How to Make Arnica Ointment

Whether it’s bumps, bruises, sprains, strains, or just general aches and pains, everyone hurts sometime.

We’ve long been told that ice and anti-inflammatories are the answer to our injuries but there is an increasing amount of evidence showing that these common interventions actually inhibit your body’s ability to heal. The result is a longer healing time and an increased likelihood of chronic problems.

Isn’t all inflammation bad?

In order to understand the problems with ice and anti-inflammatory medicines let’s take a look at what exactly is happening when you sprain your ankle.

An ankle sprain occurs when ligaments and tendons in the ankle are overstretched, causing a partial or complete tear of the ligament. (Every day over 25,000 people sprain their ankle in the US!)

Acute inflammation occurs in the first 72 hours of the injury. We often hear about the evils of chronic or systemic inflammation and for good reasons; but acute inflammation following an injury is actually beneficial. Blood rushes to the area, carrying important immune system cells and hormones (such as IGF-1) that will help prevent infection and start the healing process. Furthermore, as fluids rush to the area, swelling occurs which helps to protect the injured area.

Icing during this stage slows the flow of essential healing nutrients to the injury. You may initially have less swelling and less pain but the result is prolonged healing and even an increased likelihood of long-term problems.

What about R.I.C.E.? (rest, ice, compression, elevate)

Gabe Mirkin, the man who first proposed the R.I.C.E. protocol in the 1970’s recently wrote an article questioning the benefits of ice and complete rest.

“The response to both infection and tissue damage is the same. Inflammatory cells rush to injured tissue to start the healing process. The inflammatory cells called macrophages release a hormone called Insulin-like growth Factor (IGF-1) into the damaged tissues, which helps muscles and other injured parts to heal. However, applying ice to reduce swelling actually delays healing by preventing the body from releasing IGF-1.” (The italics are my own emphasis.)

So, in the case of an acute injury, inflammation is a good thing.

Not only does ice slow your body’s ability to heal but taking anti-inflammatory medications like NSAIDs can do the same!

What’s worse is that, not only are NSAIDs like ibuprofen problematic because they prolong the healing of an injury, they can also wreak havoc on your gut, causing both severe and chronic digestive problems. People often think of these over-the-counter medications as being safe but in reality they are responsible for thousands of deaths each year.

Luckily, as herbalists, we aren’t limited to ice and NSAIDs.

Plants can be used to support the beneficial immune system response following an injury, thus decreasing pain and speeding up healing. And they can do this without causing gut issues or death.

I think that’s what we call a win, win, win.

Before we get to this recipe let’s look at the ingredients to better understand their benefits and abilities.

 

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Arnica (Arnica spp.)

Many people reach for arnica cream for their bruises, sprains, and strains. Health food stores often stock numerous arnica preparations, anything from arnica ointment to homeopathic remedies.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used arnica on bruises, yet I am still amazed at its ability to seemingly wipe away bruises magically and reduce pain.

Arnica works by dilating capillaries, which increases blood flow to and from the injury. This increased blood flow brings healing hormones to the area and moves stagnant blood (like bruises). The result is decreased swelling and faster healing time.

It’s best to use arnica on closed wound injuries. It’s not the end of the world to use them on open wounds but this can sometimes irritate the area. Full strength arnica preparations shouldn’t be used internally unless under the guidance of an experienced practitioner.

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St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

St. John’s Wort is famous for being an “anti-depressive herb”. But the benefits for St. John’s Wort go well beyond this single use. One of my favorite ways to use it is for injuries and pain, especially nerve pain.

Herbalists also commonly use St. John’s Wort for bruises, sprains and neuropathy. One study has shown that St. John’s Wort can reduce scarring and relieve pain and itching related to wound healing.

strawflower - Compositae helichrysum orientale

Helichrysum

Helichrysum is commonly used as an essential oil for healing bumps, bruises and strains. Aromatherapists at Stillpoint Aromatics recommend it for reducing swelling and bruising, healing scar tissue, and for skin irritation.

Suzanne Catty, author of Hydrosols, the Next Aromatherapy, states: “Applied in a compress to bangs and bumps, it can even bring subcutaneous bruises to the surface, exposing hidden damage.”

essential oil and lavender flowers

Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender essential oil excels as a first-aid herb. It can relieve pain, increase healing, and even help to soothe and calm the patient.

