Does Arnica Really Work?

Patients often want the least downtime possible after cosmetic procedures.  Bruising can be a dead giveaway that you’ve had something done, and unfortunately bruising is very common after both surgical and nonsurgical treatments.  Arnica is a homeopathic remedy that claims to decrease bruising and swelling, and patients frequently ask me if it works.  So today I’m going to give you the lowdown on what exactly Arnica is, and whether or not you should take it.

image taken from wikipedia.com

Image taken from wikipedia.com

Arnica is an herb native to Central Europe, also known as Wolf’s Bane.  As I mentioned before, arnica is actually a homeopathic remedy, which is a type of alternative medicine founded in Germany nearly 200 years ago.  Homeopathic medicine is based on three principles:

  1. The law of similars (also known as “like cures like”). – A disease is cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people.  Thus if you are trying to treat a symptom of bruising, you want a medication that causes bruising, which arnica does when taken in large doses.
  2. The principle of the single remedy – a single medicine should treat all the symptoms the patient is experiencing.
  3. The principle of  the minimum dose –  theory is that the lower the dose of a medication, the greater its effectiveness. Thus in many homeopathic medicines no trace of the original substance actually remains.

Homeopathic medications are monitored by the FDA for the way they are marketed; if they meet certain requirements, they can be sold without proof of either safety or effectiveness (in contrast to traditional medications, which must be proven both safe and effective prior to being approved).  Homeopathic arnica is considered safe, but arnica in higher doses can cause serious complications such as bleeding, heart arrhythmias, or even death.  Numerous studies have looked at the effectiveness of homeopathic arnica, but data are conflicting.  Some studies show reduction in swelling, pain or bruising.  Other studies show no difference.

The bottom line: it is probably safe to take homeopathic arnica provided by a physician, but it may or may not help reduce bruising and swelling.

If you would like to read more about homeopathic medicine, check out the links below:

Do you have any experience with homeopathic medicine?  We would love to hear from you!

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Disclaimer: This webpage is for general information only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical illness, or give any specific medical advice. Because medical knowlege is constantly evolving, I cannot guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of any information in this blog.

Questions? I'll do my best to answer any questions left in the comments!