Arnica for Bruising and Pain Relief

December 1, 2011 Caroleeena HoopingPoiUncategorized

Arnica Acaulis Plant

Hooping comes with the occasional bruise. I am a big advocate for using topical Arnica cream to treat bruises. It is a homeopathic remedy that can be traced back to many Native American Indian tribes here in the United States but has even been found among the medicines of the Ancient Egyptians. It is now available in health food stores and many grocery stores and drug stores too. Even some massage lotions and oils have arnica in them now.

Arnica is made from an herb my grandmother used to call Mountain Tobacco. It’s a low growing ground plant with big furry 24-inch leaves that produces bright yellow flowers that look like daisies from June to August. It grows all over the mountains and piedmont of North Carolina. She and her grandmothers before her used it to make tinctures and lotions and, for very bad injuries, even poultices. For poultices, they would split the leaf in half and lay it on the injured area. If the injury was very bad, they would tape it there letting it serve as both bandage and pain reliever. More often, though, it was used as a tincture (for taking orally) or a lotion (for applying topically, which is how I use it). It heals bruises very quickly and provides pain relief as well. It has also been used topically to relieve sprains, strains and joint pains, including arthritis, to alleviate sore throats and to treat insect bites. Native Americans even used it to treat hair loss!

Some of the active components of arnica, such as a compound called helenalin, can reduce inflammation. It also contains five thymol derivatives, which are now known to kill bacteria and fungi. It also has some narcotic properties that seem to be related to its ability to treat pain.

I didn’t learn all this until I’d gotten turned on to Arnica in completely different way. My sister-in-love, Brenda, who is massage therapist, had given me a tube of Arnica lotion and raved about it as a treatment for bruising, muscle ache and even connective tissue injury. I put it in my medicine cabinet and promptly forgot about it. Then, sometime in the next few months, I was involved in a car accident. My air bag deployed hitting me right in the face and left a huge bruise on the whole lower right hand side of my face and part of my neck. It was ugly. I looked like Mike Tyson. Brenda called to see how I was doing and reminded me to try the Arnica she’d given me. While we were on the phone, I put it on — only one application — and over the course of about nine hours, that huge bruise went from deep purple, to green, to yellow, to gone! It was incredible.

ArnicaSince then, I have used Arnica on every bruise that bothers me — meaning mostly my hooping bruises. Bruises on the backs of the hands or hip bones or knees can keep you from being able to hoop. And I’ve always had the same results. Almost instant relief of pain and bruises gone in no time. My original tube of Arnica (which costs about $9 in most stores) lasted me about 3 years … and I can’t count how many hoopers I shared with in all that time. A little goes a long way. I also apply it topically to achy places to bring pain relief and healing — and it does.

Here’s how Arnica works. It causes an almost poison ivy like reaction in the area where you apply it, only without blisters or burns, causing new blood cells to race to the area bringing much needed resources for healing. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, slightly narcotic properties. Arnica is non-toxic and can even be ingested. It comes in both a lotion and a gel (the lotion is my favorite – it spreads easily, absorbs completely, is invisible and lasts a very long time) and can be reapplied several times throughout the day if need be (though I’ve only found that necessary when treating a deep tissue injury such as sprain, strain, tendinitis, arthritis, deep bruising or when treating the area around a surgical site.) Arnica should not be applied to broken skin. It is a topical treatment. And while many people ingest it orally as well, I am more circumspect about that. I don’t like to take things into my whole body to treat just one place on my body. I find lotions and gels work just fine for me. However, if you’ve had a car accident or some whole body injury, the oral form can be very helpful with both healing and pain relief.

Arnica is the single most important medicine in my medicine cabinet now. I keep it on me all the time and share it regularly. I have yet to meet a single person who has ever had a reaction to it (and I’ve been sharing it for seven years) though I have read that some people do. Still, I have not seen this. Ever.

I am so grateful to have found this inexpensive, healing treatment that allows me to recover quickly and gets me back out hooping and playing. And the world is starting to catch on to Arnica. Recently there was an article about it in the New York Times. Here is a link to that:

And here is a photo of a blooming mountain tobacco plant:

Arnica Plant


If you don’t have an natural foods store or drug store in your town where you can buy Arnica, you can purchse it online (and for about half the price of WholeFoods!) here:


Hope this helps. Happy healing and happy hooping!

arnicabruiseHoop Bruises

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