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Arnica Ointment

This is a non-greasy pain ointment that is wonderful for bruises, sprains and strains, and aches and pains. It works best on closed-wound injuries and can be applied multiple times per day. If you don’t already have arnica and St. John’s Wort infused oils you can find a blend of these at Mountain Rose Herbs. This blend also includes lavender essential oil.

I’ve seen this arnica cream recipe work like magic to erase intense bruises and to alleviate pain caused by injury. This recipe is based on Rosemary Gladstar’s Perfect Cream recipe.

What you’ll need…

Hard oils and beeswax

  • 20 grams beeswax
  • 25 grams coconut oil
  • 20 grams shea butter

Liquid oil

  • 3/4 cup arnica and St. John’s wort infused oil

“Waters”

  • 2/3 cup helichrysum hydrosol
  • 20-40 drops of lavender essential oil (optional)

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Begin by melting the shea butter, coconut oil and beeswax on low or in a double boiler.

Once everything is completely melted, stir in the infused oil. (I like to use a craft popsicle stick for stirring. I use a fresh stick with each batch of cream.)

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As you pour in the oil you’ll see the beeswax solidify. Turn off the heat and stir until everything is completely mixed together. If necessary gently apply more heat until the beeswax is completely melted again.

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Pour this melted mixture into a blender or food processor. Let it sit until it has cooled and has just barely turned to a more solid state. Don’t let it get too hard or it will be difficult to mix into a cream.

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Turn the blender or food processor on. Slowly trickle in the “waters,” including the helichrysum hydrosol and the optional essential oil.

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As you trickle in the waters the mixture will slowly turn from a translucent to a solid cream. You may need to scrape down the edges and the bottom of the mixer to mix in any leftover wax and then re-mix.

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This recipe makes about 11 ounces of arnica cream. It is best stored in a glass container in a cool location. You can also add rosemary antioxidant extract to increase the shelf life of your arnica ointment. (You can find rosemary antioxidant extract at Mountain Rose Herbs.)

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Arnica is a low-dose botanical and should only be used internally with extreme caution. Be sure to wash all the items that came in contact with the cream very thoroughly. I like to use a paper towel to wipe off the extra cream then wash everything with lots of soap and hot water.

Resources & Citations

  1. Ankle Injuries: Causes and Treatments
  2. Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy by Suzanne Catty (book)
  3. http://drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html
  4. Soft Tissue Pathophysiology
  5. The effect of Hypericum perforatum on the wound healing and scar of cesarean.
  6. The effectiveness of essential oils for patients with neck pain: a randomized controlled study. J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Oct;20(10):771-9.
    doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0453. Epub 2014 Sep 5.
  7. Effects of aroma hand massage on pain, state anxiety and depression in hospice patients with terminal cancer. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. 2008
    Aug;38(4):493-502.
  8. http://www.stillpointaromatics.com/helichrysum-italicum-organic-hydrosol

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119 comments
  1. Have you used arnica ointments before? What do you think of this one?

    • Yes. I have made and shared a Cayenne/Arnica Salve that has become very popular with my cycling friends for bumps and bruises that are not open wounds. They claim resolution of their injury in half the time compared to using other remedies. I have tried to make ointments before with only modestly successful results. This formula really looks like it is worth my trying again, though. Thanks for sharing so generously.

    • I am excited to get this information. I have just recently started working with herbs and I am creating a book and loads of information about them and what they can do. This I have never heard of but I am going to get the items that I don’t have in stock and make it as soon as possible. Thanks for sharing.

    • I have made an arnica, St John’s wort, and balsam poplar bud ointment for my grandsons backaches and he says it’s a miracle. Everyone who tries it swears by it.

      • I also often add cottonwood to arnica and SJW. The only reason I left it out of this article is because it’s so hard for people to find.

    • I’d hate to be without my arnica, in any form, it works SO well – but it works best if you can apply it as soon as you’ve suffered a bump or bruise, it takes the pain away immediately and prevents visible bruising.

    • Hi John and Rosalee,

      I was excited to make this balm because my children don’t like the greasy salve which I buy from the local herb store but when I asked the herbalist why none of the local sources sell dried arnica flowers, he explained to me that arnica should always be used fresh and actually isn’t beneficial when dried.

      What are your thoughts on this?

      Thanks!
      Sarah

    • How long can you store this creme? Shelf and fridge times?
      Blessings
      Pantanga

    • I have used arnica cream and arnica oil with great results. I do have a question regarding the amount of Rosemary antioxidant extract to be used in this recipe to increase the shelf life of the cream. Thanks!

