Arnica for Kids — How Effective is Arnica for Bumps and Bruises?
The other week I was working in the emergency department when a mom told me that she was using arnica to treat her child’s bruise. I have to confess that prior to this interaction, I had never used arnica myself or heard of its use in the pediatric population.
Arnica montana is a medicinal herb that has been described as an anti- inflammatory agent. It is thought to relieve swelling and inflammation from bruises, fractures, and even insect bites. Arnica can be taken orally or applied on the skin. Arnica taken by mouth can be dangerous. Ingestion has been associated with vomiting, diarrhea, and even internal bleeding. Arnica can interact with medications for hypertension and blood thinners. Arnica is not recommended for women who are pregnant.
Homeopathic arnica is an extremely dilute form of arnica that is reported as safe for oral consumption. Homeopathic arnica has been commonly recommended for use in improving muscle soreness. But how effective is homeopathic arnica?
A systematic review in 1998 of 8 clinical trials looking at homeopathic arnica use did not show any improvement over placebo. Additional later studies substantiate these findings. And one study reported INCREASED muscle pain after arnica ingestion.
Sohow effective is arnica? Conclusion – homeopathic arnica does not appear to improve muscle soreness in adults.
How about topical arnica? It has been suggested that topical arnica can hasten the healing of bruises. A lengthy literature search produced two conflicting studies. One study examines arnica’s effects on bruises generated by pulse-dye laser. This randomized trial shows no difference in resolution of bruising between control and arnica gel treated patients.
A more recent study published in 2010 shows that application of a 20% arnica gel to laser-induced bruises resulted in a statistically significant improvement in bruising resolution indicating that topical arnica may be effective in more concentrated formulations.
Conclusion – topical arnica may hasten resolution of bruising. More studies need to be performed before a definitive recommendation can be made.
Finally, I was interested in seeing whether topical or homeopathic arnica for kids had been studied. There are no pediatric clinical trials with arnica. The use of arnica cannot be recommended for children.
Ernst, E. Pittler, M.H.”Efficacy of Homeopathic Arnica” Arch Surg. Vol. 133, Nov. 1998
Vickers, A., Fisher, P. et al. “Homeopathic Arnica 30X is Ineffective for Muscle Soreness After Long Distance Running: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial”. Clin J. of Pain. Vol. 14, Sept. 1998
Adkinson A., Bauer, D. “The Effect of Topical Arnica on Muscle Pain”. Ann Pharmacotherapy, Vol. 44, Oct. 2010
Alonso, D., Lazarus, M. “Effects of Topical Arnica Gel on Post-Laser Treatment Bruises”.Derm Surg.Vol.28. Aug.2002.
Leu, S., Havey, J. “Accelerated resolution of laser-induced bruising with topical 20% arnica: a rater-blinded randomized controlled trial”. British J. Derm. Vol.163, 2010.
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