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My wife recently gave birth and the taking of arnica homeopathic tablets seems to be widely recommended to help with bruising. We've seen it suggested online, several midwives have told her to take them, and even a doctor has mentioned it.

Is there anything to suggest arnica tablets reduce bruising?

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    Welcome to Skeptics! I've made some serious edits; please check you are comfortable with them. You state that the tablets are homeopathic, but you haven't provided any references, so we can't be sure if people are recommending tablets with active ingredients or not. (Not all homeopathic remedies are diluted beyond all possible effect.) I also removed a statement suggesting placebos are not harmful, as that isn't true, and it hasn't been established they are merely placebos. I also removed a motivation question. – Oddthinking Nov 8 '14 at 13:18
  • These Arnica drops are 6X dilution (i.e. 1 part per million), for example. – Oddthinking Nov 8 '14 at 13:21
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    Boots also sell a 6C formulation which they describe as "Nelsons Arnica 6c is a homeopathic medicinal product without approved therapeutic indications." – Henry Nov 8 '14 at 22:45
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    I think the issue that prompted me to ask this question in the first place is that medical professionals suggested we use arnica. We then went into Boots and asked for arnica and they gave us homeopathic tablets. Perhaps there is a disconnect between what the medical professionals wanted and what we were sold. The question has been edited to focus much more on homeopathic arnica tablets than I intended originally. One of the things I wanted to know was can you get non homeopathic arnica, and is it effective. – Andrew Wilkinson Dec 25 '14 at 22:14
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    That homeopathy is debunked is shown in the answer below. The wiki link to medical uses of Arnica provided in the comments to that answer, points to clinical tests indicating that Arnica is beneficial against bruising. This should answer both aspects of the re-formulated question? – Meaningful Username Dec 29 '14 at 10:39
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Is there anything to suggest arnica tablets reduce bruising?

The results seem to suggest probably not. Though, according to one paper, topical arnica seemed to perform almost as well as 5% vitamin K cream.

I include four papers I was able to find testing arnica on bruising. Two of which are homeopathic arnica, the other two are topical arnica.

Homeopathic arnica for prevention of pain and bruising: randomized placebo-controlled trial in hand surgery (full text linked)

Abstract: (emphasis mine)

Homeopathic arnica is widely believed to control bruising, reduce swelling and promote recovery after local trauma; many patients therefore take it perioperatively. To determine whether this treatment has any effect, we conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial with three parallel arms. 64 adults undergoing elective surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome were randomized to take three tablets daily of homeopathic arnica 30C or 6C or placebo for seven days before surgery and fourteen days after surgery. Primary outcome measures were pain (short form McGill Pain Questionnaire) and bruising (colour separation analysis) at four days after surgery. Secondary outcome measures were swelling (wrist circumference) and use of analgesic medication (patient diary).

62 patients could be included in the intention-to-treat analysis. There were no group differences on the primary outcome measures of pain (P=0.79) and bruising (P=0.45) at day four. Swelling and use of analgesic medication also did not differ between arnica and placebo groups. Adverse events were reported by 2 patients in the arnica 6C group, 3 in the placebo group and 4 in the arnica 30C group.

The results of this trial do not suggest that homeopathic arnica has an advantage over placebo in reducing postoperative pain, bruising and swelling in patients undergoing elective hand surgery.

Effects of Topical Arnica Gel on Post-Laser Treatment Bruises (full text pay-walled)

Summary:

background. Claims have been made suggesting that topical arnica prevents and speeds the resolution of bruises, yet there are no well-designed placebo-controlled studies to date evaluating topical arnica's effect on bruising.

objective. To compare the efficacy of topical arnica in the prevention and resolution of laser-induced bruising.

methods. Nineteen patients with facial telangiectases were enrolled in this randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study and were divided into pretreatment and posttreatment groups. The pretreatment group applied arnica with vehicle to one side of the face and vehicle alone to the other side of the face twice a day for 2 weeks prior to laser treatment. The posttreatment group followed the same procedure for 2 weeks after laser treatment. On day 0, all patients were treated for facial telangiectases using a 585 nm pulsed dye laser. Bruising was assessed using a visual analog scale on days 0, 3, 7, 10, 14, and 17 by the patient and the physician. In addition, photographs taken at each of the follow-up visits were later assessed by a second physician using the visual analog scale.

results. There was no statistically significant difference between the mean scores of arnica and vehicle (P = 0.496) and the mean scores of arnica and vehicle (P = 0.359) in the pretreatment and posttreatment groups, respectively.

conclusion. No significant difference was found between topical arnica and vehicle in the prevention or resolution of bruising.

