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Arnica

Arnica (Arnica montana) has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s and remains popular today. Applied topically as a cream, ointment, liniment, salve, or tincture, Europeans and Native Americans have used arnica to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds. It is often the first remedy used for injuries such as sprains and bruises. Arnica in herbal form is primarily restricted to topical (external) use because it can cause serious side effects when taken internally. Arnica is often used in homeopathy, and should be taken internally only in the extremely diluted form common to homeopathic remedies. If you have any question about whether you have the herbal or homeopathic form of arnica, talk to your doctor before taking it.

Medicinal Uses and Indications:

Arnica is used topically for a wide range of conditions, including bruises, sprains, muscle aches, wound healing, superficial phlebitis, rheumatic pain, inflammation from insect bites, and swelling due to fractures.

Homeopathic preparations are also used to treat sore muscles, bruises, and other conditions caused by overexertion or trauma. Homeopathic doses are extremely diluted. They have no detectable amount of the plant in them and are generally considered safe for internal use when taken according to the directions on the product labeling.

Available Forms:

Arnica is available commercially in topical creams and ointments. It is most commonly prepared as a tincture, which can also be used as the base for compresses and poultices. Arnica oil may also be used in topical preparations.

A number of homeopathic remedies are available in pill, topical, or injectable forms.

How to Take It:

Arnica should not be taken internally without direct medical supervision, except in dilute form as a homeopathic remedy, because side effects may be severe (see "Precautions").

Homeopathic products should be used according to directions on the label or the advice of your homeopathic practitioner. Health care providers may give homeopathic preparations by injection.

Precautions:

Arnica is generally safe when used topically (externally). However, prolonged use may irritate the skin, causing eczema, peeling, blisters, or other skin conditions. Arnica should not be used on broken skin, such as leg ulcers. People who are hypersensitive or allergic to the herb should avoid it.

Arnica is rarely used as an internal herbal remedy because it can cause dizziness, tremors, and heart irregularities. It may also irritate mucous membranes and cause vomiting. Large doses can even be fatal. Do not take arnica internally except under close supervision of your doctor. Homeopathic remedies, which use very small amounts of arnica, can usually be taken safely.

If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, talk to your doctor before taking any medication, including herbs.

Possible Interactions:

When used topically or in a homeopathic remedy, arnica does not interact with any conventional medications.

When using arnica topically, never place on an open wound without a doctor's supervision.

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