Does Arnica Work For Pain? (The Good VS The Bad)

Does Arnica Work For Pain? (The Good VS The Bad)

If you suffer from chronic pain – you surely heard of Arnica Montana. 

It’s a common ingredient in pain and ointments – basically for one reason. It’s an anti-inflammatory.

Now – on paper, it can be used for several problems:

  • muscle soreness
  • bruises
  • joint inflammation and pain

But here’s my question. Does Arnica work for pain – for real? I’m talking about pain in general – whether it’s your joint, knee or shoulder aching.

Does it really improve the pain visibly – or it’s just a fuss around it?

I analyzed both its positive and negative side. So if you’re looking for an honest answer about Arnica – you’re in the best place.



What Makes Arnica An Anti-Inflammatory

The best way to explain this is by looking at the substances inside Arnica. There are basically 3 major compounds:

  • sesquiterpene lactones (especially helenain)
  • flavonoids
  • caffeic acid derivatives

Now – the lactones are basically the responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect.

That’s because of 2 proprieties they have:

  1. Reduce the number inflammatory molecules
  2. Decrease blood vessels’ permeability

I know it sounds really complicated – but it’s not. 

Basically, the compounds from Arnica prevent inflammation. Also they make your blood vessels react harder to inflammatory molecules.

It’s pretty simple actually. But there’s 2 conclusions you can draw based on this:

  • Arnica works better for prevention – than for decreasing actual pain
  • It’s not a very strong anti-inflammatory – compared to turmeric or Boswellia

So on paper – Arnica won’t be the best remedy for your pain. But even so, it can be effective. 

Now, that was the theory. It’s time to move to the real side – let’s check out the benefits and the downside of using Arnica for your pain.




#1 – Good For The Long Term

Does Arnica Work For Pain? (The Good VS The Bad)As I said before – Arnica isn’t the best pain reliever you can get:

  • it’s not very strong – compared to others
  • it doesn’t work instantly (1)

However, it seems like a better choice on the long term. What do I mean?

It’s more the kind of remedy that works in time. So you’re not going to see an instant relief – as long as you’re using Arnica alone. 

But if you have patience, this herb can help a lot – in terms of relieving pain. 

Now – here’s another thing I want to point out:

  • Arnica is only used in creams
  • So most products contain some other ingredients besides

That’s why you’re not going to find a pure Arnica cream. But that’s totally fine – because combinations work way better.

However, here’s the point – Arnica is a pretty good solution for pain, but only on the long term.

It needs a few weeks to work at its best – so don’t expect any miracle within a couple of days.



#2 – Used Worldwide

In my opinion – that’s the best proof that Arnica isn’t a useless herb.

So here’s the thing:

  • It’s one of the top ingredients in pain relieving creams
  • Many lotions or ointments also contain Arnica
  • Only menthol, camphor and essential oils are more popular

I’ve checked out pain lotions all around the world – and many of them contain Arnica.

Believe me – if it wasn’t effective, it wouldn’t be on that list.

Other than that, most creams from Amazon for pain contain this herb. 

However, I have rarely seen a pure Arnica lotion or cream. That makes me think that this herb alone isn’t that powerful.



#1 – Doesn’t Treat The Pain

Here’s the thing – Arnica does relieve the pain, but it doesn’t treat it. What do I mean?

  • it only masks the painful symptoms
  • it doesn’t improve the joints (or the cause of pain) in any form (2)

But that’s basically for one reason – it’s only applied on the skin. 

In this way, only a small quantity gets to the painful spot. That’s enough to relieve the pain – but it’s not enough to help the joints in any way.

Besides, Arnica isn’t a very strong anti-inflammatory – I’ve said it before. 

So I wouldn’t recommend you to use this herb in 2 situations:

  • if you want a fast, durable pain relief
  • if you need a joint treatment

Basically – Arnica isn’t a joint treatment, it’s just a remedy for your symptoms.

That’s why your condition can worsen – if you’re only using Arnica. It manages to mask the symptoms, but the real cause still exists.



#2 – Dangerous To Use

As I mentioned before – Arnica doesn’t treat the joints because it’s only applied on the skin.

So normally, using the supplements instead should lead to a better effect – right? Well, not really. 

That’s because Arnica is a very toxic herb – if you’re taking it in high doses. It can can some major problems:

  • stomach problems and diarrhea
  • increased bleeding
  • even death

Now – lots of people use homeopathic products based on Arnica. They are totally safe – because the dose is extremely little.