Accelerated resolution of laser-induced bruising with topical 20% arnica: a rater-blinded randomized controlled trial (full text pay-walled)

Summary:

Background  Dermatological procedures can result in disfiguring bruises that resolve slowly.

Objectives  To assess the comparative utility of topical formulations in hastening the resolution of skin bruising.

Methods  Healthy volunteers, age range 21–65 years, were enrolled for this double (patient and rater) blinded randomized controlled trial. For each subject, four standard bruises of 7 mm diameter each were created on the bilateral upper inner arms, 5 cm apart, two per arm, using a 595-nm pulsed-dye laser (Vbeam; Candela Corp., Wayland, MA, U.S.A.). Randomization was used to assign one topical agent (5% vitamin K, 1% vitamin K and 0·3% retinol, 20% arnica, or white petrolatum) to exactly one bruise per subject, which was then treated under occlusion twice a day for 2 weeks. A dermatologist not involved with subject assignment rated bruises [visual analogue scale, 0 (least)–10 (most)] in standardized photographs immediately after bruise creation and at week 2.

Results  There was significant difference in the change in the rater bruising score associated with the four treatments (anova, P = 0·016). Pairwise comparisons indicated that the mean improvement associated with 20% arnica was greater than with white petrolatum (P = 0·003), and the improvement with arnica was greater than with the mixture of 1% vitamin K and 0·3% retinol (P = 0·01). Improvement with arnica was not greater than with 5% vitamin K cream, however.

Conclusions  Topical 20% arnica ointment may be able to reduce bruising more effectively than placebo and more effectively than low-concentration vitamin K formulations, such as 1% vitamin K with 0·3% retinol.

Effect of Homeopathic Arnica montana on Bruising in Face-lifts Results of a Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial (full text linked)

Summary:

Objectives To design a model for performing reproducible, objective analyses of skin color changes and to apply this model to evaluate the efficacy of homeopathic Arnica montana as an antiecchymotic agent when taken perioperatively.

Methods Twenty-nine patients undergoing rhytidectomy at a tertiary care center were treated perioperatively with either homeopathic A montana or placebo in a double-blind fashion. Postoperative photographs were analyzed using a novel computer model for color changes, and subjective assessments of postoperative ecchymosis were obtained.

Results No subjective differences were noted between the treatment group and the control group, either by the patients or by the professional staff. No objective difference in the degree of color change was found. Patients receiving homeopathic A montana were found to have a smaller area of ecchymosis on postoperative days 1, 5, 7, and 10. These differences were statistically significant (P<.05) only on postoperative days 1 (P<.005) and 7 (P<.001).

Conclusions This computer model provides an efficient, objective, and reproducible means with which to assess perioperative color changes, both in terms of area and degree. Patients taking perioperative homeopathic A montana exhibited less ecchymosis, and that difference was statistically significant (P<.05) on 2 of the 4 postoperative data points evaluated.

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According to the NHS,

A 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy said that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and that the principles on which homeopathy is based are "scientifically implausible". This is also the view of the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies.

This means that homeopathy has been shown to be no different from a placebo (i.e. a negative control treatment). This implies that the only effects generated by the homeopathic "treatment" are due to the placebo, and not the "treatment" itself.

As mentioned in the comments, from a chemical viewpoint, any dilution above 12C contains such a low dilution that no molecules of the original chemical remain in the supposed "medicine", and therefore there is no scientific basis for homeopathy being a plausible remedy.

IMO, the best counter to any homeopath is that tap water is an unimaginably strong homeopathic remedy of literally everything possible, including dinosaurs.

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    You fail to show that arnica is actually a homeopathic medicine. In fact, it isn't. It's a herbal medicine and it actually works... en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnica#Medicinal_uses – Sklivvz Dec 24 '14 at 11:08
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    @EbenezerSklivvze Seriously?? OP's question stated "homeopathic" clearly. – March Ho Dec 24 '14 at 11:43
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    @MarchHo He did, but who says the OP is right? He's asking about a specific chemical, not if homeopathic treatments in general are effective. – SpellingD Dec 24 '14 at 15:10
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    @SpellingD All homeopathic "remedies" (with the exception of those with lower dilution levels than 12C) are chemically identical, so it makes no sense to distinguish between them. Since OP specified a 30C "remedy", it is reasonable to condemn it in the exact same way for any other homeopathic "remedy". – March Ho Dec 24 '14 at 23:26
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    The OP just gave an example, he's not asking about 30C in particular in the question. Please answer specifically and not generically. We already have other more general "homeopathy" questions, the reason this was not closed as a dupe is to allow a specific answer. – Sklivvz Dec 24 '14 at 23:34

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