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What is arnica?
Arnica, also called Arnica montana, is a plant that is native to the mountainous regions of Europe and southern Russia. The flowers and leaves of this plant have many traditional medicinal uses.
Arnica is available as an ointment or gel and can be found in most health food stores.
What is it used for?
People use arnica as a cream or gel for soothing muscle aches and inflammations and healing wounds. When applied to the skin, it may improve healing by decreasing swelling and pain and speeding blood reabsorption.
People also apply arnica to the skin for treatment of acne, boils, and rashes.
Is it safe?
Arnica is recommended for external use only. Do not put arnica inside your mouth or swallow it. The plant is poisonous and, if swallowed, it can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, cardiac arrest, and death.
Do not use arnica if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Do not use it on open wounds or broken skin. Stop using arnica if you develop a skin rash.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate arnica in the same way it regulates medicine. It can be sold with limited or no research on how well it works or on its safety.
Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative product or if you are thinking about combining one with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative product.
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Current as ofMay 22, 2015
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