However, higher doses are very dangerous. But what do I mean by that?

  • Let’s take turmeric as an example
  • An average dose of turmeric powder is around 1000 mg – it’s totally safe
  • Well, 1000 mg of Arnica is probably lethal

That’s the reason why you can’t find this herb as supplements.

You can only find it in homeopathic tinctures – but as I said, the dose inside is insignificant. So it can’t possibly harm you.



#3 – Uncomfortable

That’s actually a problem of creams in general – not of Arnica creams. But here’s what I mean:

  • you can only find Arnica in creams and lotions
  • they have to be applied every 2-3 hours
  • that is pretty inconvenient, if you ask me

Let’s assume you work in an office, 8 hours per day.

If you’re using a cream – it means you have to apply it every 3 hours (on an average).

According to my calculations, you would have to apply the cream 3 times at work. So you would have to take 3 different breaks just to apply it. 

Does that seem comfortable to you? Because to me – it’s far from that.

That’s the reason why I don’t like creams, lotions and ointments:

  • you have to apply them so frequently that you’re losing so much time

On the other hand – it’s a lot easier with supplements. That’s why my top recommendations for pain are always supplements.



My Verdict – So Does Arnica Work For Pain?

Short answer: Yes it does – but it’s not among the best. Here’s what I mean:

  • it only masks the pain temporary
  • it doesn’t improve the cause of the pain in any way
  • plus, it only works on the long term
  • and last but not least, it’s better for prevention

Besides – you can only use it as a cream. It’s a very toxic herb, so you can’t find Arnica supplements or patches. 

So overall – it’s not very strong, but it’s also pretty dangerous.

It could be a solution for your pain, because it does work. But I wouldn’t advise you to try it – its benefits aren’t as major as of turmeric. 

That’s the herbal remedy I would recommend instead – the supplements make real miracles, if chosen right.



The Other Alternatives You Have

As I said – I wouldn’t really recommend Arnica. I won’t repeat the reasons – but it’s simply not the best thing.

Now – my top recommendation is surely turmeric. But other that that, there are some other herbs that can help:

  • Boswellia – is a very strong anti-inflammatory (#2 – after turmeric)
  • Celery – is effective and pretty easy to find
  • Bromelain – is a natural enzyme from pineapple
  • Cherry juice – also helps inflammation
  • CBD oil – is very powerful, even though it’s hard to find

That’s just a short list. If you’re looking for some others, here’s my full article on the best remedies for joint pain.



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Heather Pharm.D.

Heather Tracy Foley is a Pharmacy graduate, Blogger and Author with a vast experience in health sciences. She has a particular interest in joint pain and rheumatology and spent several years studying health problems. You can find her on Pinterest or via email.

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4 Responses

  1. MaCkenzie Irwin says:

    It really works, thanks a lot for your review! I was skeptical at first and saw no results in the first month, but then gradually there was an improvement. Now it’s been almost half a year since I am on Nerve Renew and I’ve not skipped a dose, it helps my nerve pain so much that I can sleep at night without waking up more than once. Before I could not fall asleep until late because of pain and also woke up, my pain was always worst at night.

  2. Heather Pharm.D. says:

    Hey MacKenzie, thanks a lot for your feedback on Nerve Renew. I’m really happy to hear it helps! Keep using it if it has such good results. You can try to take a break for a few weeks at one point and see how your body reacts. But mostly likely, the pain will return (that’s what happens in most cases). Anyway, it should go away once again with Nerve Renew. Hope this helps.

  3. Alenka says:

    Thank you for this indepth article on Arnica and its use in pain treatment. I’ve been using Arnica cream for years but had no idea about the details nor how lethal it can be if consumed in large quantities. 

    I’ve been using it on cuts and bruises and also have put some on my children when they’ve had minor bruises or grazes. It’s an all-rounder in our house and this is why I was delighted to find out a bit more about it from your article.

    I also read about your #1 Recommended product and what a fantastic recommendation it is. I can testify to that because my mum has been using a simmilar product and to a great effect. 

  4. Heather Pharm.D. says:

    Hi Alenka, thanks a lot for your experience with Arnica. That’s right, it’s a great remedy for bruises and cuts because it speeds up healing and recovery. It’s incredible what nature has provided us with!

    I don’t know what kind of arthritis/joint problems your mom has, but it’s probably osteoarthritis. That’s what glucosamine supplements work best for. So if she’s using that, they should really help. This guide can also be used for her, in case she needs any tips.

    Thanks again for sharing your opinion.

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