Homeopathic arnica found to be an effective post-operative aid

Arnica is perhaps one of the best known homeopathic remedies, and is generally recommended when there has been some trauma to the body. Arnica is often advised, say, after someone has had a fall to reduce pain and swelling. And another occasion where it might be advised is after surgery. In a recent study the effects of arnica in the post-operative period was compared with a commonly used painkiller ” diclofenac. Arnica D4 (D4 denotes the dilution of arnica) was given at a dose 10 pills, taken three times a day. The diclofenac was given at a dose of 50 mg, three times a day. Either of these was administered to 88 people for four days after having surgery for bunion removal (correction of hallux valgus).

The results of this study shows that arnica and diclofenac performed equally well in terms of reducing redness, swelling and heat (all signs of inflammation) in the wound. However, those taking arnica had better mobility, while those taking diclofenac experienced better pain control.

However, the arnica gave rise to significantly fewer side effects: about 20 per cent of those taking diclofenac reported intolerance to the medication, compared to just 4.5 per cent taking arnica. One other advantage of the arnica was that it is cheaper, with the authors noting that arnica is less than half the price of diclofenac.

This study appears to show that arnica has value as a post-operative treatment. Ideally, one might argue, that it would have been better to bit arnica against a placebo. However, as the authors of this study point out, diclofenac has been proven to be superior to placebo for both post-operative use and for post-traumatic swelling. Interestingly, the researchers of this study originally intended to compare arnica with placebo, but this study design was refused by the ethic committee on the basis that it would be withholding a known beneficial treatment for post-operative care (diclofenac).

Bearing in mind diclofenac’s proven benefits, the results of this study do seem to support the use of arnica in wound healing and trauma.

References:

Karow J-H, et al. Efficacy of Arnica Montana D4 for healing of wounds after hallux valgus surgery compared to diclofenac. J Altern Comp Med 2008;14(1):17-25

17 Responses to Homeopathic arnica found to be an effective post-operative aid

  1. LeeT 2 September 2008 at 3:08 am #

    This is interesting. I have just finished reading Ernst and Singh’s “Trick or Treatment?”. They are very skeptical as to whether homeopathy offers any benefit above that of placebo.

    How many participants were there in the study? Do you know if it will be repeated? Is there a summary of the study available online for us to read?

  2. Dr John Briffa 2 September 2008 at 2:21 pm #

    LeeT

    The number of people in the study has already been stated above.

    I do not know if this study is to be repeated.

    A summary of the study is available on-line (see the Jan 2008 issue of the journal).

  3. cynic 3 September 2008 at 2:58 am #

    I note that D4 implies dilution by 10 repeated 4times i.e. 1:10000 dilution. Also the dosage taken 3times per day is 10pillules which seems alot (vs 50mg of diclofenac 3times a day).

    Arguably what might be happening here is that the raw ingredient Arnica is being given in a dosage much much larger than a typical homeopathic concentrations (which can often be absolutely huge orders of magnitude of dilution e.g. C6 is 10tothepower12)

    From original paper I cannot see what volume a pilule might be or how much raw Arnica is started with so it is hard to calculate what the actual dosage of Arnica is?
    Any thoughts Dr B?

    (For the record I have nothing against naturally occurring ingredients. Some of them are great e.g. Aspirin)

  4. wewillfixit 3 September 2008 at 7:09 am #

    I can only get hold of the abstract.

    Is diclofenac actually prescribed for any of the symptoms that arnica was equal to it in? I thought it was mainly prescribed for the pain in these circumstances. Not really a good comparator, and no placebo group. Any correction for multiple comparisons? (though I’m not sure how that would work when a positive result is a non significant difference…)

    I’m sure I read also that diclofenac can delay wound healing.

    Also the two groups got different numbers of pills – which could have a differential placebo effect and cause problems with blinding. Were any of these problems addressed in the paper?

  5. Paul Smeanis 3 September 2008 at 10:53 am #

    I don’t understand – if arnica is used as a herbal remedy for bruising and trauma, then homeopathic arnica should have the opposite effect. Not that D4 is particularly potent by homeopathic standards.

