Arnica is a powerful herbal medicine that has been used for centuries to heal bruises and inflammation. Dosage is key when it comes to the use of arnica as a healing aid. The most important thing to remember is never to ingest any form of preparation made with arnica, with the exception of homeopathic pills. Topically, arnica is safe if correctly diluted with water or oil.
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Arnica poisoning may cause irreversible damage to your health and in extreme cases coma or death. Do not use arnica without consulting your doctor.
Arnica is an herbaceous perennial plant native to central Europe. The basal leaves are smooth and clustered and the stem is round and hairy with opposite-toothed leaves. The plant can reach a height of up to 2 feet and it usually has three yellow flower stalks.
Mostly the flowers and sometimes the roots are harvested for medicine. According to the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension, the entire plant is toxic if ingested and less so when applied topically.
Toxic Constituents and Symptoms
Helanin present in arnica is cardiac-toxic and may cause severe gastroenteritis. Symptoms of arnica intoxication include irritation of the mucus membranes, diarrhea, fever, nausea, dizziness, arrhythmia, paralysis of cardiac and skeletal muscles, abnormal pulse rate and abortion when pregnant. Arnica can also cause skin reactions that include necrosis and dermatitis.
If you suspect arnica poisoning, call your local Poison Control Center immediately or the fastest emergency service available. Inducing vomiting in order to eliminate a percentage of the poison ingested is also recommended, although in many cases it is too late if the arnica was taken as a tincture or has already been digested.
Take a couple of activated charcoal capsules if you have them available while you are waiting for professional help. Activated charcoal binds to poison and delays it from harming your body.
For skin irritations, wash the area with soap and water and coat it with aloe until the irritation disappears. Avoid all future contact with arnica.
How to Avoid Arnica Poisoning
Follow the correct dosages in order to avoid poisoning. When taken correctly, arnica can be a healing agent.
Safe dosages are as follows: for washes, dilute arnica tincture with three to five parts water. You can use arnica tincture as a mouthwash if you are seeking to relieve inflammation caused by canker soars, but the tincture must be diluted with 10 parts water and never swallowed. If you want to make an arnica oil or salve, add a maximum of 25 percent arnica tincture and mix it in with the ointment or carrier oil.
Never take arnica internally unless it is in a homeopathic preparation. Homeopathic arnica is safe to use with children, pregnant women, adults and seniors.
Arnica for Healing
In the dosages mentioned, arnica helps heal bruising of the skin and muscles and its active constituents are effective anti-inflammatory agents. It also has analgesic qualities that help relieve arthritic pain. Make sure there is no rupture in the skin where you are applying the arnica salve, it must not get into your bloodstream.