgery is over.
Arnica is also a favorite with many cosmetic surgeons and is usually recommended to patients who have undergone plastic surgery. With so many benefits to offer, it’s no surprise that the humble Arnica Montana is called Mother Nature’s miracle worker.