What Is Arnica?
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman’s World, and Natural Health.
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Meredith Bull, ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor with a private practice in Los Angeles, California.
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak
Arnica is an herb. It is in the sunflower family (Asteraceae).
Several species of Arnica contain an anti-inflammatory compound. This is thought to relieve pain, aches, and bruising. It is usually applied topically to the skin. Oral forms are also available.
This article discusses arnica, its uses, side effects, and preparation. It also looks at some of the research into its effectiveness.
What Is Arnica?
Arnica comes from the sub-alpine regions of western North America. It can also be found in arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America.
Arnica plants have long, downy leaves. Their flowers are daisy-like. They are bright yellow or orange and between 2 and 3 inches wide.
The anti-inflammatory ingredient in arnica is called helenalin . This compound is very toxic when consumed. It can also irritate the skin if it is not diluted.
Arnica is often sold as an over-the-counter (OTC) topical ointment, gel, or cream. It is also sold as a homeopathic topical application or oral pellet. Homeopathic remedies are highly diluted.
Other forms include:
- Oral supplements
- Aromatherapy oil
- Dried “wild-crafted” herb
Arnica is an herb believed to help relieve pain. It is available in topical and oral forms. It is very toxic if not diluted.
What Is Arnica Used For?
Arnica is commonly used in alternative medicine. It is claimed to treat:
- Pain or muscle soreness or aching joints
The plant can be toxic. Because of this, it is most often used in a homeopathic form. Homeopathic products contain very small amounts of an active ingredient.
Arnica is sold by homeopathic drug makers. It is used for a number of conditions, including:
There is limited evidence to support arnica’s use in treating any condition. This does not necessarily mean it does not have benefits. It just means that clinical studies have so far been small and poorly designed. Many have contradictory findings.
Talk with a doctor before deciding if arnica is a safe option for you.
Arnica is used to treat a number of conditions, including arthritis and muscle soreness. To date, there is little evidence to support its use.
Osteoarthritis is often referred to as “wear-and-tear” arthritis. In this condition, the cartilage that protects the joints wears down over time. It is often treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Arnica is thought by some to be a safe, natural alternative to NSAIDs.
In a 2013 review, Australian researchers looked at seven trials on topical herbal remedies for osteoarthritis.
Arnica gel appeared to work nearly as well as Advil (ibuprofen). Benefits included reducing pain and improving joint function in people with hand osteoarthritis.
However, 13% of those who used arnica gel had side effects. This is compared to 8% of Advil users. Some even reported an increase in joint stiffness and pain.
Post-Surgical Pain and Bruising
Proponents of arnica think it can reduce bruising and swelling after surgery. For this use, it is either applied topically or taken as an oral supplement.
A 2016 review suggested that the arnica species A. montana was a “valid alternative” to NSAIDs in treating:
- Post-operative pain or swelling or bruising
Reviewers did state, though, that the results varied based on formulation and dosage.
Another review concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to support the use of oral or topical arnica for swelling or bruising after surgery.
Muscle pain is also called myalgia. It is associated with a wide range of medical conditions. It can also happen after simple overuse of the muscles.
Most studies on arnica have focused on post-exercise muscle pain. Arnica has long been used for this purpose in sports supplements. Even so, there is little evidence to support its use.
One review of studies strongly endorsed the combined use of oral and topical arnica for muscle injuries.
The authors came to this conclusion even though four studies in the review found no benefits compared to a placebo. A placebo is a substance that contains no active ingredients.
Possible Side Effects
Arnica is known to cause side effects. This is true even when used in very diluted topical ointments or creams. More serious side effects can occur with oral forms.
In less-diluted formulas, arnica may cause a mild allergic reaction. This happens most often in people allergic to plants of the Asteraceae family. These plants include:
Arnica can also trigger increases in blood pressure and heart rate. This is more likely if used in excess or on broken skin.
More of the active ingredient can be absorbed through broken skin. On broken skin, arnica may also cause stinging.
Most homeopathic arnica remedies are very diluted. These are generally considered safe. Some forms, though, may contain detectable amounts of helenalin. These forms have health risks.
When taken by mouth, helenalin can cause:
- Mouth and throat irritation
- Stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
Avoid oral preparations containing pure arnica. These are more likely to cause symptoms. They can also damage the heart and increase the risk of organ failure, coma, and death.
Contraindications and Interactions
In theory, arnica could slow blood clotting. Use of any non-homeopathic arnica should be discontinued two weeks before surgery. This will reduce the risk of postoperative bleeding.
