This article is not actually about the hippie movement, flower power or flower children. But I could not resist using the symbolism of counterculture. As a movement standing for peace, love, passive resistance and nonviolence... I think it has brought much-needed healing and balance to the world.
Health foods, medicinal herbs and homoeopathy have also been designated to this counterculture movement along with psychedelics and new age spirituality. This article is about ‘Arnica’ and ‘Echinacea’ which are possibly my two most useful and recommended natural remedies. They are like the daisies in the barrel of the medical gun.
Arnica and Echinacea both happen to be members of the ubiquitous daisy plant family. I love flowering plants and the Asteraceae or daisy family is my favourite because it contains so many of the floral icons that are not only beautiful but also medicinal including Arnica, Bellis, Burdock, Calendula, Chamomile, Chicory, Dandelion, Echinacea, Milk Thistle, Sunflower etc.
Most of these (and others, read my previous blog Wild medicine from weeds in our communal backyard) have both herbal and homoeopathic uses and are prolific in their growth, as I regularly encounter them both wild and cultivated on my daily walks in periurban central Europe.
In our household, natural remedies like Arnica and Echinacea are the ‘equivalent’ to Paracetamol™ and Ibuprofen™. This means that we generally use these (and other natural options) first, before any pharmaceuticals. We still have Paracetamol™ and Ibuprofen™ in our medicine cabinet and are certainly glad to use them on occasion. They are just not our first line ‘go to’ remedies. Instead, we start with natural remedies like Arnica and Echinacea for commonly encountered discomforts like mild pain and the early stages of infection. Frequently nothing else is required and our ‘patient’ quickly recovers and feels much better.
My kids first learnt about natural remedies way before they learnt the names of pharmaceuticals. But I guess that's what happens when your mother is a homoeopath and your father is a chiropractor! We have 16 years of formal academic study between us including two master’s degrees… and let’s just say right here, that we are far from being ‘hippie dippie’ parents!
I invite you to put what you think you know about these so-called alternative healing modalities and any prejudices aside and read on. You may just discover something you didn’t know that will one day help you or improve the health of someone you love. If you are already part of our wellness tribe, this article will be further confirmation of your positive experiences with natural products and alternative healing modalities.
When one has many other safe and effective alternatives from which to choose, one avoids overusing pharmaceuticals. The dangers of polypharmacy or routinely using multiple pharmaceutical medicines range from a slow-building toxic load, unintended drug interactions and antibiotic resistance. This is generally the end result of years of pharmaceutical (ab)use and dependency in the form of symptomatic prescriptions for chronic conditions.
I am suggesting that pharmaceuticals or conventional medicines be used judiciously when healthy lifestyle interventions and complementary care fail. For example, research suggests positive outcomes with the integration of homoeopathy into medical practice. It shows that homoeopathy is as effective as conventional prescriptions. It is a good indicator of the untapped potential in integrating alternative therapies with conventional care.
From Homeopathy to herbs and back…
I first discovered Homoeopathy almost 30 years ago when I was a teenager. In the course of my studies, I then learned about the herbs or medicinal plants from which many homoeopathic remedies are made.
Since then I have looked at plants and the natural world in a different light. It is hard not to notice the series of blooms that begin in spring and continue throughout summer. Many of them look like weeds but are in fact medicinal herbs or are closely related to the medicinal plant species. Their traditional herbal and homoeopathic uses predate current day pharmacy in some cases by centuries and have stood the test of time, persecution and prejudice. In fact, many pharmaceutical medications have been based on active ingredients isolated from natural substances and herbal remedies.
Something as routine as taking my dog for a walk has reacquainted me with many of the raw materials of my trade. My daily walks in nature are an exercise in soft fascination and have me in complete awe of how nature surrounds us with the cures to all our ills. And even though I walk the same routes, I notice something new almost every day. Lately, I have identified both Arnica and Echinacea ‘in the field‘ as well as other members of the daisy family… Burdock, Chamomile, Chicory, Dandelion, Echinacea, Milk Thistle and Sunflower. This is what I call medicinal flower power!
What is Arnica used for? Is it safe to use or toxic? Is it an anti-inflammatory?
Arnica montana is known as mountain daisy or leopard’s bane. It is best indicated where there is any pain from TRAUMA, like bumps and bruises to injuries sustained from accidents or after surgery. Arnica is not the panacea or cure-all that natural industry and media make it out to be. There is research currently underway in order to clarify Arnica’s best applications. This is vital for both doctors and patients especially since this remedy is arguably the most popular homoeopathic remedy.
Nevertheless, the key to successful prescribing of Homoeopathic Arnica in my experience is when pain and shock come from a traumatic origin. To illustrate, Arnica is not generally indicated in headaches unless it comes from a bump to the head. Arnica is not an anti-inflammatory per se but it helps your body quickly and effectively resolve the healthy inflammatory processes that result from injury to tissues. If you are in doubt you are probably better off just popping a Paracetamol™ or Ibuprofen™.
I have found it useful to have Arnica products for both internal and external use in my natural first aid kit. Arnica herbal creams, gels and oils are safe and non-toxic when applied externally. Do not ingest these. They work well for superficial injuries like bruising where the skin is intact and for muscular strains when rubbed into the skin. Homoeopathic Arnica liquids, tablets or pills are better indicated for internal use and when a deeper action is required like following surgery or tooth extraction. It is important to know that Arnica is contraindicated before surgery and should not be applied to open wounds.
What are the benefits of Echinacea?
Echinacea purpurea is a Coneflower. The main first aid uses of herbal Echinacea relate to the support of our immune system and treatment of INFECTIONS such as throat, respiratory, ear, bowel, urinary tract, skin etc. Echinacea has immune-modulatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, even anti-anxiety and antioxidant properties. It is also used homeopathically but less commonly. It is important to know that Echinacea is generally contraindicated in autoimmune diseases.
Here are some tips when choosing quality Arnica and Echinacea products:
Read the labels well and ask ‘Is this Herbal or Homeopathic?’ Yes, they are different. Most doctors and even most alternative practitioners don’t know there is a difference. The herbal forms are mother tinctures (alcoholic liquids indicated by the symbol ϴ), creams, dried herb tablets and capsules. The homoeopathic forms are diluted versions of the herbal mother tincture. You will notice some letters and numbers such as D6 or 30C next to the remedy name which denotes how dilute it is and which dilution scale has been used. Ask a qualified homoeopath to explain in more detail or watch this video.
Use reputable brands prescribed by a practitioner. The best herbal products contain standardised extracts from organic agriculture that have been tested by a 3rd party.
If you have never heard of Arnica and Echinacea, then I’m impressed that you have read this far ;) How about expanding your home first aid kit to include the flower power of Arnica and Echinacea? Peace ☮️🌼
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Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified health professional.