    • Hello all, I was on the webinar last night; thank you! I’m a vegan massage therapist, and I so use arnica, and lavender, often. I plan to experiment with this recipe sans beeswax, and will keep you posted. I also educate my clients in the benefits of meal preparation with coconut oils and milks and red palm oil. Simone, in Peach Lake, NY

  2. A little over a year ago, I became intensely interested in herbal medicines after using garlic to cure a case of near fatal MRSA. It was nearly fatal because of the amount of time it took for me to figure out it wasn’t just an infection. Every day it seems I find something like this that transforms my understanding of how the body works so well with the plants we evolved among. I had intuitively assumed that the inflammation which occurs when you break or sprain something is helpful, but I had not considered the blood aspect, only the biological cast element of inflammation. Thanks so much.

  3. I don’t have a food processor like the one Rosemary uses here, but I have a Vitamix. Do you think I could accomplish similar results using the Vitamix on a very low speed? I also have an immersion blender with a small processing attachment and cup. I can’t control the speed on it though. Wondering which would be the better choice for this process. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

    • A vitamix also works well. Some people prefer that to a food processor.

      • I highly recommend an immersion “stick” mixer for blending creams.

  4. Thanks so much!

    Would it be possible, in the future, to (maybe at the end of the post) have a condensed version that is more suitable to printing?

    I love the pictures for viewing the recipe on the web, but prefer condensed ingredient lists and instructions (printable on one or two pages, maximum) for printing for my herbal notebook.

    Thanks so much considering my request.

    • We hope to have a good print option for recipes soon.

    • As Rosalee said, we hope to for sure. It’s on the list. Meanwhile, an app like Evernote is great for copy/pasting recipes you like from the web on your computer. You can then access on the mobile app in your kitchen if you wanted. That said, eventually we’ll have PDF downloads on our newsletters.

    • printfriendly.com is a great website for printing recipes like this one! You just put in the url of the recipe or article you want to print. You can remove pictures and erase whatever part you want with a simple click of your mouse. Hope this helps :)

      • Thanks! I never heard of printfriendly.com before!!

      • Thanks, Stephanie. That works great!

        Thank you, Rosalee and John, for another informative and helpful article.

  5. I’m excited to make this! I have everything except for the hydrosol. But I do have helichrysum essential oil. Is there something that I can substitute for the liquid of the hydrosol and use the essential oil instead

  6. How did she clean the processor? Great information by the way…as always.

    • I wiped it down well with paper towels and then cleaned it with hot soapy water.

      • Baking Soda is a great way to absorb and remove oily films. Just sprinkle it on and wipe away!

  7. Thank You! I have some really special Arnica that I dried last summer. Can you please tell me how to use it in this recipe?

      • there perhaps is an error with the video. did anyone else have luck viewing it?

  8. I have everything except for the hydrosol. I do have helichrysum essential oil. Is there something that I can substitute for the liquid and then add the helichrysum essential oil that I already have? Thanks for you tho great recipe!

    • You could use distilled water in place of the hydrosol and then add helichrysum EO. However, in my experience when you use water instead of hydrosols the cream doesn’t last as long. Using rosemary antioxidants could help with the preservation.

      • isn’t it the same – distilled water and hydrosol? Hydrosol is also a distillate but from plant, so I guess they both should behave the same. The idea seems wonderful, but I doubt it can stay fresh without germs for longer than a week in not refrigerated. The cream may look fine, but most likely it will be contaminated within this period of time. Preservative is a must.

      • The question is continually posted asking the amount of Rosemary antioxident used but you do not answer. Please advise as this is a very crucial ingredient! Thank you.

    • Valerie Ann Worwood says in her book “Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child” that you can make “essential oil waters” by taking 1/2 pint of boiling water in a mason jar, adding 6-10 drops of your essential oil, and covering it until it’s completely cooled. After that, pour the water through a paper towel so it catches the essential oils globules and what is left (the water) is an essential oil water… not as strong as a hydrofoil, but better than nothing. Hope that helps!

  9. What a lovely recipe! I’ve made and used arnica oil and am also always amazed at the lack of bruising. My kids have even complained that there is nothing to show how badly they were hurt! I’m looking forward to making this. Thank you!

  10. I like the idea of this one, but want to try to make something WITHOUT the water, more of a salve. I have helichrysum essential oil, will that work?

