Top 3 Uses of Arnica
Arnica is a bright yellow herb that is extracted from Europe and nicknamed “mountain daisy.” Most often, the extract of Arnica is used in topical formulations such as gels, oils or creams. There are also pill versions of arnica, that we do not recommend nor discuss herein. Note, the pure arnica plant is poisonous and should never be consumed.
Arnica promotes the clearing of bruises by enhancing how our white blood cells work to absorb and metabolize the bruise. Bruises form when small capillaries under the skin leak red blood cells to the space outside of the capillary and under the skin. This leakage often happens from physical trauma but in many cases bruises can happen almost spontaneously in individuals with very fragile capillaries. Skin and capillaries in the skin naturally (and normally) become more fragile with age due to exposure to ultraviolet rays (sun).
Individuals with more sun exposure over the years will bruise more easily. That is why bruising is most often seen on the back of the hands and forearms. Individuals on blood thinners are much more prone to easy bruising since their red blood cells can easily escape the walls of their capillaries. As the red blood cells leak into the skin, the hemoglobin protein deposits first, and this causes a reddish-blue color. Then as hemoglobin breaks down, biliverdin causes a green color, followed by bilirubin to form a yellowish color and lastly hemosiderin to cause a reddish-brown color. White blood cells are responsible for handling most of the work to breakdown bruises. Arnica promotes white blood cells to circulate through our body, which is why Arnica promotes quicker resolution of bruises! It was no surprise that Diane von Furstenberg found Arnica cream to help resolve her bruises (link to twitter)
Arnica has become a favorite after skin procedures such as lasers, botox, and filler. When used early after these procedures, Arnica can actually prevent bruise formation. Read more about post-procedural use of Skintensive in our NewBeauty feature.
Arnica’s anti-inflammatory benefits are well studied and documented. One study showed that Arnica gel was as good as Ibuprofen for hand arthritis. Hence, Arnica creams and gels are used often by immediately post workout or for new muscle aches and pains. Athletes use arnica creams to help their muscles recover faster.
Orthopedic surgeons have often recommended Arnica around the time of surgeries for its anti-inflammatory effect on both skin and joints. Additionally, recent research shows that Arnica can help trim down “puffy” skin. Called, depuffing, Arnica is used in face masks for this purpose.
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Widrig R, Suter A, Saller R, Melzer J. Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study. Rheumatol Int. 2007 Apr;27(6):585-91. doi: 10.1007/s00296-007-0304-y. Epub 2007 Feb 22. PMID: 17318618.