  6. Lindy 5 September 2008 at 10:13 pm #

    I am a homeopathic user. I would not go on using the stuff if it did not help. I have observed swelling on bumps go down rapidly following arnica in children. This is not a placebo effect. As a result of using homeopathic medicines (in babies and the cat- not placebo effect) I have avoided my children (now in their 20s) taking antibiotics. Asthma has been sorted and other breathing problems (severe enough to cause hospitalisation prior to homeopathic input)

    Other people are not fools – they would not continue seeking hoempathic treatment if it didn’t help. Plenty of conventional medicine doesn’t work and gives nasty side effects.

  7. Norma 11 September 2008 at 1:41 pm #

    Herbalists use arnica tincture and ointment. The arnica ointment I bought from a homoeopathic chemist was straight arnica ointment, not it homoeopathic dilutions.

    I’d certainly use arnica for cuts and bruising again but I see no need to use it in homoeopathic quantities. How do the two compare against each other? That, surely, is the trial that needs to be carried out.

  8. Donna 18 March 2009 at 1:09 am #

    I am due to have surgery next week but I have MS for which I take quite a lot of medication. Is it safe to take Arnica?

  9. Z U MALIK 21 October 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    Would Arnica be useful in Post-operative urinary retension ? Please advise.

  10. Jane Runton 19 January 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    friend of 74 had knee replacement operation and was told not to take arnica as it thinned the blood, I have as a matter of course used Arnica before and after operations etc, and for my dogs in similar circumstances. Can you let me know if this is correct.

  11. sue james 4 April 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    can you take arnica whilst breastfeeding?

  12. Kim 29 April 2011 at 12:30 am #

    I have a friend that has been in a motor cycle accident. No breaks just alot of bruising and emaotional trauma. How much arnica should she take and how often?

  13. leap 24 May 2011 at 4:24 am #

    Sue James, yes you can use arnica while breastfeeding, but speak to your homeopath re dose.. My homeopath put me on Arnica for healing after the birth of my 2nd son, and I breastfed him, and I am about to use it for my son who is going to hospital tomorrow to have his tonsils removed. I will be taking him to see our homeopath next week to get something for his general health and well being.

  14. Kate harvey 5 August 2011 at 10:22 am #

    I have just had a melanoma removed from my arm and, while orally taken arnica improved swelling, I had to stop using it as it upset my stomach so badly, a common problem apparently. How much benefit is there in using topical arnica ointment on large surgical wounds? Has any research been done on the effects of arnica on post surgical hyposensitivity which is driving me mad?

  15. Vanessa 1 July 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    I know this post is rather late in the day now, but if anyone comes across this blog it might be useful. It is difficult to organise these kinds of studies generally as homeopathic prescribing is tailored to the individual as in many cases and for many ‘conditions’ there may be several possible remedies. Trauma in this study was post-surgery and so the benefits of arnica when given in homeopathic dilutions are more likely to fit the presentation of the symptoms. Incidentally, although D4 is a low potency, in order to be ‘homeopathic’ it is not only prepared by dilution but at each stage it is ‘succussed’ (ie shaken vigorously). The other point in ‘homeopathy’ is that it means ‘similar suffering’ so the remedy is chosen that in its crude state will produce symptoms in a healthy person that match those presented by a sick person.

    It is very important not to use arnica topically on an open wound, so applying cream or tincture is not advised as it is toxic to the body. It is usually better in any case to treat from within rather than apply topical treatments as this may merely suppress symptoms rather than heal the body and its tendency to produce those symptoms. Arnica cream can be useful for bruises as the ingredients are absorbed into the local area but traumatic experience (even surgery) can be traumatic emotionally too, and arnica is also applicable in this case. Often for purely emotional traumatic incidents a very much higher potency of arnica would be indicated (and, incidentally, this can be given even years after the event if the patient is presenting with symptoms that have this aetiology).

    It’s all very interesting which is why, after having used homeopathic medicine for myself, my children and my pets for the last 20 or so years, I decided to train myself.

  16. Barb Nelson 22 September 2013 at 3:42 am #

    Should you use homeopathic arnica if your surgeon has put you on a blood thinner like warfarin ir Xarelto ?

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