    • You can definitely make an arnica salve and add helichrysum essential oil to it. I don’t work a lot with essential oils so I am unsure of how much of the EO you would want to add though.

      • Thank you! I would probably only add a few drops but without the liquids would have to figure out a good ratio of soft oils to hard to beeswax, too. I have everything but time, as usual! Thank you again!

    • I’ve been playing with making salves, lotions, creams, etc. The recipes are all very forgiving. The salve recipe given is close to the cream recipe I use. I also make a simple salve without water consisting of 1 ounce beeswax and 1 cup infused oil. After letting it cool some but still liquid, we add up to 60 drops of essential oils. Helichrysum is an expensive oil (if you found it cheap, it’s probably been adulterated) so I would probably use only10-20 drops of it and then the 20-40 drops of lavender. We just pour it into the container and let cool all the way to solid. It looks more like an ointment. Or, one could wait until it has cooled to solid and then beat with a hand mixer or stick blender.

  11. Once again, you have taught and encouraged and supported not only my efforts to become a competent herbal practitioner, but that of the public as well. Thanks so very much.

    I Have made Rosemary’s Perfect Cream before (rose scented) and will now make this Arnica version. I have some Arnica oil that I made last fall, so I already have all the ingredients. Yay!!!

    Many blessings ~

  12. it would be helpful if the recipe was in ounces instead of grams since in the US we use ounces not of grams

    • Hi Sue, I use metric measurements because they make a lot more sense when using small measurements. For example I’d rather say 25 grams rather than .881 ounces. You can easily find scales that measure in both metric and imperial. Also you can easily google metric conversions like this one. http://www.metric-conversions.org/weight/grams-to-ounces.htm

  13. I have used arnica ointments before and can’t wait to try this recipe! I loved the video of 7Song and can’t wait for the next one.

  14. I love the step by step pictures! I have purchased oils and flower waters for a while from Mountain Rose Herbs. I LOVE their products and reading your articles, but have been a little afraid of making my own recipes. This helps so much!! I needed to see the steps to get over the fear of creating a disastrous science experiment in my kitchen! Looks easier than I thought :)

    • Glad to hear it Becky! Our goal with these newsletters is to demystify herbal medicine and inspire you to get into your kitchen and make your own creations.

  15. Hi Rosalee, thank you so much for this recipe, which sounds very promising, especially to most commercially available ointments that only have arnica in them. Unfortunately, the helichrysum hydrosol is very hard to come by in Germany – do you think it would be possible to swap it for a couple drops of helichrysum essential oil? If so, what hydrosol would you recommend as a substitute that might have beneficial properties in terms of wound healing/bruising/sprains? Thank you!

    • You could try lavender hydrosol. Or calendula. I don’t work a lot with essential oils so I’m not sure how much helichrysum EO to add to this formula but it would be a great blend.

      • Thank you so much, I’ll try that!

  16. “Arnica is a low-dose botanical and should only be used internally with extreme caution.”
    Don’t you mean should only be used EXTERNALLY? :) Love this recipe! Thanks for sharing it. Can’t wait to make it.

    • Some herbalists do use arnica internally. But because it has very serious side effects if taken in excess I only recommend that with extreme caution.

  17. Sounds perfect. Thanks so much for providing details & pictures.

  18. I like to make my own infusions. Do you recommend sweet almond oil for the arnica and St. John’s wort? You describe this ointment as “non-greasy,” but that would depend on which type of oil the herbs are infused into, right? Olive? Grapeseed? What do you suggest? Can’t wait to try this new recipe! I appreciate all the information (and inspiration!) that keeps coming.

    • Sweet almond oil is nice. I often use grapeseed oil. Jojoba is really nice but can be a bit pricey. I thought I had mentioned which oils I prefer but looks like that part got left out. Thanks for asking!

  19. I’ve never used Arnica and am delighted to learn about combined properties with St. John’s Wort and Lavender. I especially appreciate learning how the body’s healing system react. All three sons are athletes and I wished I’d known this long ago!

    I am VERY familiar with helichrysum hydrosol and use it and aloe vera juice as the main “water ingredients” in a cream I make to treat psoriasis (lavender essential oil, coconut oil, and beeswax are also ingredients in addition to many healing carrier oils).

    Helichrysum Hydrosol can also be sprayed directly on the skin to eliminate bruising, scarring, and healing. There is extensive information about Helichrysum on “Naturesgift” website. For years, Marge developed and managed their website. They’ve recently changed it and it looks like a great deal of reference information has moved to the Blog. She, too, holds to a very high standard and might be interested in the Sustainable Project…

    Thank you so very much for all the amazing information you share!!!!

