Researchers in the UK report that the popular homeopathic remedy arnica failed to help reduce swelling and bruising in patients undergoing surgery.
Flowers from the Arnica herb, which is also known as Leopard's bane or Mountain tobacco, are used in the popular topical cream sold in many health stores and pharmacies, which is widely believed to control bruising, reduce swelling and promote recovery after injuries or operations.
However in a placebo-controlled, randomised trial on patients undergoing surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, researchers from the University of Exeter and the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital found the herb-derived treatment had no effect. They report on the study in the February issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
The team divided 64 adults into three groups. The first group took three tablets daily of homeopathic arnica 30C, the second took a less potent version (6C) and the third received a placebo for seven days before surgery and fourteen days after surgery.
The researchers measured pain using the McGill Pain Questionnaire and bruising (by colour separation analysis) at four days after surgery. They also studied the level of swelling around the wrist and asked patients to record their use of pain killers.
They found no differences on the primary outcome measures of pain and bruising between any of the groups. Swelling and use of analgesic medication also did not differ between arnica and placebo groups.
"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," concluded the researchers.