Arnica montana is a plant native to the Siberian mountains and Central Europe. This plant has homeopathic uses to treat symptoms caused by many inflammatory conditions. Evidence suggest that Arnica montana could be an alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Arnica montana has been sold as tincture, ointment, cream, and gel. Arnica montana may be more easily recognized under the different names that it has been sold under; leopard’s bane, wolf’s bane, mountain tobacco, and mountain snuff. This plant has been used for pathological conditions, including pain, stiffness, and swelling.
Arnica montana is able to treat some inflammatory conditions as it contains a high concentration of sesquiterpenes which is responsible for anti-inflammatory activity. In vitro studies have shown that the most active components in Arnica is helenalin, which is a type of sesquiterpene lactone that has anti-inflammatory properties. This article reviews several uses of Arnica which include acute ankle sprains, post-surgical pain, muscle soreness after exercise, and osteoarthritis. Arnica’s affect on muscle soreness post-exercise was measured in a study involving 82 marathon runners. The study showed that 5 pills of Arnica 30D, given 2 times a day from the evening before until 3 days after the marathon improved muscle soreness in marathon runners immediately after the competition, however it did not protect from cell damage. Another study involving 204 patients with osteoarthritis of the interphalangeal joints of the hands showed that topical application of a 4-cm gel strip of Arnica (50 g tincture/100 g) 3 times a day showed similar effectiveness as ibuprofen in reducing pain, functional hand capacity, number of painful joints in both hands and intensity of morning stiffness in the worst affected hand.
As mentioned before, Arnica can be administered in a variety of forms such as orally or topically. When applied topically, studies show that Arnica may be an alternative to ibuprofen due to the high levels of sesquiterpenes. The amount of sesquiterpene is dependent on which portion of the plant used. Due to various parts of the Arnica plant that can be extracted, the clinical effectiveness will vary. The safe use of Arnica is guaranteed by the European Pharmacopoeia and by specific Arnica monographs which provide guidelines for pharmaceutical companies to abide by. The article concluded that Arnica is a potential therapeutic alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, especially for patients undergoing pharmacological polytherapy. Further research with larger cohorts of patients are needed to support the effect of Arnica on various inflammatory conditions.
Physical Therapy First Recommendation:
For patients seeking a homeopathic treatment for symptoms from inflammatory conditions, discuss with your physician the appropriateness of Arnica montana.
Iannitti, T., Morales-Medina, J., Bellavite, P., Rottigni, V., Palmieri, B. 2016. Effectiveness and Safety of Arnica montana in Post-Surgical Setting, Pain and Inflammation, The American Journal of Therapeutics, 23, e184-e197.