A bruise is the visible evidence of bleeding under the skin. Seldom more than a cosmetic nuisance, it goes through a well-defined series of changes, beginning with a dark purple and red coloration, gradually fading through greenish yellow, then disappearing. Some people are particularly prone to bruises, developing them after injuries too minor to affect most people.
Homeopathic Arnica is so widely believed to be an effective treatment for bruises and other minor traumas that it is found in the medicine cabinets of millions of people, especially in Europe. However, there is as yet no consistent scientific evidence that it is effective. 4
For example, two very preliminary clinical trials were performed to test whether homeopathic Arnica montana can reduce the size or discomfort of a bruise caused by injury. 1 The first study tested 10m potency Arnica (equivalent to a dilution of a whopping one part in 1,020,000!); the second used a 30c dilution. A total of about 25 subjects were enrolled in the two trials.
In these unpleasant-sounding experiments, the subjects allowed themselves to be bruised on the inside of their forearms by a 2.3-pound (1,041 g) weight, which fell from about a foot and a half (44 cm) above the arm. Participants were given either Arnica or placebo before the experiment and then were bruised on one arm. Subsequently, they were given a second dose of whatever they had just received and were then followed for a period of 3 to 4 days. The goal was to see whether the bruises treated by Arnica got better faster than those treated by placebo.
Researchers found a hint of benefit in the first study, but none in the second study. Unfortunately, the numbers of participants in each study were too small to allow for the results to have much statistical meaning.
Arnica has also been studied to see if it can reduce bruising caused by surgery. However, in a double-blind trial of 130 people undergoing treatment for varicose veins, researchers found no benefit with homeopathic Arnica at 5x potency, as compared to placebo. 2 Another study of people undergoing treatment for varicose veins, along with a study of people undergoing hand surgery also failed to find benefit. 5-6 A more recent study, involving face-lift surgery, found equivocal benefits at best. 7
Finally, researchers have attempted to discover whether homeopathic Arnica 10x has any effect on the ability of the blood to clot, as measured by laboratory tests. In a double-blind study of 18 healthy male volunteers, Arnica was indistinguishable from placebo regarding blood coagulation. 3
Homeopathic practitioners traditionally give Arnica to treat traumatic injuries. The classical homeopathic symptom picture for Arnica includes the presence of black-and-blue spots, a bruised feeling, and difficulty in finding a comfortable position. It isn’t hard to recognize this as a description of minor injury.
For herbs, supplements, and other alternative treatments that may be useful for minor injuries, see the Minor Injury entry in this database. For problems related to a tendency to bruise easily, see the Easy Bruising entry.
For a thorough explanation of homeopathy, including dilution of therapies, see the Homeopathy Overview .
5. Wolf M, Tamaschke C, Mayer W, et al. Efficacy of ARNICA in varicose vein surgery; results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2003;10:242-7.
7. Seeley BM, Denton AB, Ahn MS et al. Effect of Homeopathic Arnica montana on Bruising in Face-lifts: Results of a Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Arch Facial Plast Surg . 2006;8:54-9.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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