The Healing Benefits Of Arnica Herbal Oil
A perennial from the Asteraceae family that includes sunflowers, daisies and marigolds, arnica is a yellow-orange flower with an orange center. Native to the mountains of North America, Europe and Eurasia, arnica oil has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s.There are several species of arnica but the most well known is Arnica montana, also known as wolf's bane. The blossoms of this species are used to make arnica essential oil.
When crushed, these flowers give off a distinctive pine/sage scent, making it useful in perfumery. The essential oil is very costly, however, so it is more common to infuse the dried arnica blossoms and leaves in a gentle carrier oil. Arnica oil is made up of about 50% fatty acids with the remaining 50% a mixture of mainly thymol and ethers of thymol.
Does arnica relieve pain and bruising? YES! Most of arnica's pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties come from its thymol derivatives. Arnica stimulates the flow of white blood cells that processes congested blood and disperses trapped fluids. When applied topically, arnica herbal oil can reduce the pain, bruising and swelling of damaged tissues and joints. Athletes can especially benefit from an application of arnica before and after strenuous exercise to help relieve the aches and spasms of pulled muscles. So a salve or cream containing arnica herbal oil massaged into the skin can be very beneficial to people suffering from any ailment related to inflammation (even itchy bug bites), sore joints and strained muscles. Historically, it has also been used to soothe sore feet, treat motion sickness, improve circulation, soothe sore throats, stimulate hair growth, heal chronic sores and even reduce fever.
The list of arnica oil benefits is long, but its use comes with some severe warnings. It contains helenalin, which may cause allergic reactions in some people, and it should not be applied to broken skin. Prolonged exposure could result in severe irritation including eczema, blistering and peeling of the skin. Arnica oil should never be ingested or inhaled except in very low doses under a doctor’s supervision because it is very potent and an overdose could even be fatal. And because arnica essential oil can be toxic, pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid its use in any form just to be safe.
My favorite way to make an arnica infused oil is to use the entire dried blossom in a 30:70 ratio to oil. Try grape seed, sweet almond, extra virgin olive or apricot kernel oils (the type of oil used will determine the shelf life of your infusion). To begin, make sure all tools that come in contact with the infusion are sanitized and completely dried. Combine arnica blossoms and oil in a deep, stainless steel bowl set over a pan of water. The rim of the bowl should generously overlap the rim of the pan and water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Bring water to a very gentle boil and then reduce heat to low. If water spits out sides of bowl or you hear boiling noises, the heat is too high. Do Not Cover Bowl! You don't want any condensation to drip into your infusion. Allow to infuse for at least two hours, periodically checking water level and gently stirring infusion. Once finished, take bowl off of the pan and allow to completely cool. Set a large funnel over a glass storage jar and place a 6x layer of clean cheese cloth into the funnel (the ends of the cheese cloth should generously drape over the rim of the funnel). Wearing clean rubber gloves, slowly pour the infused oil into the jar, gathering the flower parts in the cheese cloth at the end. Wrap the ends of the cheese cloth around the flower parts and gently squeeze out the remaining oil (discard used blossoms). Store infused oil in a cool, dark location or refrigerate to extend shelf life. And there you have it.....your very own arnica infusion! It is now ready for you to incorporate into a salve or liniment recipe (I recommend usage at 30% maximum). If you would like a product that is ready to go, try our luxurious Arnica Massage Butter - it is a body butter formulated with a bit more oil to last through a massage before completely soaking into the skin leaving no oily residue. Our Arnica Massage Butter is tried-and-true and smells heavenly!