Native Americans have long used Arnica montana to ease the pain and inflammation associated with sore muscles. Today, many people are familiar with the use of homeopathic arnica creams, gels, and lotions to ease muscle and joint pain, as well as bruising due to injury.
In the wild, Arnica’s bright gold blossoms resemble tiny stars. The herb was first used in pagan rituals to celebrate the summer solstice. It was believed that Arnica could enhance the health of crops and the forthcoming harvest. The use of Arnica shifted from metaphysical to medicinal in the 1500s when Italian physician and herbalist Pietro Andrea Mattioli recorded the herb’s healing abilities.
Today, homeopathic Arnica montana is used in hundreds of products and herbal preparations. Its use is much more common in Europe, but has found a receptive audience in the United States among doctors of natural medicine, chiropractors, herbalists, homeopathic practitioners, massage therapists, and physical therapists.
Arnica montana is available as a homeopathic, a botanical tincture, and as a base for making compresses and poultices. Some of the common preparations include gels, creams, ointments, salves and are available over-the-counter or from botanical medicine specialists. It can be used topically but never ingested as a supplement or herbal tea because of its toxicity. Additionally, arnica should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. For most other people, topical use of arnica is generally well tolerated. Consult with a holistic health practitioner regarding the amount of arnica needed to support healing.
Johnson, R.L., S. Foster, Low Dog, T. and Kiefer, D. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants. (2012) Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.