    Bev

  20. We use arnica creams and st johns wort oils. I love that this recipe combines them! St johns wort oil is my favorite… the scent is so yummy, the color is a lovely red. I would love to make this….if only it were summer in the rocky mountains or upper Michigan(my favorite place to pick st johns wort) right now to wildcraft the beautiful yellow flowers myself!

  21. I had my own concerns about icing when I broke my foot two months ago, especially as one of my fractures was a type that tends to heal poorly and require surgery because of limited circulation. I iced very moderately (10-20 minutes a day with a cold pack) and countered that with daily use of a turmeric poultice to help circulation. While inflammation is a healing process, you do have to watch out with the extremities, as too much inflammation can cut off feeling and/or circulation to fingers and toes. Here’s a link to Dr. Merkin’s fuller text for anyone who is interested: http://drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html

    Arnica would have been great for my bruising; I will know next time. Any ideas on a good vegan-friendly alternative tor beeswax?

    • I’ve never used it myself, but Mountain Rose Herbs sells carnauba wax which comes from a tree.

      • Thanks. I’ve noticed candelilla wax in lip balms, which frequently have beeswax, so that might be another one to try.

      • The carnuba wax works great but you don’t need to use as much as it is a very hard wax.

  22. Ooh, I can’t wait to try this. I recently purchased some arnica ointment to have on hand, but I’d much rather make my own. I haven’t had much luck with the perfect cream recipe in the past, though. My lotions always seems to just turn back into oil. That consistency looks so much different than what I’ve done, so I’m sure I’m messing something up along the way. Any thoughts/tips?

    • I think the most common error in making creams is the temperature of the oils and waters when you mix them. The closer they are in temperature the better. You also have to make sure you mix them really well. I used to use a cake mixer. It was easy to clean and initially the creams turned out well. But over time they had a more grainy consistency. Now that I use a food processor the creams stay creamy.

  23. I had many amalgams removed last year and an herbalist friend suggested I use Arnica gel on the jaw where I was having amalgam removals. I would rub on Arnica prior to dental appointments and then for a day or so afterwards. It was was soothing and helped diminish the discomfort. I also had a few tension headaches during that time, especially when I wanted to sleep. I rubbed Arnica on my temples and found relief. Looking forward to preparing this recipe. Thank you

  24. I have arnica essential oil….I’m thinking that I can’t substitute that for the infused oil, correct?

    • No, you can’t substitute that directly. You could come up with your own cream using another oil and including arnica essential oil. I’ve never worked with that myself so I don’t have any tips for you. Experimenting with recipes is a lot of fun though. :)

  25. Once again, a fantastic recipe and informative article! Especially interesting that the originator of RICE is questioning it….
    I have made lotion several times using Rosemary’s basic formula, it always comes out beautifully creamy like in your photo, but then turns grainy over the next few days! I even bought pharmaceutical grade borax and tried that, as per one of your other recipes, but had the exact same result. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Meadow, I just answered this question above so I’ll copy and paste that here. I think the most common error in making creams is the temperature of the oils and waters when you mix them. The closer they are in temperature the better. You also have to make sure you mix them really well. I used to use a cake mixer. It was easy to clean and initially the creams turned out well. But over time they had a more grainy consistency. Now that I use a food processor the creams stay creamy.

      I used to use borax in my creams but I don’t anymore. Once I switched to a food processor it fixed my emulsifying problems.

  26. I have read that the nerve healing virtues are in the flowers of St. John’s wort but have unable to find an oil from the flowers, so I make it myself. The color of the oils was good for the flowers yet you did not make a distinction between flower or leaves which I understand as more beneficial for depression symptoms.

    • I love to make medicine from the flowers, but that can take a lot of time to harvest or be super expensive to buy. Typically most people use both the flowers and upper leaves. I do not know of any distinction of using one or the other for a particular ailment.

  27. Thanks for the recipe, Rosalee, can’t wait to try making it. My four young grandchildren are very active. It it makes me happy knowing I can make some good medicine for their bumps & bruises & for their mom’s aches & pains!!

  28. Wonderful! Sounds like a great combination of ingredients. I have St. John’s infused oil, and a co-infusion of equal parts Arnica and calendula. Could I use those, or will the calendula throw the whole thing off?

