Arnica is good for bruises
Havingat the ready to reduce bruising is a simple and effective treatment, says Michele Simmons.
Arnica Montana - to give it its proper name - is also known as Leopard's Bane, mountain tobacco and sneezewort. Found mainly in the mountains of Europe and in Siberia, this homeopathic remedy is made from the dried roots or sometimes the dried flowers of the plant.
As a remedy, the most popular ways of using Arnica are either as a cream, which can be used on chilblains, sprains and bruises, or as a homeopathic remedy to help encourage recovery from injury or surgery. The remedies are available as pillules, small tablets that are placed on the tongue and sucked or chewed until they dissolve.
How does it work?
Arnica works by stimulating the activity of white blood cells which process congested blood, and by dispersing trapped fluids from joints and muscles and bumped and bruised tissue. It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial qualities and it is these that help to reduce pain and swelling as well as improving wound healing.
Ironically these are the very same qualities that it was valued for centuries ago when it was widely used by physicians in Europe as a treatment for bruises. In fact, in the 16th century it is thought that mountain climbers would chew the fresh plant to relieve aching muscles and as treatment for all the bruises they ended up with from falls.
While there's no lack of anecdotal and historical evidence to show the part arnica plays in helping the body to heal itself, is there anything factual to support the stories? Actually, the answer is yes.
Recent trials involving a team of rugby players and a group of mothers with young children compared the effectiveness of different bruising treatments. A variety of bruising treatments were used including antioxidant injections, sports compresses, painkillers and vitamin K, which is thought to speed up healing, as well as arnica cream and tablets, or pillules, to give them their homeopathic name.
In virtually all cases, arnica was the favoured option: while the cream was effective in treating bruises and swelling, the pillules also treat shock and can provide relief faster as there is no need for it to be absorbed through the skin.
Although arnica may be an old fashioned remedy, modern science has showed that the role it plays doesn't stop at bruises. Increasing evidence suggests that it also has a part to play in helping the body to recover from surgery - from toothache to childbirth. While research on dental patients revealed that arnica helped control pain and bleeding after dental treatment, a study of women in a labour ward found that when taken as a remedy, arnica eased the trauma of childbirth as well as helping the body to recover from the childbirth process.
If you're a sporting enthusiast then it's worth having some form of arnica on standby. As it reduces inflammation and swelling, one tablet of arnica C6 three to five times a day can speed up the healing of sprains, dislocations and bruising. For those who have a tendency to overdo it at the gym, one tablet of Arnica C6 three times a day should help with the muscle and joint pain caused by over-exertion. However, if there is no improvement within a day, you should see your doctor.
How to take it
Homeopathic remedies are available in different potencies but those most common are 6C, used for long standing ailments, and 30C potency for emergency and acute symptoms. Try Nelson's Arnica, 84 tablets for £4.60; or Boots Homeopathic Remedies, Arnica 6C pillules (84 pills), £3.80; or Arnica 30C pillules (84 pills) £4.50.
Creams and ointments should be applied gently to bruised areas, and the damaged tissue should be rested after application. If muscles ache, use before and after exercise. Try Nelson's Arnica Cream, £3.95 for 30g, Boots Herbal Arnica Cream, and £3.60 for 30g tube.
While Arnica can also be used on chilblains, strains and bruises, it shouldn't be applied if the skin is broken as it may cause irritation and you could end up with a nasty rash When taking pillules, make sure you stick to the recommended dose as, in some people, too much can irritate the digestive tract Pillules need to be protected from light and are best stored in a dry cupboard, away from direct sunlight Arnica cream and ointments are ideal for children who are forever bumping and bruising themselves: it's safe, doesn't hurt and has no side effects