If you’ve accidentally hit the corner of a table or fallen down hard on your knee, you know there’s a big black-and-blue mark in your future. But did you know that using arnica cream for bruising could actually prevent discoloration and halt the pain?
A review of 23 studies in the journal Frontiers in Surgery suggests that gently massaging this herbal extract into a fresh bruise (twice in the first two minutes) can halt throbbing and swelling within in as little as five minutes — and applying arnica four times daily for the next three days can stop an unsightly bruise from even forming.
Arnica is especially important for women over 50. “Due to the loss of collagen and bone density, women over 50 are more likely to suffer injuries,” explains Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, the author of Super-Powered Immunity: Natural Remedies for 21st Century Viruses and Superbugs.
And while arnica cream for bruising works wonders, there are plenty of other surprising benefits of this homeopathic superstar. Cook explains that this herbaceous plant in the sunflower family can help with a variety of aches and skin issues, including carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, eczema and so much more. Read out for the many surprising benefits of arnica.
What is arnica?
Arnica is a perennial plant with yellow or orange flowers. It’s native to North America and most of Europe, with some species growing in India, Far East Russia and Japan. Arnica has been a player in traditional herbal medicine for centuries — particularly the arnica montana species, which grows in Europe. That’s also the species you’re most likely to encounter in commercial products, which include cream, gel and pellet formulations.
Arnica cream for bruising
While arnica can be used for many symptoms, one of the most popular uses is for bruising. Research from Northwestern University notes that applying a topical cream with 20% arnica heals bruises faster than other bruise treatments including vitamin K cream and retinol. Why does it work so well? Bruising is a sign of damaged blood vessels and arnica is a powerful remedy to heal blood vessels fast, explains Cook.
“Unlike most creams, ointments, or liniments used for pain, arnica actually works to heal the affected area, not just reduce symptoms,” says Cook. “Plus, arnica also helps reduce pain and discomfort at the same time.”
10 other ways Arnica can help you stay healthy
In addition to using arnica cream for bruising, this homeopathic star can be used for many other ailments:
1. Arnica cream calms surface inflammation
While inflammation is the body’s way of helping to bring attention to areas that need healing, it can be uncomfortable or problematic when it continues for long periods of time. “Arnica reduces inflammation while helping to heal the injured or damaged tissues, joints, muscles, and blood vessels,” explains Cook. So feel free to rub arnica cream on your skin any where it hurts, taking care to avoid any open wounds or cuts because it can cause irritation, advises Cook.
2. Arnica pellets can calm internal inflammation
Stretched or torn ligaments, which are known as sprains, are more common in women over 50, but that doesn’t make them more comfortable. And yet healing the sprain is the same whether you’re an adult or treating a child. When his 12-year-old sprained her ankle, Lawrence Rosen M.D., founder of The Whole Child Center in Oradell, New Jersey, told First for Women that he reached for arnica. He doled out five pellets every two hours the first day, and then three times a day for the next five days. “She had no bruising and very little pain the next day and she was able to get back to dancing within two days,” said Dr. Rosen. This is because arnica blocks the action of the inflammation-causing chemical histamine to relieve pain and swelling.
3. Arnica cream relieves sore feet
Now that we’re back in the office, pain and swelling from high-heel shoes, or being on our feet all day can take it’s toll. “Treat yourself to a foot rub with arnica to help alleviate the discomfort,” says Cook. Or proactively try an arnica-infused spray, like Still Standing Comfort Foot Spray (StillStandingSpray.com). The anti-inflammatory herb prevents fluids from pooling in blood vessels to ease swelling, and its cooling effect reduces heel pain. Just spritz on feet before putting on shoes. (Click through to learn how to stop foot pain from standing all day.)
4. Arnica patches can de-puff eyes
For brighter eyes and to depuff the skin under them, arnica can help. Try cooling patches made with retinol, peptides and arnica extract (like Patchology FlashPatch Restoring Night Gels $10.50 for a five-pack at Ulta.com). Store in the fridge, and place on puffy eyes at night. (Click through to learn about the best under eye mask for you.)
5. Arnica pellets can speed healing after surgery
Felice Gersh, M.D., a dual board-certified integrative gynecologist and founder of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine California and author of Menopause: 50 Things You Need to Know says, told First for Women that, “Arnica works so well, that it’s often recommended to help speed healing after surgery.” In fact, a review of studies published in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that arnica worked as well as over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce pain and swelling in postoperative patients.
6. Arnica cream eases post-workout pain
Whether you overdid it on a hike or you’re feeling the after-effects of squatting down to pluck stubborn dandelions, you may want to turn to arnica cream to alleviate muscle soreness. The plant contains thymol, a compound that helps muscles repair themselves. In fact, a study in the European Journal of Sport Science found that arnica eased sore muscles for 72 hours. This wasn’t surprising to Neil Kirschen, M.D., Director of Pain Management at Mount Sinai South Nassau who told First for Women, “Arnica is used often in professional sports.”
7. Arnica gel relieves the pain of pulled muscles
In a study conducted at the University of Caberra in Australia, applying an arnica gel to overworked muscles every four hours slashed soreness by 48%. Credit goes to arnica compounds called sesquiterpene lactones, which lower levels of proteins that heighten sensitivity to pain.
8. Arnica gel soothes arthritis pain
Folks in one study who applied arnica gel just twice a week for six weeks reported that it dramatically decreased their symptoms of knee aches and pains caused by osteoarthritis. In fact, arnica’s benefits are so effective that holistic practitioner Vincent Pedre, MD, told Woman’s World he uses both topical and tablet forms. “By double-dosing, you tackle the pain locally and systematically for faster healing.” (Click through to learn how one woman used arnica cream for knee pain relief.)
9. Arnica gel can warm up cold hands and feet
“Arnica brings blood flow to an area of the body, helping to boost circulation, so it is great for cold hands or feet, or any part of the body that lacks sufficient blood,” says Cook.
What are the best arnica products?
“While arnica is great for so many symptoms ranging from neuropathy to skin conditions like itching, just be sure to use a totally natural product without synthetic preservatives or other toxic ingredients,” says Cook. Check the product label to be sure. If there is no ingredient list, you can probably assume that it contains unwanted ingredients.
“The cream and the gel can be used interchangeably for inflamed areas, arthritis, torn muscles and ligaments, or any other type of pain,” says Cook. It’s more about personal preference. She noted that the pellets can be used alongside the topical arnica to help speed healing or when there are widespread injuries or pain, and when there is also trauma linked to any injuries. Here are three products to try:
- Boiron Arnicare Gel (Buy on Amazon, $13.57)
- Boiron Arnicare Cream (Buy on Amazon, $11.42)
- Boiron Arnica Pellets (Buy on Amazon, $11.42)
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
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