Arnica oil is receiving a lot of attention lately – thanks to its purported anti-inflammatory (and anti-arthritis) properties. It might as well deserve a place in your first-aid kit, given its pain-relieving benefits. The oil is also said to treat bruises and bumps and a lot more. But what does research say?
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How Does Arnica Oil Work?
Most of the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties of arnica oil can be attributed to its thymol content.
Thymol works by dilating blood vessels, further enhancing the transportation of blood and other fluids. This heals inflammation in the body and promotes healing.
Thymol also has antibacterial properties that further help heal infections (1).
The oil kills bacteria and decreases inflammation. Topical arnica might heal bruising as well (2).
Arnica oil is composed of sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids, and volatile oils (3).
This composition makes the oil a powerhouse of benefits. In the following section, we will look at the ways you can benefit from the oil.
How Does Arnica Oil Benefit You?
The anti-inflammatory properties of the oil can offer great relief to people who have arthritis and muscle pains. The oil may also heal bruises and moderate wounds. The anti-inflammatory effects of the oil may aid acne treatment.
1. Aids Arthritis Treatment
The anti-inflammatory properties of arnica are at play here. In one study, topical application of arnica gel was as effective as ibuprofen gel (a popular anti-inflammatory drug) in treating hand osteoarthritis pains (4). Arnica gel was also found to cause fewer side effects.
Another study showed that arnica gel could also be effective in treating osteoarthritis in the knee (5).
2. May Treat Muscle Pain
This may again be attributed to the anti-inflammatory properties of arnica oil. In studies, topical application of arnica had shown the possibility of providing pain relief three days post-eccentric exercise (6).
We need more research in this regard, though.
3. May Help Heal Bruises
Though one study shows arnica to have a positive effect on bruising, it didn’t seem to be any different from conventional analgesic medication (7).
When you are injured, your body sends white blood cells to the site of injury to remove damaged cells and install new ones. Since arnica oil stimulates the transport of white blood cells, it may help treat injuries. The oil can also drain the fluid that is built up – potentially reducing swelling as well.
Arnica oil may also help treat hematoma, which is a swelling of clotted blood within the body’s tissues.
4. Helps Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This is a condition involving numbness in the hand or arm that is caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist. In one study, one group of people who had undergone surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome experienced a great reduction in pain post the application of an arnica ointment (8).
Some sources say that the application of arnica oil in people who have carpal tunnel syndrome may help them avoid surgery altogether. However, we need more research on this.
5. May Treat Acne
Given its anti-inflammatory properties, arnica oil may help treat acne and acne eruptions (9). But we suggest you take extra care before using the oil on acne eruptions. Consult a dermatologist.
6. Can Reduce Hair Loss
Arnica oil is one important ingredient used in most hair tonics and anti-dandruff lotions. Applying diluted arnica oil to your scalp may boost blood circulation and help prevent hair loss.
Regularly massaging with arnica oil can also stimulate hair follicles and boost the growth of new hair.
We don’t have much research on this, however. So, do talk to your hair care expert.
The benefits of arnica oil have to do more with your appearance – i.e., for your skin and hair. But, you don’t have to always head to the nearest health store to buy a bottle of the oil. With a little patience, you can prepare it at your home.
How To Make Arnica Oil At Home
Pure arnica essential oil can be expensive. But making it at home is simple (and saves you money too).
What You Need
- Dried and coarsely ground arnica flowers
- Olive oil
- A bottle
- A mason jar
- Fill the mason jar with the flowers and olive oil. There should be enough oil to cover the flowers completely. You should also leave enough room in the jar for expansion.
- Introduce heat (slow and steady) to the jar over a period of two weeks. You can place the jar under sunlight or inside an oven with the pilot light on.
- You can then strain the oil and pour it into a clean bottle for use.
Quite simple, isn’t it? But there is something else (and more important) about arnica oil that you must know.
How Safe Is Arnica Oil?
What you need to keep in mind with arnica oil is how to use it. It is safe, but only if used topically.
Use the oil only in its diluted form. Dilute the oil with other carrier oils (like grapeseed or almond) in a 3:7 ratio (carrier oil:arnica oil). Also, ensure you don’t apply the oil to broken skin or open wounds.
Do not ingest or inhale the oil – definitely not without the supervision of an expert dealing with essential oils. Ingesting the oil can cause serious side effects.
What Are The Side Effects Of Arnica Oil?
Ingestion of arnica oil can be toxic. It can cause the following side effects:
- Increased heart rate and other heart irregularities (10)
- Nervous disturbances and muscle weakness (11)
- Irritation of the mucous membranes and the gastrointestinal layer
- Dizziness, weakness, tremors, and vomiting
- Skin irritation, eczema, and blisters (if used on the skin for long periods – talk to your doctor)
- Interactions with medications that slow blood clotting, including anticoagulant and anti-platelet drugs. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, warfarin, and heparin (12)
Pregnant and lactating women and children must stay away from arnica oil – both topically and otherwise.
Arnica oil has great benefits for arthritic inflammation and pain and may also benefit the skin and hair. All you need to remember is not to inhale or ingest it – and you are good to go. Yes, more research is warranted – but you can start using the oil and reap the benefits!
Have you used arnica oil before? What was your experience? Why don’t you share with us by leaving a comment in the box below?
- “Anti-inflammatory activity of thymol…” Pharmacology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Arnica” Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
- “Arnica” ScienceDirect.
- “Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical…” Rheumatology International.
- “Arnica montana gel in osteoarthritis…” Advances in Therapy, US National Library of Medicine.
- “The effects of topical arnica on performance…” European Journal of Sport Science, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Homeopathic arnica for prevention…” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
- “Use of arnica to relieve pain after…” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Herbal treatment for dermatologic disorders” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- “Nine supplements to avoid” Arthritis Foundation.
- “Abstracts of the 2009 North American…” Clinical Toxicology.
- “Potential interactions between alternative…” American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, US National Library of Medicine.
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