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Effets arnica bleus.

Arnica to speed up the absorption of a bruise on the skin?

For hundreds of years, arnica has often been recommended and used as a first-line remedy to alleviate skin bruising and restore the skin's natural hue, in addition to reducing pain and inflammation during the process. But what does research say about this possibility?

Arnica against bruises: is it genuinely effective?

Bruises are common skin lesions that result in skin discolouration. When there is a sudden strong pressure on the skin (shock, fall, dermatological procedures, etc.), the blood vessels located in the dermis and hypodermis are damaged, allowing blood to flow and infiltrate into the tissues near the skin surface, causing the characteristic black to blue or red to purple colour and sensitivity to touch.

Most bruises typically fade within a few days and do not require treatment. However, due to their unsightly and unpleasant nature, some people resort to topical herbal and homeopathic remedies that claim to help reduce discomfort more quickly, alleviate the effects of a bruise and speed up the healing process, includingarnica.

Includedin the European pharmacopoeia, it is said that arnica, one of the most popular remedies, can reduce inflammation and more effectively fade the discolouration caused by bruises. About thirty pieces of research have been conducted to support this hypothesis and those showing that arnica could be an effective solution are few and poorly designed. Thus, the current clinical evidence is mixed and inconclusive, while many people are convinced of the effectiveness of this simple approach.

  • CAMPBELL A. conducted a single-blind controlled experimental trial evaluating the effect of homeopathic arnica 10M tablets compared to a placebo on bruises, mechanically produced on the forearms of 12 subjects. An oral placebo was administered to the patients before the appearance of the bruises, then 12 and 24 hours after the onset of the bruises. After 72 hours, the same method was followed, replacing the placebo with oral arnica, and bruises were produced on the opposite forearm. It was found that 6 out of the 12 patients had smaller bruises with the arnica treatment and the other 6 showed no difference between the arnica and the placebo. The limitations of this study include the absence of randomisation and the too small number of participants not allowing for a satisfactory statistical analysis.

  • Two randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials have shown no effect of arnica on the prevention or resolution of post-operative bruising.

    1. IMFELD M. & al. ont réalisé une étude chez 130 patients subissant une ablation de la veine saphène variqueuse. Les patients ont reçu de l'arnica CH5 ou un placebo par voie sublinguale la veille de l'opération et immédiatement après l'opération. Aucune différence significative entre l'arnica et le placebo n'a été constatée en ce qui concerne les hématomes post-opératoires.

    2. ERNST E. & al. ont évalué l'ecchymose chez 62 patients subissant une intervention chirurgicale de la main pour le syndrome du canal carpien. Trois comprimés d'arnica par jour ont été administrés aux patients sept jours avant l'opération et quatorze jours après la chirurgie. Ils ont constaté que l'arnica n’a pas fait mieux que le placebo pour prévenir la formation d’ecchymoses ou pour contribuer à leur réduction post-opératoire.

  • Another study has confirmed this lack of efficacy. BAUMANN & al. designed a double-blind randomised trial involving 19 patients with facial telangiectasias. The pre-treatment group (n = 9) applied the arnica gel on one side and the placebo gel on the other side of the face twice a day for two weeks before laser treatment. The post-treatment group followed the same procedure for 2 weeks after the laser treatment. There was no statistically significant difference between topical arnica and the placebo in preventing or accelerating the disappearance of laser-induced bruising.

  • However, in a randomised, blind controlled trial on an oral form of arnica (500 mg), MAAS C. & al found that patients rated bruises as being slightly, but not statistically significantly, less severe at the arnica site than at the placebo site.

  • In 2010, ALAM M. & co aimed to determine in a randomised, double-blind controlled trial the effectiveness of topical arnica in reducing the intensity of skin bruising and accelerating their disappearance, induced by pulsed dye laser on the inner arm of volunteers. The researchers reported that a topical application of arnica (20% arnica ointment) reduced bruises more quickly and more effectively than the placebo (petrolatum) when it was applied twice a day for two weeks.

  • A 2016 study demonstrated that individuals who took arnica orally following a rhinoplasty (nose surgery) exhibited improved appearance of post-operative bruising.

  • A 2017 analysis of over 600 patients from the same year suggested that arnica might reduce eyelid bruising after a rhinoplasty if it is combined with cold compresses. However, a 2021 report from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) does not support the use of arnica to reduce bruising after oculo-facial surgeries.

In addition to producing inconsistent results, some of the trials exhibit methodological limitations that render the results unreliable. Further, more in-depth research is necessary to assert with certainty that arnica is effective for reducing bruises, as well as determining the appropriate dosages.

By what mechanism?

Although the mechanism is not entirely elucidated, it is suggested that this potential reduction of bruises associated with arnica may be attributed to a vasodilatory effect. However, SCHRÖR K. & al. demonstrated an inhibition in vitro of human platelet function by helenalin and 11α,13- dihydrohelenalin. Similarly, AUDET D. & al. found that oral arnica had no significant effect on various blood coagulation parameters, including bleeding time in vivo.

How to use arnica to aid the healing of bruises?

According to the research available to date, arnica appears to be capable of reducing bruises when applied topically. For faster improvement, it is suggested to apply arnica locally in the form of a gel, cream, or lotion to the affected area at least twice a day or as directed by a healthcare professional, combined with a massage, as long as the skin is not damaged and while carefully avoiding the eyes as it can cause a burning sensation. In patch form, individuals can generally use it twice a day.

Before using an alternative remedy such as thearnica, consult your doctor as some can cause skin allergic reactions in certain individuals.

Sources

  • SCHRÖR K. & al. Helenalin and 11α,13- dihydrohelenalin, two constituents from Arnica montana L., inhibit human platelet function via thiol-dependent pathways. Thrombosis Research (1990).

  • AUDET D. & al. Les effets de l’Arnica Montana sur la coagulation: essai clinique randomisé. Canadian Family Physician (1993).

  • CAMPBELL A. Two pilot controlled trials of Arnica montana. British Homoeopathic Journal (1976).

  • IMFELD M. & al. Homeopathic arnica in postoperative haematomas: a double-blind study. Dermatology (2000).

  • BAUMANN L. & al. Effects of topical arnica gel on post-laser treatment bruises. Dermatologic Surgery (2002).

  • ERNST E. & al. Homeopathic arnica for prevention of pain and bruising: randomized placebo-controlled trial in hand surgery. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (2003).

  • MAAS C. & al. Effect of homeopathic Arnica montana on bruising in face-lifts: results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery (2006).

  • ALAM M. & al. Accelerated resolution of laser-induced bruising with topical 20% arnica: a rater-blinded randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Dermatology (2010).

  • DRYDEN R. M. & al. Evaluation of homeopathic Arnica montana for ecchymosis after upper blepharoplasty: a placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind study. Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (2010).

  • BENJAMIN M. C. & al. Perioperative Arnica montana for reduction of ecchymosis in rhinoplasty surgery. Annals of Plastic Surgery (2016).

  • HWANG S. H. & al. The effectiveness of postoperative intervention in patients after rhinoplasty: a meta-analysis. European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology (2017).

  • GATHERWRIGHT J. & al. Perioperative homeopathic arnica and bromelain: Current results and future directions. Annals of Plastic Surgery (2020).

  • YEN M. T. & al. Homeopathic agents or vitamins in reducing ecchymosis after oculofacial surgery: A report by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Ophthalmology (2021).

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