Continuing from last week, we were discussing what different forms arnica can be used in. Personally my preference is using a tincture.
We can use tinctures topically. The helenalin in the tincture will help it absorb quickly and the alcohol quickly evaporates off. It is hard to recommend how much tincture should be applied because it can be spread over a large or small area of the body. When arnica tinctures are put into a cream. Studies have showed that the best effects are found with creams that are 8-20% arnica range. This would be equivalent to using a 1:5 or a 1:10 tincture on the skin as well.
A 20% arnica level is still quite high and can potentially still cause irritation from the reasons listed above. When combined with other herbs and agents to help absorption, a lower percentage of arnica is needed. Personally, I have found 5% to be plenty in most individuals. If you grow arnica at home and want to use a tincture as a liniment this would be a 1:20 alcohol extract to use topically.
Even at this level arnica can cause rashes in some individuals. I once made an arnica jelly, using gelatin, at 40% arnica. I received a rug burn like sensation the more I used this product. This is called a sensitization reaction and it is common with arnica. As the herb is used it causes the body to start to react to it and the body becomes more sensitive to the same amount, needing less over time with arnica. Some herbs a sensitization reaction will mean that you will need more over time, as is common with many drugs.
Arnica does cause other reactions on some individual’s skin as well as this sensitization reaction. Some individuals note an allergic reaction to using a higher strength arnica product. This is not uncommon and is generally attributed to being allergic to all plants in the aster family. If you know you are allergic to plants like chamomile, dandelion, or echinacea you may want to stay away from arnica as well. For some individuals this means if you get bad seasonal allergies from pollen you may also want to avoid arnica. For others, pollen allergies do not stretch to preventing topical use of arnica.
Regardless of your allergens, arnica should not be used frequently on open wounds either. Modern research is showing that it reduces blood clotting. This may be one of the reasons that doctors tend to recommend using arnica homeopathically prior to surgery but at a full strength it is not recommended before surgery. It would prevent possible bruising but potentially slow the healing process.
Continue to follow our blog for our post next week on arnica as we spend all of May looking in detail at the uses and safety of this amazing herb. Please visit our website and also check out our amazing new FREE Online Herbal Studies Program with our first class ‘Kitchen Medicine’ that is currently being developed.