Avoid arnica if you are taking blood-thinning drugs. The combination could increase your risk of bleeding and bruising.
These drugs include:
Little is known about the safety of arnica during pregnancy. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, ask your doctor before using arnica in any form.
Arnica may interact with other drugs. Avoid using it if you are taking blood-thinning medication.
Verywell / Anastasiia Tretiak
Selection, Preparation, and Storage
Arnica montana is the species most often used for medical purposes. Chamissonis, A. longifolia, and A. gracilis are also sometimes used.
Most OTC arnica is very diluted. This results in gels, ointments, and extracts with little to no helenalin. This is also true for arnica powders, capsules, and other oral forms.
When purchasing arnica, look for brands that have been tested by an independent certifying body, such as:
- U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP)
- NSF International
This way, you can be sure the product label is accurate. You will also be able to tell if there is any helenalin in the product.
Also make sure the Latin name of the arnica species (such as Arnica montana) is on the product label. Be wary of any product that claims to contain “pure arnica.”
Never buy dried wild-crafted arnica. Don’t grow fresh arnica and use it to make teas or tonics. There is no way to safely dose arnica at home. Your exposure to helenalin is likely to be excessive, if not dangerous.
Most arnica preparations can be stored at room temperature. As a general rule, store them in their original containers. Keep them away from direct sunlight.
Never use more than the dose listed on the product label. Discard any arnica that is past its expiration date.
Arnica is an herb commonly used to treat pain. There is limited evidence to support its use.
Arnica is believed to help relieve pain associated with arthritis and muscle soreness. It is also used to treat post-surgical swelling and bruising. It is available in topical and oral forms.
When it is undiluted, arnica may cause side effects like nausea, rapid heart rate, and bruising or bleeding. It may also interact with blood-thinning drugs.
Always ask a doctor before using any natural remedy. Look for arnica that is diluted and has been tested by a third party.
A Word From Verywell
Herbal remedies aren’t subject to the same regulatory standards as pharmaceutical drugs. Be cautious when using any such product. Always ask your doctor before trying any of these remedies.
Remember that even natural products can be dangerous. They may cause unwanted side effects or interact with other drugs or supplements.
Frequently Asked Questions
There is some evidence that topical arnica can treat inflammation related to osteoarthritis and swelling from injuries.
Oral arnica products have potentially toxic side effects. While some highly diluted homeopathic products may be safe, it’s best to ask your doctor before taking pills, tablets, tinctures, or oils.
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CBD Oil as a Muscle Relaxant
Muscle spasms can happen for a variety of reasons. Spasms can occur while working out, resting or in the middle of the night (depending on the cause). They can last between a couple seconds and all the way up to 15 minutes or more. They can also recur several times before subsiding. Could CBD oil, as a muscle relaxant, help reduce or even prevent the pain associated with muscle spasms?
Even in our modern times, cannabidiol oil for muscle spasms has a degree of misconception associated with its role. The differences between cannabidiol oil for muscle spasms and prescription painkillers requires strict adherence to safety protocols to avoid addiction and overdose. Research has concluded that cannabidiol oil for muscle spasms can often be taken in high doses (up to 1,500 mg/day of cannabidiol oil for muscle spasms).
The CDC reports a continuing rise in synthetic-opioid-related overdoses and this is projected to continue growing. One potential alternative involves using cannabidiol oil for muscle spasms to begin lowering overdose rates and increase the level of relief experienced. Using CBD oil as a muscle relaxant might be a safer option.
One study says muscle spasms are quite common and estimates approximately 95% of people will have to deal with a muscle spasm in their lifetime. They’re more common in adults and have a tendency to increase in frequency with age. However, children can also have muscle spasms.
What are muscle spasms?
Muscle spasms, also commonly known as cramps, are unexpected (often violent) spontaneous contractions of a single muscle or a specific group of muscles. These involuntary contractions often happen instantly, and then leave just as fast. But muscle spasms are more than a simple “twitching” of a muscle and are usually very painful.
Humans have three different “types” of muscles in the body including:
Heart muscle (pumps blood).
Skeletal muscles (moves body parts; back, arms, legs, etc).
Smooth muscles (Throat and intestine muscles).
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What causes muscle spasms?
The causes of muscles spasms vary and each episode involves environmental factors and specific muscles.
Muscle spasms can arise due to injury, overuse, or simply because of tiredness. Overstretching or holding a muscle in one spot for too long can be a contributing factor. In essence, a muscle spasm is a result of the muscle cells running low on energy and fluids. Muscle cells need proper amounts of water (H2O), glucose (sugar), sodium (salt), potassium, calcium and magnesium to function.
