Arnica is a plant that grows to a height of about 60 cm and can be found in mountain meadows throughout Europe. In the botanical nomenclature it is also known as Arnica montana. It has been used successfully for centuries in alternative medicine.
Today, it is cultivated specifically for medical purposes and used to produce appropriate medicines. The arnica flowers are used in the production process. In addition to the ointment form, it can also be taken as globules in the context of homeopathy.
Arnica has its main area of application in the treatment of sprains and bruises. Usually after minor accidents, after falls or after bumping the knee, for example, arnica ointment has a particularly pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effect. Arnica ointment is also often used after great sporting efforts and after sore muscles.
Arnica also helps against insect bites because of its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effect. In other dosage forms than ointment, e.g. as globules, arnica is also used to alleviate and treat inflammatory changes in the gums. Gum inflammations after a dental intervention (tooth extraction) can often be treated well. The sometimes occurring aphtae, the cause of which is unknown, and which can also lead to severe pain due to the accompanying mucous membrane ulceration of the oral mucosa, can also be successfully treated with Arnica. For this purpose, however, mouth rinses rather than ointments should be used.
Arnica works in three different ways. Firstly, it has a pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effect, and secondly a decongestant effect on inflamed or overstrained joints. The main reason for these effects is seen in a component of arnica called sesquiterpene lactone.
Helenalin also belongs to this group of ingredients. This substance probably causes an inhibition of cytokines in the tissue, which are the main causes of inflammation. By inhibiting the cytokines, an inflammatory reaction is reduced or completely healed.
The same applies to the pain stimulus, which is not as strong. In spite of good tolerability, the use of Arnica Ointment can also lead to some side effects. The side effects are generally extremely rare, but must be taken into account.
After the application of Arnica Ointment the skin may dry out. This can then lead to scaling or an unpleasant feeling on the skin. In most cases these drying effects of the skin only occur after application over several days.
Furthermore, allergic reactions can occur when using arnica. This becomes noticeable by a sudden reddening of the skin and by itching or scratching (see skin itches). Very rarely even the smallest pustules of skin can become visible.
There may also be wheal-like formations in the area of the application site, which are a typical signal for an allergic reaction. Should the skin redden after application of the arnica ointment, further treatment with arnica should be avoided. The triggers of the allergy in the skin area are mainly the so-called arnica plants, which also include the arnica plant.
As this is a mostly systemic allergy in the whole body, the intake of arnica in other dosage forms should also be avoided. Even the very diluted globules of homeopathy should not be used. Arnica cannot be overdosed in ointment form or as globules.
As a tablet, however, it should only be taken within the given maximum dosage, otherwise symptoms of poisoning may even occur. Signs of poisoning may be Nausea, vomiting, headaches, aching limbs, malaise, chills, tiredness and clouding. Furthermore, a fast pulse and an irregular pulse indicate poisoning (intoxication).
As an ointment, arnica should be massaged 2-3 times into the correspondingly painful area of the skin. An overdose is practically impossible to achieve, as too little active ingredient reaches the body through the skin. In order to get a fast effective effect of the medication, either normally dosed ointments can be applied 1-3 times a day or highly concentrated ointments with arnica 1 time a day.
In the case of severe inflammation, redness and/or swelling, a highly concentrated application of the ointment should rather be used if there is no allergy to arnica. High-dose ointment preparations can lead to a stronger skin reaction than less concentrated ones. It has to be expected that pustules, wheals or redness or itching occur to a considerably higher extent with high doses of ointments than with weaker ones. As a tablet, arnica can even lead to symptoms of poisoning, which can manifest themselves as nausea, vomiting, trembling, headaches, fever or even palpitations or cardiac arrhythmia.