Arnica: properties, benefits and contraindications

Arnica: properties, benefits and contraindications

Arnica is traditionally used as an effective remedy in case of bruises, sprains and muscle pain

Index

  • What it is, properties and benefits
  • How to use it
  • Contraindications, interactions and side effects

What it is, properties and benefits

Arnica (Arnica montana) is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the Asteraceae family and which grows spontaneously in the Alps and Apennines at altitudes above 2000 meters.

The plant, which can reach 50-70 centimeters in height, is characterized by a robust underground rhizome from which a rosette of lanceolate and whole basal leaves develops. At the time of flowering, a stem with one or two pairs of opposite leaves grows in the center of the rosette and with a large solitary flower head at the end. Rarely, the inflorescence scape bears more than one flower head. The flower heads of the arnica can reach 60-80 millimeters in diameter and are composed of intense yellow female ligulate flowers and tubular male central flowers.

The arnica drug, that is the part of the plant with the highest content of active constituents, is represented precisely by the flower heads rich in carotenoids and sesquiterpene lactones, as well as other substances including essential oil, polysaccharides, coumarins and flavonoids. The presence of these molecules gives arnica anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antibacterial properties against both Gram positive and Gram negative strains.

The benefits of arnica depend on its ability to inhibit cyclooxygenase, the migration of polymorphonuclear neutrophils and the activation of NF-kB. Thanks to the properties and benefits of arnica, the preparations obtained from this plant are traditionally used in cases of bruises and sprains to reduce bruises, hematomas and relieve post-traumatic pain.

Arnica is also used in cases of gingivitis and infections of the oral cavity, inflammation caused by insect bites, muscle, rheumatic and post-operative pains, minor burns and sunburn.

How to use it

Arnica flower heads are used to prepare mother tinctures and other liquid extracts to be used in ointments, ointments, creams and gels which, to be effective, must contain percentages of tincture or fluid extracts of between 10 and 25%.

Arnica-based preparations are an excellent remedy in case of bruises, sprains, bruises, muscle and rheumatic pains. Arnica is also an effective remedy in case of skin inflammation and irritation, caused for example by excessive exposure to the sun, small burns and burns or stings from bees, mosquitoes and other insects.

Arnica gels, ointments and ointments are used only externally by massaging the product locally on the area to be treated, even several times a day. It is good to avoid the use of arnica on open wounds, sores and near the eyes.

Arnica tinctures, properly diluted in water or alcohol, are also useful for making poultices in case of infections and inflammations of the oral cavity.

Arnica products are readily available in herbal shops and, although the plant grows spontaneously, the collection of specimens in nature is not recommended. First of all it is good to remember that it is a protected species, whose collection is regulated by law. Secondly, it is almost impossible to evaluate the arnica content in self-made preparations.

Contraindications, interactions and side effects

Arnica, for external use, is considered a safe remedy traditionally used for bruises, sprains and hematomas.

Prolonged use of arnica-based products, however, can cause contact dermatitis in sensitive subjects and cross-hypersensitivity with other species of the Asteraceae or Compositae family, in particular with calendula and chamomile.

The sesquiterpene lactones present in arnica flower heads can also cause allergies in predisposed people. Those allergic to Asteraceae can therefore develop hypersensitivity phenomena even using arnica gels, ointments and ointments, therefore it is advisable to carry out a test in a limited area of ​​the body, for example by massaging the product on the inner part of the forearm. If within 24 hours of application the skin does not appear red and does not show itching or other symptoms of hypersensitivity, the product can also be used in larger areas of the body.

The topical use of arnica is not recommended during pregnancy, during pregnancy and breastfeeding and before surgery. Arnica-based preparations can also interact with essential oils and it is therefore advisable not to apply products that contain these substances at the same time or add essences, creams, ointments and arnica ointments.

Arnica should then be used only on healthy skin, avoiding its use on skin that has lesions, wounds, ulcers or dermatitis as irritation at the site of application may occur on non-intact skin.

Finally, internal use is strongly discouraged since oral intake of this medicinal plant can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, palpitations and arterial hypotension.

Sources:

American Journal of Therapeutics

Wiley

European Journal of Sport Science

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