Friday, September 16, 2011

Arnica on the A-List?

Slim down, clear up and get glowing... No, this isn’t the tag line for the latest in decadent destination spas, but what A-listers seem to think they can achieve with a supplement form of a yellow mountain daisy that grow in Europe: Arnica montana (leopard’s bane). A recent story published in the New York Times suggests that arnica has become the latest celebrity pill-popping “must” to keep the skin clear, reduce bloating and minimize bruising and inflammation. All that in a pill? Sounds like a modern miracle. Question is, is it just trendy tenor or does this seemingly biased bite of natural remedies really have teeth?

It’s a Fact...

Plastic surgeons often prescribe arnica to reduce the chance that you’ll bruise with injectables (Botox, soft tissue fillers). And arnica has a legitimate history as a natural remedy for bruising and inflammation (though the results are admittedly mild).

As for the entire list of claims (to slim you down, clear up your skin, prevent muscle soreness, relieve strained muscles, minimize bruising, prevent swelling, decrease inflammation, prevent cramps, minimize symptoms of vertigo, and, yes, even to reduce hair loss), it's probably safe to say that any of these related to inflammation just might see some relief with arnica. (Hair loss? Not so sure...)

The idea of taking it regularly as a supplement?

That may not be such a good idea, say the experts. Arnica contains the toxin helenalin which can be poisonous. (Contact with the plant can also cause skin irritation.) If enough of the arnica plant is ingested, the helenalin produces severe gastroenteritis and internal bleeding of the digestive tract. It’s also associated with uterine stimulation, so it’s a definite no-no if you’re pregnant.

But before you start the next Facebook Friend chain post that proclaims the horrors of this homeopathic remedy, the toxic results with arnica are usually a result of eating large amounts of the plant itself. Minor doses of arnica are unlikely to exert any adverse reactions because of the minimal amount ingested (homeopathic forms of Arnica 24X or more are not toxic as they contain very little arnica after dilution). Taking a supplement three days after trauma (injections, an intense workout, you get the idea...) is generally safe. But it's probably not a good idea to take it everyday, week after week, as toxicity can build over time.

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