Other causes of muscle spasms include
Intense physical activities (in hot climates).
Heat exposure (heat cramps).
Daily routine tasks.
Depletion of electrolytes.
Atherosclerosis (arteries narrowing).
What’s good for muscle spasms
Most muscle spasms will stop if you can “stretch” the muscle. Prevention is the key to reducing occurrences.
Muscle-spasm prevention involves:
Proper nutrition and hydration.
Exercising safely (proper stretching before activity).
Ergonomics (fixing your posture).
Natural remedies that can help muscle spasms include:
Essential oils (Peppermint & lemongrass).
CBD oil (Cannabidiol oil for muscle spasms).
Muscle spasms in the upper back
Upper-back muscle spasms involve the “rhomboid” muscle group that connects your spine to the inner edge of your shoulder blades. Rhomboid muscle spasms are most commonly a result of the overuse of your arm and shoulder.
Common activities causing upper-back muscle spasms include:
Arm and shoulder movement that goes over the head. (Overhead movements such as playing tennis or reaching up towards high shelves).
Holding a heavy backpack (on one shoulder).
Muscle spasms in the lower back
Muscle spasms in the lower back occur when the muscles tense up and contract involuntarily as a result of damage to tendons and ligaments.
Causes of muscle spasms in the lower back include:
Nerve compressions (pinched nerve).
Muscle spasms in the shoulder
Many factors contribute to muscle spasms in the shoulder areas; either the left, right or a combination. The most common causes of muscle spasms in the shoulder are strenuous activity in which the shoulder muscles are overworked.
The contributing factors to muscle spasms in the shoulder involve:
Cramped sleeping positions.
Bunched shoulders from too much desk sitting.
Overstretching towards things “just” out of reach.
Muscle spasms in the chest
Muscle spasms in the chest can occur for numerous reasons. Research suggests that there are several disorders causing chest pain. Making sure chest pain is not heart related must be ruled out first because it can be the most life threatening. The two other types of chest pain have muscular skeletal and lung causes.
Muscle spasms in the chest are most commonly due to muscular skeletal sources.
Muscle spasms in the arm
Isolated muscle spasms in the arm are very common and are caused by fatigue or over exerting certain muscles. Most causes are due to daily lifestyle activities (or a lack of activity).
Other minor causes of muscles spasms in the arm can include:
Lactic acid build up in the muscles during exercise.
Over consumption of caffeine or other stimulants.
Nutrient deficiencies (Vitamin D, Vitamin B and calcium).
A reaction to pharmaceuticals (corticosteroids, estrogen pills, etc.).
Stress and anxiety.
Muscle spasms in the leg
Research suggests that muscle spasms in the leg can happen to anyone at any time. Preventing muscle spasms in the leg could be as simple as proper eating (food with vitamins, magnesium and calcium), staying hydrated and thorough stretching before physical activities. Most leg cramps will stop within minutes and consulting the doctor is recommended if muscle spasms in the leg happen frequently.
Causes of muscle spasms in the leg include:
A lack of stretching before activities.
Nutrient deficiencies (magnesium and potassium).
Side effects of certain drugs.
What can I take for muscle spasms?
WebMD reveals a long list of common pharmaceutical medications that you could consider taking to treat muscle spasms. Each of the drugs listed includes user reviews.
Home remedies can be an excellent option if you are not ready for over-the-counter or prescription drugs.
Common home treatments for muscle spasms include:
Application of heat and cold.
Calcium and magnesium supplements.
Relaxing the affected muscle.
Soaking in hot or cold water.
Cannabidiol oil for muscle spasms is an effective treatment. Using Cannabidiol oil for muscle spasms has the primary function of restoring the balance to your body. Once your body is in proper homeostasis (balance), it is able to heal itself better. CBD (cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid (from plants) and stimulates the ECS (EndoCannabinoid System) to keep it robust and balanced.
Best cannabidiol oil for treating muscle spasms
Pharmahemp carries CBD products that are extracted from organic hemp. CBD extractions utilize an advanced (gentle) CO2technology that preserves the hemp’s raw purity. All Pharmahemp products are guaranteed high quality and are tested and analyzed by independent (third-party) labs.
The best recommended cannabidiol oil for muscle spasms is Pharmahemp’s (5%) CBD oil drops.
How much cannabidiol oil should I take for muscle spasms?
The recommended amount of cannabidiol oil for muscle spasms is to begin with 1-2 drops per day. If further relief is desired, increase the amount by adding 1-2 drops (every 1-2 weeks) until the results are achieved.