Known by many as the "athlete remedy" and the "fall herb", Arnica is indisputably an essential remedy for all riders. Not only is it your horse's best friend (besides you, of course), but it is one of your best friends as well.
Arnica, taken orally in the homeopathic form, is the remedy of choice for injury, whatever the cause - kicks, bites, scrapes, contusions, cuts, bruises, over-exertion, sore muscles, and more, for rider and horse. Homeopathically, it is famous for preventing and treating shock as well. A first aid kit is never complete without Arnica.
Herbal or Homeopathic?
With Arnica, it is important to know the difference between the homeopathic form and the herbal or tincture form when treating injuries. The herbal or tincture Arnica preparations, such as topically applied creams, gels, lotions, ointments, and liniments, are best used for sore, aching, tired muscles, strained tendons and joints, bruises and hematomas, and sore feet, where the skin remains unbroken. Topical applications of Arnica should be avoided when treating open wounds, cuts, scrapes, and burns. Arnica, in the less-diluted, herbal or tincture form, is too strong - applied to abraded or open skin, it can cause irritation. If applied to open wounds, it can interfere with wound healing by causing increased bleeding or sepsis (wound infection). Tinctures also contain alcohol, which, if applied undiluted, will sting. Most labels will specify if a topical product is safe for open wounds, but check the ingredients carefully, especially with combination ointments.
Homeopathic Arnica is a different story, however. Arnica, taken orally in the homeopathic form, is exceptionally suitable for any kind of injury, open and closed wounds. "Homeopathic" is the potentized form, prepared from repeated dilutions and succussions of a substance.
Usually stocked at your local health food store or pharmacy, Arnica can be found in the 6x or 6c through 30x or 30c potencies, and in some cases 200c (for higher potencies, consult your homeopath). Homeopathic Arnica is the safe form for all injuries, over-exertions, stress, trauma, and shock. It stimulates the body to mend itself, and speeds up healing.
While homeopathic Arnica has a renowned reputation in treating injury and trauma, it is an excellent post-op remedy as well. It will strengthen the body's efforts to stop bleeding where needed (internally and externally), carry off stray blood (those nasty purple bruises and blood blisters), speed the healing of damaged and stressed tissues, and reduce unnecessary swelling and inflammation. Not to mention, while reducing pain and discomfort! Is that a true friend to an athlete or what? It has also been suggested to administer Arnica before exertion and surgery to help to prevent problems. The effectiveness of this method remains under debate among homeopaths, however.
Do No Harm?
Why not aspirin or ibuprofen for injury and over-exertion? While these products may effectively reduce pain, they may also reduce bodily production of prostaglandin, a chemical that is necessary for muscle repair. Aspirin also reduces blood-clotting ability, which can lead to excessive bleeding, and it increases urination and sweating, which can lead to dehydration problems. Talk about adding insult to injury!
Why not corticosteroids? Though these drugs rapidly reduce pain and swelling, they also inhibit the body's immune system and natural defenses, increasing the chance of additional and future problems.
Putting Arnica in Its Place
Remedies - When using Arnica after injury or over-exertion, the sooner the better. The homeopathic tablets are typically dissolved under the tongue, and repeated at lengthening intervals, as needed, for relief. It is also acceptable to dissolve the tablets in water, stir vigorously, and sip as often as needed. Homeopathic remedies are intended to stimulate a healing response from the body - it is not the remedy doing the healing; it is the body. Therefore, when relief is achieved, the remedy is stopped until it is again needed. More information is available in various homeopathic books. In particular, a good one is The Family Guide to Homeopathy by Dr. Andrew Lockie.
Topical applications - Arnica in the tincture form is to be diluted. Prepared topicals or diluted tinctures may be applied directly to appropriate (unbroken skin) injuries, as often as needed. Bandages and wraps are generally not needed. Topical therapy and homeopathic Arnica work very well together.
Arnica, homeopathic and topical, is an essential ingredient for your first aid kit, and your pocket. Athletes of all ages and species should never be without it!