    BTW, I love using an immersion blender for my lotions–just made a great one the other day with St. John’s infused oil, and calendula hydrosol. The eczema on my hands was noticeably better the next day!

    • The addition of calendula is just fine. That will make a great blend.
      I used to use a cake mixer for my creams. It was so easy to clean! But I find the food processor gives me a more reliable mixture that stays creamy and doesn’t separate. I’d love to try an immersion blender because that would be easier clean up.

      • Thanks Rosalee.

  29. Awesome! I am a huge fan of arnica! I look forward to making this recipe, as I currently only have a brand name gel – and I prefer to make my own.

    Here’s some instances that I’ve used arnica in the last couple of months with great success. My father in law fell down and fractured a couple of ribs – I made him start taking (hyland’s) arnica right away along with some (hyland’s) Symphytum & Calcarea phosphorica (to heal his bones faster). He had no bruising or swelling, which amazed him and his wife.

    My husband fell down the stairs (darn kids throwing toys down them) last week and twisted both of his ankles. I immediately gave him some (hyland’s) arnica tabs, (boiron) arnica gel rubbed all over both ankles, and some (boiron) bryonia (for the ankle/joints). Followed this regime for 2 days and he was good to go.

    My 2yr old daughter bonked her head on something and got a giant goose egg that was beginning to bruise immediately. Rubbed some arnica gel on it a few times that day and the swelling and bruising was gone withing a few hours.

    It is my main first aid remedy that I always have in my purse :)

    • Wow! That’s a lot of arnica opportunities. Your family is lucky to have you around!

  30. I don’t have the water and was wondering if I could use aloe vera gel instead?
    I can’t wait to try it.Thanks Rosalee

    • I’ve never used aloe gel in place of the waters portion. You could simply use distilled water. If you look at some of the previous comments someone posted how to make a sorta hydrosol.

  31. Hi Rosalee, Thanks for the post. I have one question though. If anti-inflammatories are not necessarily good to use at the onset of an injury wouldn’t that apply to the herbs with that action as well? I have made several healing balms using SJW and other lovely herbs but have not found fresh Arnica yet. Will try to grow some from seed this season.
    Thanks again!

    • That is a great question Tanya! My understanding is that anti-inflammatories like NSAIDs work very differently than herbs. NSAIDs block certain enzymes whereas herbs modulate inflammation by a variety of different pathways. That type of detailed chemical explanations is not my area of expertise but certainly worth looking into.

    • Ibuprofen in particular has a reputation for slowing healing. When I did sports, the coach recommended ibuprofen if you need to relax (e.g. stop cramps), but after an injury he’d say don’t use it, switch to acetomenophen or aspirin. Each of these medicines has different effects on the body, and none of them seem to have quite the same “eraser” effect on bruising as arnica. A lot of martial arts friends swore by arnica for those kinds of routine bumps and thumps.

  32. I would strongly suggest replacing they Helichrysum hydrosol with Helichrysum essential oil. For one thing the minute you introduce a hydrosol you need to preserve it as hydrosols are the same as water in a cream and bacteria can grow. Secondly the essential oil will be more effective in a cream whereas a hydrosol as a compress is very effective but not as much once incorporated in a cream base.

    • You can’t just substitute equal amounts of essential oils for waters. EOs are generally measured in drops. It can be dangerous to overdo them.

  33. HI Rosalee,
    Could you use cottonwood extract as a preservative? If so, how much would you suggest.
    Thanks in advance.

    • I like to add 1 teaspoon of cottonwood alcohol extract to creams to preserve them.

  34. I have never used arnica cream but the sav that I made through my learning herbs kit I bought from John healed my foot sore of 20 years in two applications. I tried all sorts of prescription and over the counter meds with no sucess so thanks for the schooling and I’m looking forward to more

    • Hi Paul,
      I was curious as to what type of foot sore you healed. My husband has some foot issues that this caught my attention.

  35. Thank you for this information. I have made a similar ointment for pain which included magnesium oil. The problem I experienced is the separation of the magnesium oil (which is simply magnesium flakes mixed with water) and the infused oil. Does using the blender help it to emulsify so that an emulsifier is not necessary or should I look for a natural emulsifier (any suggestions).

    • I’ve never made a cream with magnesium oil so I’m not sure. Magnesium is so wonderful for aches and pains. I love to get mine in a hot epsom salt bath.

