This week we are wrapping up with arnica. I am glad we have had this chance to discuss the varied different aspects of arnica from it’s challenges with extraction, strength, safety, and navigating both the internal and topical uses of arnica. This final week we are looking at some of the more obscure uses of arnica and where research on this amazing plant is going from here.
I want to first let you all know about a super amazing thing that is happening. While we skipped talking about how the molecules in arnica work we can do that another time. I do want to let you know briefly that the main molecule in arnica, helenalin, has it’s anti-inflammatory action in the body by killing T-cells. This unique method is now being researched for use in cancer treatments. It is being studied to be injected directly into tumor cells in hopes that the novel way that arnica targets only one cell type for destruction can be used to target tumor cells while leaving healthy tissue alone. It will be some time before this research determines any valuable answers.
Older uses of arnica are being brought back into the light and looked at for new treatment mechanisms. Arnica had been used towards the end of the 19th century as a sedative for the central nervous system in times of concussions and hemorrhages, freeing the body to heal. It’s action on the nervous system also has been used for depression and ‘low muttering delirium.’ In the digestive system it can also cause the nerves of the stomach, intestines, and bladder. While these traditional uses have not been studied in many generations they are worth considering.
Modern research has shown us how effective arnica is on the musculoskeletal system, relieving pain from a variety of causes. It should also be considered for it’s traditional uses for the circulatory system. It’s poisonous effects often show up in the circulatory system but as such it can be used for similar challenges. Arnica raises pressure in the arteries and could there be supportive for individuals with weak circulation and anemia symptoms. Traditionally it was also used for the respiratory system with weak breathing to quicken the pulse and promote increased breathing.
More research is now being done on arnica as an anti-asthmatic agent. It acts similarly to salbutamol, an anti-asthmatic bronchodialator drug. Research is suggesting that arnica increases histamines and acetylcholene which encourage relaxation of tracheal smooth muscle. Other studies are looking at using arnica for Alzheimer’s Disease treatments. Arnica chamissonis is being used for these studies due to it’s inhibition of acetylcholinesterases (AChE) involved in the nervous impulse signaling. The terpenes of arnica are being studied here but it is not yet known if they are effective or not in this manner.
There is a lot of promising research for taking arnica internally but it will still be some time before the scientific community will be ready to prescribe it for cancer treatments and asthma. At this time, additional research on internal dosages is needed. While traditional herbalists had a clear image of their internal doses to avoid the known consequence of death, today’s researched preparations are more uniform and it is hard to know what we can compare to from traditional literature. As for topical application, watching for sensitivity is all that is needed. If it is carefully observed, arnica treatment can be stopped with no lasting skin damage from topical application.
I hope this series has encouraged you to learn more about arnica for yourself and see if it appropriate for use in your life. If you are looking for more guidance on how you can use arnica and other herbs to encourage a healthy lifestyle for yourself you can consider a consultation with The Dancing Herbalist. We will be continuing to offer high quality topical herbal products in addition to our FREE Online Herbal Program which I hope you will look at and consider donating so we can keep growing the program. Feel free to contact us with any questions and I look forward to hearing from you.