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Herbs for Health - Arnica

Spending a lot of time at a desk or in front of a computer can leave you with a lot of aches and pains to deal with – my bad posture when sitting has definitely taken its toll. That’s why this month’s herb for health is arnica, the only thing that’s managed to soothe my crippling shoulder pain!

Arnica is a pretty flower, reminiscent of a daisy, belonging to the Asteracae family. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘leopard’s bane’ and ‘mountain tobacco’. It grows in Europe, Asia and the US and has a huge number of beneficial effects, having been used in medicine since the 1600s. Applied to the skin, it can be incredible for pain relief and swelling – whether caused by strain, sprain, arthritis, cartilage pain or even bruising. An arnica gel applied to the skin immediately after a bump or fall will reduce bruising, pain and swelling. It makes fantastic massage oil for sports injuries, or just to relieve pain from aching muscles such as those caused by bad posture. It can also be applied to the skin for insect bites and acne – where it’s anti-inflammatory properties will significantly reduce redness. Arnica is also used in hair tonics and anti-dandruff preparations; applied to your scalp it can help increase local blood circulation, which promotes hair growth. Mouth rinses containing arnica are often used to soothe sore gums, mouth or throat – particularly after the removal of wisdom teeth.

Though arnica is used in minimal amounts as a flavour ingredient in drinks, frozen desserts, gelatines and puddings, it is very important never to digest pure arnica. It can cause abortions, heart irregularities, nervous disturbances, dizziness, tremors, weakness and vomiting. It is said that Goethe, German poet and philosopher, consumed arnica tea to relieve chest pain and it used to be common practice to smoke the leaves of arnica plants (hence the name mountain tobacco), but it’s best to stick to topical uses to avoid accidental poisoning! It is also very important not to apply arnica to broken skin or open wounds, so as to avoid its entry to the bloodstream. People who are allergic to sunflowers, marigolds, daisies or chrysanthemums should be wary of using arnica, as it is part of the same family of plants.

*This article is intended for interest only – use of herbs given are traditional and do not reflect the herbs efficacy. It is not intended, nor should be taken as medical advice. If you have a medical condition please consult a qualified health professional prior to using any herbal preparation. Although the facts have been checked carefully, we cannot guarantee the reliability of information provided. Essential oils should not be used on children or vulnerable adults (elderly, breast feeding or ill) or during pregnancy. Some essential oils and herbs can be toxic, whether taken internally or used on the skin – your health care professional will advise.

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