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Arnica (Arnica montana ([Latin]), also commonly called mountain tobacco or leopard's bane, is a wildflower resembling a daisy that grows in the mountains of Europe and North America. Arnica is commonly used in topical herbal medicines to speed healing from bruises and other traumatic injuries. Arnica is thought to provide the body with pain relief as well as anti-biotic and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Arnica contains sesquiterpene lactones, substances that are known to reduce inflammation and decrease pain. Arnica prevents bruising by keeping stimulating the white blood cells to disperse trapped blood and fluid from the site of injury. Arnica’s effectiveness as a treatment for bruising, sports injuries, and inflammation is well established and many commercial creams used for treatment of pain, bruising, and swelling contain arnica as an active ingredient. Arnica creams are also used to treat pain and inflammation resulting from carpel tunnel syndrome and arthritis.

Arnica can also be used externally to treat tired, overstressed muscles. One study performed in Norway showed that marathon runners who applied arnica to their skin before the event experienced less pain and stiffness afterward. Arnica is a relaxing addition to the bath, and has been shown to be particularly helpful for soaking tired, aching feet.

Arnica’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect may be of some benefit to those with inflammatory skin disorders. This herb is traditionally used as a topical treatment for burns, eczema, and acne. However, arnica should not be applied to an open wound, as it could cause painful irritation.

Arnica is seldom used internally, because it is irritating to the stomach, and can be poisonous if consumed in large amounts. Signs of arnica toxicity include vomiting, weakness, increased heart rate and nervous disturbances.

However, an arnica tincture is sometimes recommended by homeopathic practitioners to treat motion sickness and seizure disorders (of course, if you have a seizure disorder you should be under a doctor’s care, and consult your physician before taking any supplementation, including arnica).

Arnica is known to stimulate blood circulation and can raise blood pressure, especially in the coronary arteries. People with high blood pressure or heart disease should consult a physician before using arnica.

Topical forms of arnica are generally rubbed on the skin at the site of pain or injury. Arnica salves are available for treatment of chapped lips and skin, eczema, and acne. You can also purchase tinctures or even dried arnica flowers—add them to a relaxing bath for relief of tight, tired muscles and sore feet at the end of the day.

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