The Betterment Project

Arnica Gel: What It Is and How It Works

The flowering plant that is the source of arnica is known by many names — wolf’s bane, mountain tobacco, leopard’s bane, and mountain arnica, among others. It’s widely distributed as well, native to both central Europe and Russia, and is a common sight in high mountain meadows. 


Over the years, traditional medicine has found many uses for arnica, but it is particularly prized for its analgesic effects, ability to dull pain, and aid in the healing of bruises and other injuries. Modern alternative and homeopathic medicine practitioners cite the same effects and often recommend balms and gels containing arnica for pain and other conditions. 


How It Works


The underlying cause of the pain and stiffness we feel from a bruise, strain, or sprain is the result of inflammation. This inflammation can present itself in several different ways--bruise marks, redness, and swelling. The active chemicals in arnica are believed to reduce inflammation, directly affecting the cause of pain and speeding the healing process. 


What Are Some of the Uses of Arnica?


The traditional primary use of arnica is in the treatment of injuries like bruises and sprains. But, there are a number of other applications where this natural herb is employed. 

Relieving pain and swelling from an injury
The history of using arnica in injury treatment goes back centuries. Affected areas, such as bruises or strained muscles, are treated with a topical gel or other preparation to reduce swelling and promote the healing process. 


There is plenty of anecdotal evidence and past practice to support this use, and a 2016 review concluded that the application of arnica was effective in reducing pain, swelling, and bruising. 

Relaxes sore muscles
In addition to using arnica for treatment of injuries, massage practitioners will often employ arnica gel to relax the muscles of athletes both before and after hard workouts or events. By keeping muscles limber and keeping low-grade inflammation at bay, their clients are able to train and perform at their highest level consistently.

Relief from joint pain
Those who suffer from occasional joint pain know how debilitating it can be. While there are many treatment options to deal with this unique kind of pain, many seek natural alternatives as a supplement to pain medications. 


Arnica can be used in a variety of topical applications to help temporarily alleviate joint pain. Gels, creams, compresses, liniments, and salves are all options. Oral use isn’t recommended, since oral ingestion of arnica presents potential dangerous side effects. 


A 2007 study indicated that arnica gel was as effective in treating hand pain, and a study in 2002 examining patients with knee pain indicated improvements in range of motion and pain with twice daily arnica gel applications. 

Topical soother for acne
Non-cystic acne and blemishes may see some benefit from topical arnica application. Some authorities recommend a thrice-daily application of arnica gel to reduce the redness and inflammation of these skin irritations. 

Relief from insect bites
Insect bites aren’t only a nuisance, they can take all the pleasure out of an outing. For relief from the itching and swelling of insect bites, steroidal creams are often the first choice. To many, however, an all-natural alternative is appealing.


There are claims that the application of arnica can reduce the inflammation and itching associated with insect bites. A two-fold effect is in action. First, the application of arnica reduces inflammation; second, the treatment aids blood circulation in the area, clearing out the histamines that cause the itching. 

Rejuvenating the skin 
While many proponents of arnica concentrate on its anti-inflammatory properties for healing and pain relief, there are some advocates for its health benefits for your skin as well. They describe a number of compounds in arnica that are good for your skin, including volatile oils, lactones, coumarins, and flavonoids. 


When arnica skincare products are used on a regular basis, the benefits can be skin nourishment, acne healing, and reduction of the appearance of stretch marks. Skincare products with arnica are available in creams, masques, and other forms.  

Arnica Gel or Arnica Cream?


Arnica products are meant to be applied topically, but you’ll find different options in the presentation depending on the other ingredients included in the solution. Arnica gels have the advantage of being able to be applied quickly via a roll-on applicator. They’re fast and easy to use and don’t leave behind a sticky residue — perfect if you’re on the go.


Arnica creams or ointments are a fine choice if you want to massage the product into your skin, and this is typically what masseuses use during massage sessions as well. That’s a great option if you’ve got time at the end of the day to relax and unwind. And if you’ve got a willing partner to work the cream into your muscles, all the better!

Two Great Ways to Enjoy the Benefits of Arnica


You’ve got options when it comes to how you can use arnica for pain relief.


  • Apply topically via a creme or roll-on. One of the biggest uses of Arnica is as a pain reliever and healing agent for bruises, sprains, and just plain aches. They’re a great choice if you need a little extra boost to stay sharp or get back out there. ASYSTEM’s Radical Relief Gel Roll-On is a great example of a multi-ingredient pain relief product that features arnica gel.
  • Enjoy a nice relaxing bath with an arnica boost. There are a number of different bath salts and bath oils made with arnica, so they provide a relaxing way to soak away some pain. 

Cautions and Precautions


Despite its benefits and potential benefits, there are some important precautions that should be taken when you’re considering the use of arnica. 


While arnica is generally very safe for topical application, it’s not recommended to ingest it in any way. 


Arnica contains a toxin, helenalin, that can be poisonous if ingested, so there is a potential danger in the ingestion of more than very dilute amounts of arnica, as is found in some homeopathic medicines. Ingestion of large amounts of arnica or concentrated preparations can result in a number of severe issues, including: 


  • Gastroenteritis
  • Internal bleeding in the digestive tract
  • Liver inflammation
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Nervousness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Death

The side effects on this list are not an issue when using dilute amounts of arnica on the skin, as with a commercially produced gel or other preparation. However, it’s recommended that using arnica on broken skin or open wounds should be avoided. 

Arnica Gel for Effective Relief


Whether your pain is the result of a wipeout on your mountain bike or too many hours hunched over a computer keyboard, you want effective relief. Arnica gels put the pain relief right where you need it, whether it’s a bruised thigh, a strained knee, or stiff typing fingers. Using arnica gels and preparations containing arnica is a safe and all-natural way to get the relief you need, quickly and easily.


Check out ASYSTEM’s full collection of natural pain relief products to get a handle on those everyday aches and pains so you can get back to performing your best!



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