Arnica oil has been used in traditional herbal medicine for centuries to reduce pain, prevent infection and relieve swelling.
It’s anti-inflammatory, and painkiller properties make it ideal for treating bruises, aches, and sprains. As the benefits of arnica are becoming more well-known, its popularity is on the rise amongst professional athletes.
This versatile remedy can actually benefit everyone. So, read on to learn more about arnica oil and its health benefits.
What is arnica oil?
Arnica oil is derived through steam distillation from the flowers of the Arnica Montana plant, which is also known as mountain tobacco, wolf’s bane, and leopard’s bane.
This alpine flower plant grows in the areas of up to 3000 feet. The higher the altitude of the where the plant grows, the more aromatic is its flower.
Arnica oil is an aromatic yellow essential oil which is mixed with a mild carrier oil to produce the ready-to-use arnica oil that is available these days. Arnica oil contains beneficial fatty acids including palmitic, linolenic, linoleic, and myristic acid.
It also contains thymol, thymohydroquinone dimethyl ether and phlorol isobutyrate. This oil also contains helenalin, which can cause an allergic reaction in people with sensitivity.
History of arnica oil
Arnica has been used as a medicinal plant since the Middle Ages. During the 12th century, a German nun called Hildegard on Bingen, also known as Saint Hildegard wrote about the healing properties of arnica plant.
This herb has also been used in traditional Russian medicine and the Swiss Alps.
Humans initially discovered the health benefits of arnica plant when they observed the mountain goats eating this plant after stumbling and falling. Initially, this plant was applied to bruises or brewed into tea.
Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of Homeopathy, conducted various experiments on arnica in the late 18th and early 19th century.
He discovered that arnica could stimulate the body’s ability to heal injuries efficiently, minimize bruising, and reduce swelling.
Health benefits of arnica oil
1. Heals bruises
Bruises are dark patches that form on the skin as a result of extreme pressure or trauma where the skin is not broken. Arnica oil is known to speed up healing, reduce the size of the bruise and restore healthy skin tone.
During a 2010 study, volunteers in the age group of 21 to 65 years were given arnica ointment for the treatment of bruises for two weeks. The results showed that arnica ointment could reduce bruising more effectively than vitamin K formulations (1).
Ways to use
- Dilute arnica oil with a carrier oil and apply it twice a day on unbroken bruises.
- You can also use arnica ointment available as homeopathic remedies.
2. Relieves muscle aches and sprains
Many professional athletes use arnica oil for first aid relief for exercise-related injuries and pain. The anti-inflammatory properties of arnica oil help deal with sore muscles, sprains, and swelling.
According to a study, 82 marathon runners from two separate marathons were given pills of arnica or a placebo every morning or evening to be had the day before the race and then to be continued for three more days.
The muscle soreness in the arnica group was much lower than that in the placebo group (2).
Another study that was published in the European Journal of Sports Science showed that when arnica oil was applied topically to the quadriceps and gastrocnemius muscles of athletes after a downhill running protocol designed to induce delayed onset muscle soreness, it reduced pain and muscle tenderness (3).
Arnica contains helenalin, a sesquiterpene lactone, which has potent anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains thymol which also acts as an anti-inflammatory aid.
Arnica oil also stimulates the flow of WBC, which help disperse trapped fluid from the muscles, joints and bruised tissue.
Ways to use
- Apply diluted arnica oil or an arnica-based balm to the area experiencing pain daily till the pain subsides.
3. Treats arthritis
Arnica oil can be used as a natural remedy for managing arthritis. A study involving 204 people with arthritis in hand joints was published in Rheumatology International.
The study showed that daily application of arnica gel was as effective as ibuprofen gel in treating osteoarthritis of hand (4).
During another study, 26 men and 53 women with knee arthritis applied arnica gel to their painful joints twice a day for six weeks. The results showed that arnica gel helped to reduce pain and stiffness in the joints (5).
Ways to use
- Apply diluted arnica oil or an arnica based cream or lotion to the affected area twice a day for up to six weeks.