  36. I have some St. John’s wort oil that I made a couple of years ago. The other day I saw a glob in the bottom – so I poured it through a strainer and tossed out the blob. Does that mean my St. John’s wort is no longer good? W
    Should I toss it out as well? And what’s the best way to dispose of it? What’s the longest you can keep oil like that? (It was made with almond oil). Thanks!!!
    Amy

    • Infused oils are best used within a year. My cottonwood oils last noticeably longer than that, but that seems to be an exception. I’m not sure what that blob was… with external use it’s probably fine but I honestly don’t know.

    • Amy, the glob is more than likely a result of the moisture from the plant. From what I have read and followed you simply decant the good oil, leave the icky stuff behind to discard. If the ‘good’ oil smells fragrant it should be quite good still. The nose knows :)

  37. WOuls this cream work for bad period cramps?

  38. In 2013 I made a dandelion and arnica salve that I really loved for muscle aches and bruises, but 2014 turned out to be a poor year for dandelions. There just weren’t enough in my area. But fingers crossed this year will be better and its back on the to-do list! I really like the idea of SJW and helichrysum though…maybe it will become a “yellow flowers” ointment!

  39. how about to use lecitne like emulsifier?

  40. My midwife has instructed me to use homeopathic arnica after delivery. It worked so well that I started using it every time somebody got a bump or bruise but I have never used it topically. I’m going to do this recipe and then wondering do I use three fourths of a cup of each Or or three fourths of a cup together?

  41. Lovely article. I have for a number of years used Vitamin E as a preservative. It is most often found in capsules, but my fingers were getting tired of all the poking and squeezing, and I found small bottles of it at my local pharmacy (in the wilds of western Montana, so should be plentiful in larger areas). Is this something that you would use instead of the rosemary? How do the two compare?

    • I’m honestly not sure about the comparison between the two. I often use cottonwood extract for preservation, but this isn’t available commercially, you have to make your own. I am going to start experimenting more with rosemary antioxidants so I have more experience to share.

      • Cottonwood grows everywhere around where I live. Do you have a recipe for cottonwood extract?

  42. Thanks for the recipe. =) I use an arnica salve all the time for the many bumps and bruises that happen around our house and I love it! I have some dried arnica and I made some St. Johns Wort oil this summer but haven’t gotten around to making my own ointment or salve with them yet.Thanks for the inspiration.

  43. Some of what you say about “rice” is true, but not all, and is very misleading. You, and Dr. Girkin have only addressed minor acute injuries in recent articles. After 25 years of hands on work as a Neuromuscular Massage Therapist, and having had many chronic injuries myself, I know for a fact, at the mitochondrial level, that ice applications are very beneficial. As the ice has cooled the tissue down, the reflex effects of the body are to pump large amounts of blood into the cooled tissue to warm it, this resulting in vast amounts of blood flow for several hours.
    Taking things out of context to sell products, while typical internet tactics, is not honest and has no element of integrity in it.
    I agree with using Arnica and some other herbs, but kicking ice to the curb for all pain is quite irresponsible.

    • Hi Thomas,
      Thanks for sharing your opinions. I would like to clarify a few things.

      We are an education company and we are not selling herbal products. We encourage people to make their own remedies as part of their herbal learning journey. Above all we encourage experience based learning.

      Secondly, this article is about minor injuries. I have included links with studies and research backing my claims. I encourage everyone to read those for themselves and do their own research. While I am sure this issue will continually evolve my current understanding is that there is plenty of evidence that icing minor injuries, and especially ligament/tendon injuries is detrimental.

      If you had studies or research to share I would love to see that.

  44. I thought it was not effective to use homeopathics with essential oils? Is it because your using the arnica in the herbal form that this doesn’t apply?

    • Hi Heather, I’m not quite sure I understand this question… arnica is commonly used as a homeopathic preparation but this article isn’t using homeopathy.

  45. I simply adore you all. I love learning from your post. As much as id love to become a herbalist. I cant afford it. So i rely on learning from websites. I have to say i have learned so mmuch from your information. Thank you for that. Question… Is this safe to use on kids?

    • Thanks for the kind words Jess – I am so glad you find our information helpful. Yes, this is safe to use on kids.

  46. Hey everyone. I am an herbalist passionate about Arnica and it’s many uses. I am struggling with finding where a piece of information you shared on this herb comes from. I have not been able to find any traditional use or modern research based use of arnica in an oil extract. It has always been used as a tincture, even topically and all of the modern research you cite has been done on the alcohol extract. Could you elaborate on where the oil extract comes from and why you are using it in this recipe?

