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.
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