Arnica oil benefits skin and muscles, and is a main staple in our home. Definitely one that you’ll want in your first aid kit for bumps, bruises and more!
The phrase put some arnica on it has become the natural health world’s version of rub some dirt on it. Arnica is typically referred to in this one-word-term fashion and used as a catch all for bumps and bruises. But what exactly is everyone talking about, and what does it do? What arnica oil uses are the most beneficial?
Types of Arnica
Before we can even talk about arnica oil, it’s important to know what the term “arnica” might refer to. One person’s arnica oil is another’s arnica homeopathic remedy; the two are vastly different but may both be referred to simply as arnica. On top of that, they are all derived from Arnica Montana, so even the Latin name isn’t enough to distinguish the difference.
Arnica homeopathic remedy is an internal caplet that dissolves in your mouth. Homeopathic remedies are made of an incredibly diluted substance – so much that it’s sometimes considered to be just the essence of the substance. The premise is that they can be taken for effects that are similar to the ailment, triggering the body to deal with the ailment on its own. So, an inflammatory substance would be used for inflammation.
In the case of arnica, the toxic effects of the herbal matter are diluted and reduced to a homeopathic substance that is safe for ingestion and used to stimulate the body to heal not only bruising but internal ailments. (1)
Infused or Extracted Arnica Oil Benefits
While arnica homeopathic remedies are safe for internal use due to their incredibly reduced preparation (not feasible at home – you must buy it!), the herbal matter is not. No matter, though; arnica has plenty of uses without the need to ingest it.
The most common use of arnica herbal matter is in an infused or extracted oil. Often used as a carrier oil or to make compresses, arnica oil uses are safe for wounds that did not break the skin.
CO2 Arnica Oil Uses
A relatively new preparation that is gaining traction, some sources provide an arnica aromatic extract that uses carbon dioxide as the solvent for extraction, like some of the vanilla oil available today. Carbon dioxide extraction is able to extract constituents from the plant that the steam distillation typical to essential oils cannot, usually due to a delicate nature.
Because it’s not technically an essential oil, the end product is different – usually thicker, almost solid like a resin. However, because of the toxins present in arnica, use should mirror that of the extract. Broken skin and internal use are contraindicated, when applying arnica oil topically. But the thick nature of the extract would make diffusion difficult.
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3 Healing Benefits of Arnica Oil
Homeopathy is an intriguing field, but today, we’ll focus on the benefits of arnica oil uses – whether extracted traditionally or via CO2 extraction.
Arnica oil work well as a carrier for other soothing and healing essential oils, like geranium and lavender, and can be blended to apply to bumps and bruises for faster healing. If you find the thick extracts difficult to work with, a pre-diluted mix with a quality carrier oil is usually easier to use in a hurry.
1. Soothing Benefits of Arnica Oil
The primary use for arnica oil is that of healing wounds (when they are closed). But healing comes in many forms and can be pursued in many ways. Moms who keep arnica on hand for a kiddo’s bump on the head may also share the arnica oil benefits with their own moms who are recovering from surgery.
A very recent study (2016) tracked the use of arnica oil uses in a post-operative setting. While the oil would not have been used on the open incision site, it was found useful for “post-traumatic and postoperative pain, edema, and ecchymosis.” (2)
We all need soothing at some point or another, even if we do seem to be beyond the trips and falls of childhood. One of the main arnica oil uses is keeping it on hand can provide a quick remedy for swelling, inflammation, and pain.
2. Skin Healing
As a topical treatment, we expect arnica oil to seep down into the skin, be used and detoxified on its way through, and ultimately have an effect on the body by way of skin barrier. On its way through, however, there are other arnica oil uses and actions than simple pain relief occurring.
An evaluation of the actions of arnica oil uses in this in vitro study revealed antioxidant capabilities supporting traditional use of arnica “in treatment of skin disorders.” (3) Why the connection? Antioxidants repair damage on a cellular level, so the relief you feel after using arnica isn’t just numbing or relaxation. It’s actual healing from the cells out.
3. Restore Muscles and Relieve Pain
Another aspect of pain relief from arnica oil takes us to post-workout times, when you’ve tested your body and are now resting in the fruits of your efforts. Stiff, uncomfortable, even painful fruits of your efforts.
While nothing can give us complete relief from that post-workout ache any more than something could magically boost athletic performance, arnica’ restorative effects of the arnica oil uses can help to take the edge off.
This was demonstrated in a double blind trial using arnica gel. After an intense workout and in the days that followed, participants applied their gel (some placebo, some arnica) to sore quadriceps. Best results followed in the immediate few days after a workout, when the body is restoring and repairing itself. (4)
Making or Sourcing Arnica Oil
Arnica oil, used properly, is one of the most important tools for our healing essential oil first aid kits. Because it’s commonly used as an extract, the temptation to make your own infused or extracted oil exists. While this isn’t impossible, I personally don’t recommend it.
Because of the unstable nature of the oil when prepared or used improperly, the typical home methods of extraction and infusion seem ill advised.
Extracts can be readily purchased through any herbal supplier, and they make excellent carrier oils for other healing essential oils. Check up on the brands your store has available and only choose reputable, high quality companies.
I personally prefer the CO2 essential oil extraction route. Why? Because it’s easy to integrate into my essential oil uses, and because it has a more consistent composition than traditional extracts.
Remember to dilute the CO2 arnica essential oil heavily – my favorite source suggests .5-1% or less – and avoid internal use, broken skin, and diffusion or inhalation.