    • Hi Jillian, I don’t know of a scientific study or other similar type of information about using arnica as an oil extraction. This was one of the first things I learned in herb school and I’ve been making it for ten years with miraculous results. Even some of the strongest herbal skeptics in my family swear by it. I doubt that it has “always been used as a tincture” since alcohol extracts are a fairly recent invention in herbalism. You can watch about how to make an herbal oil extract on the Mountain Rose Herbs YouTube channel. This article uses an oil extract that I bought from MRH, but you can just as easily make your own.

  47. This is a wonderful recipe and I’ll be making some oils soon in order to make some salves. In my neck of the woods (so to speak) we have tons of brittlebush flowers (Encilia farinosa) coming into bloom now and they also work well with strains, bumps and bruises. So for anyone looking to really be part of the medicine making process, if you live in an area with brittlebush, go out and pick some flowers, dry them so moisture doesn’t get into the oils and enjoy. I love knowing that when my medicine is finished that I have put a lot of my own energy into the process and who doesn’t love picking flowers?

  48. I really hope my arnica survives the winter and finally flowers this year, so that I can harvest and use it! I really want to try an arnica/cayenne infused oil, with the lavender EO as you suggested, and plantain water since I can make that at home. I may have to buy some arnica this year if I don’t get some, though, because I’m out of my first tube of purchased arnica gel from a local herbal store who is closed now! I really love using arnica just like you recommended here. Thanks for the great tutorial! I had no idea it would be so easy to make a cream. So far I have only tried ointments, balms, and salves.

  49. Last paragraph: . . .only used internally . . . ? I think you meant to say externally.

    • The full sentence reads “Arnica should only be used internally with extreme caution.” Arnica can be used internally and many herbalists do this. I don’t recommend it as even small dosages can create unwanted effects.

      • Then it should read “Arnica should be used with extreme caution if used internally”. Your sentence implies that external use is precluded. Agree that internal use is not recommended.

  50. Has anyone tried St John’s Wort oil to relieve sciatic nerve pain? I’m wondering if it helped. Thank you!

  51. Thanks for the recipe and the information. Would you please clarify one thing: your explanation above says inflammation is actually beneficial for healing (which is new to our thinking since we have often heard we want to reduce the swelling). Then, the properties of the arnica and helichrysum include decreased swelling as being beneficial. If decreased swelling is not what considered desirable, can you please reconcile?
    Thanks :)

    • Hi Arielle,
      This is a great question. I like that you have your thinking cap on. Inflammation and swelling are two different things. Inflammation is an immune system response that brings hormones and immune system cells to the area which help to heal the tissues and prevent infection. Excessive swelling is bad if it means that the area gets congested. Herbs like arnica and helichrysum move blood and interstitial fluid by dilating capillaries and other mechanisms. This means that the site of injury is getting lots of healing nutrients and cellular debris is being hauled away.

      I like to think of this as the difference between a clear running brook and a congested pond. We find better health when things are moving freely. Arnica gets things moving which assists your body in doing its astounding job of healing.

      I hope that explanation helps!

  52. Can helichrysum essential oil be used instead of the hydrosol

  53. I love the site and materials you provide – the only thing that would make it better is if the recipes came with a pdf printable edition so I could actually build a physical workbook to go with my learning.

  54. I also would like to know how much of the rosemary antioxidant to use. Thanks! I can’t wait to try this recipe :)

  55. I am looking for a salve or ointment to put on my tennis elbow and plantar fasciitis. Would this work or do I need some capsaicin added to the mix?

  56. I have not made it but I have used it on my sister. She has bone cancer and the bones in her back are fractured and very painful and we have a compounding pharmacy here in her town that sells arnica cream and it works very well for her pain. She still needs pain meds but not as many now so it is working.I am going to try making this. Rosalie can it be made with just the Arnica & not the St Johns wort. That was the only herb that has contraindications for her chemo treatments they are using. Although it is not being ingested only used topically this may very well not apply. Your thoughts?

  57. I have some experience with making natural skin lotions and am concerned about mixing the oils and water with just rosemary antioxidant. Anti-oxidants are not a preservative. I was taught when I did my diploma that if you add water to a product you must add preservatives. Also water and oils don’t mix that’s why you need an emulsifier, to mix them and keep them mixed. I know very little about herbs though and really appreciate and look forward to learning from you about the benefits of herbs. Thank you for sharing your knowledge so freely.

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