4. Improves skin
Arnica oil can improve skin health by treating conditions like rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and even acne. It soothes inflammation and reduces the signs of aging like wrinkles and blemishes.
Arnica oil increases the white blood cell activity, which helps combat irritation, redness, and inflammation of the skin. It also hydrates the skin, which helps in calming down rosacea.
Arnica oil contains flavonoids which help to soothe the skin. Its antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties prevent inflammatory skin disorders.
Ways to use
- Apply an arnica based skin lotion to the problem areas.
- Use diluted arnica oil on the areas of concern.
5. Migraine relief
In folk medicine, Arnica has been used to relieve migraines and tension headaches. The sedative effects of arnica oil ease pain and relax the muscles.
Ways to use
- Apply a few drops of diluted arnica oil to your temples and the back and of your neck to soothe migraines.
6. Carpal tunnel
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a cumulative trauma associated with constant use of fingers and wrists. It is one of the most common peripheral neuropathies affecting the adults today.
The carpal tunnel sits just below the wrist where the arm and the hand are connected. This opening is vulnerable to inflammation and pain.
Arnica cream or arnica gel is an excellent method to treat carpal tunnel syndrome.
According to a 2002 study, when patients who had undergone carpal tunnel release surgery used arnica for two weeks after the surgery, they noticed a significant reduction in pain (6).
Ways to use
- Apply arnica oil on your wrists till the pain and inflammation subside.
7. Improves hair health
Arnica oil can improve hair health in several different ways. It helps to prevent hair loss, treats dandruff and even prevents premature greying of hair.
Regular scalp massage with arnica oil stimulates the hair follicles and supports the growth of new and healthy hair. It nourishes the hair, which helps prevent split ends and premature greying of the hair.
Arnica oil also cleanses the extra sebum and dirt from the hair and helps prevent dandruff.
Ways to use
- Use shampoos and conditioners that contain arnica oil to improve your hair health.
- Massage diluted arnica oil on your scalp to stimulate new hair growth.
How to buy and store arnica oil?
You can buy arnica oil at any health store or from online retailers. Good quality arnica oil should contain very few ingredients. It should have arnica oil and a base oil which may be olive oil, grapeseed oil or almond oil.
Ingredients like vitamin E help preserve this oil for longer. Added fragrances, on the other hand, can irritate the skin.
Since you must not use arnica oil without dilution, it is a good idea to use an oil which has already been diluted with carrier oils to make it easy to use.
Always keep arnica oil away from extreme heat or cold. Do not refrigerate or store in a damp place. Arnica oil can last for years if stored properly.
If you notice a change in the fragrance or appearance of arnica oil, it may no longer be fit for use. Discard it immediately.
Side effects and precautions
Diluted arnica oil is considered safe for use. Inhaling it or ingesting it is not regarded as safe.
If taken orally, arnica oil can cause heart irregularities, nervous disturbances, dizziness, and gastrointestinal irritation.
Arnica tablets or pills contain a minimal amount of arnica, so they do not cause any side effects. However, you must consult with a health expert before taking arnica pills.
Arnica oil is very potent so you must dilute it in 30:70 ratio with a base oil like almonds oil, or grapeseed oil.
Do not apply arnica oil on broken skin because arnica can be toxic if it gets absorbed by the skin. This oil can also cause skin irritation. Always conduct a patch test before using arnica oil for the first time to avoid an allergic reaction.
People with sensitive skin should avoid using arnica oil. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also refrain from using arnica oil.
Arnica oil is extracted from the fragrant flowers of the Arnica Montana plant; an alpine flower plant grows in the areas of up to 3000 feet.
This oil is famous for its health-promoting qualities and its ability to relieve pain and inflammation. It helps to heal bruises, reduce muscular aches and sprains, relieves migraines, improves skin and prevents hair loss.
Always dilute arnica oil before topical use and avoid using it internally. People with sensitive skin, pregnant and breastfeeding women and children should not use arnica oil.