Effective and reliable medicines for mother and baby are hard to come by. But for centuries, Arnica has earnt a reputation for being a versatile and cost-effective medicine that can be used on the most sensitive individuals, producing remarkable healing results. It is available in external (oil, cream) and internal (homeopathic, tea) forms. Most modern parents are aware of arnica already, but may not know how it actually works, and just how versatile a medicine arnica really is.

Arnica montana, also known as Leopard?s bane, is one of the best known natural remedies for bruising and inflammation. It is a pretty flowering herb that grows in mountainous areas in Europe and western North America. Over the centuries arnica has been used topically in the treatment of bruises, sprains and wounds. However, it?s more than a bruising ointment. Reknown homeopath James Tyler Kent says of arnica: ?It is a wonderful remedy, a misunderstood remedy, a misused remedy, because it is almost limited to bruises.? In fact, arnica is capable of improving the two most common forms of musculoskeletal pain in Australia; arthritis and backache.

Arnica contains potent chemical compounds called sesquiterpene lactones, which are responsible for many of its therapeutic actions including anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain reducing), anti-oedema, anti-arthritic, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. In clinical trials these chemicals have been proven to be as powerful as pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Apart from being a wonderful musculoskeletal herb, Arnica is an essential remedy for childbirth, afterpains, and pain-induced restlessness. Historically it was also known as sneezewort, because it relieved congestive chills.?Other uses of arnica include haematonas (blood pooling outside of vessels), sprains, rheumatic pains of joints, skin conditions such as acne, furunculosis (boils) and inflammation in the oral and pharyngeal mucosa. As an homeopathic remedy, arnica is used to treat nosebleeds, bleeding gums, long labours in birthing women and for afterpains in nursing mothers, which are worse when breastfeeding.

How to get the best out of Arnica

  • to improve muscle recovery, apply arnica oil or cream before any high impact activity
  • to avoid bruise discolouration, apply arnica externally and internally (as an homeopathic remedy) before any discolouration appears
  • organic and biodynamic arnica extract in an oil or cream base is more effective than non-organic arnica
  • enhance the effectiveness of arnica by using it in combination with other inflammation-fighting herbs such as Betula alba and Calendula
  • never use arnica on broken skin
  • never use arnica internally unless under the guidance of a qualified herbalist.

Good news for breastfeeding mothers
You can enhance the benefits of using arnica post birth by drinking nursing tea, as many lactation support herbs such as fennel, caraway, anise seed and fenugreek all contain strong anti-inflammatories like rutin, luteolin, quercetin and flavonoids. These chemicals work alongside the compounds in arnica, to further reduce symptoms like inflammation, bruising, swelling and pain which are common in nursing mothers.

The wonderful thing about using natural remedies like Arnica, or investing in good nutritional foods, is that you can enhance and strengthen your own healing abilities without side effects or pain. If you haven?t already tried Arnica, it?s time to get in on the action!

Credit: Su-lin Sze is a naturopath and practices in Bondi Junction NSW. She also writes for Weleda; producer of biodynamic and organic skincare.


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