Does Arnica Really Work?
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:
- 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.
- The principle of the single remedy – a single medicine should treat all the symptoms the patient is experiencing.
- 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:
- The webpage of Dr. Andrew Weil – he is pretty open to nontraditional forms of medicine.
- The National Institutes of Health webpage on alternative medicine, which gives a more science-based viewpoint.
Do you have any experience with homeopathic medicine? We would love to hear from you!