This weekend, I slipped on some water that had pooled on the flooring in my bathroom. I thought for just a moment that I might save myself, but wound up in a twisted and bruised heap against the tub. I’m not a spring chicken anymore, so inevitably after 24 hours—plus, one plane trip and 9-hour car ride—I feel like someone beat me with a baseball bat.
Before I fell, I was already thinking about my favorite plants for bruising and tissue trauma. My father is healing up a blood clot in his leg, and some of the side effects of the blood thinners they prescribe is an increase in bruising.
In both my and my father’s cases, the first plant that came to mind was arnica (Arnica montana). The sunny, yellow, short flower is a plains dweller. I only once got it to grow for me here in Ohio. Strictly Medicinal Seeds tells us that this plant is hardy to most temperate zones but really prefers high altitudes. Wherever you are, try these plants in wan acidic soil in full sun. Give them room, as they like to spread in their own family clump. Arnica is easy to start from seed, though you might find some great plant starts in a nursery that specializes in medicinals. The flowers are highly resinous and are used to make lotions, salves and oils for the purpose of easing muscular pain, soreness from blunt force tissue trauma and bruising.
My favorite way to use arnica is as a homeopathic preparation. The plant isn’t safe to ingest, so sadly it isn’t one you’ll grow and benefit from adding to a salad. It contains a toxin called helenalin that makes it unsuitable for using internally. It’s even recommended that you not use arnica on broken skin. I have seen some studies recently that are beginning to question that proscription. Homeopathic arnica, however, is something I wouldn’t be without in my home medical kit. I used it to recover from all the tissue trauma of giving birth, and it is exactly what both my dad and I need right now.
Unfortunately, homeopathics are one of the most “processed” forms of herbal medicine. It isn’t something you’re going to grow and use right out your back door, which makes it less desirable as a daily solution in my eyes. That said, it is worth having arnica in your garden if you’d like to benefit from the oil, which you can easily make.
Some of my other favorite herbs for bruising that are easy to grow and use are comfrey (Symphytum officinale), St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) and even the humble chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Each can be applied in an oil or compress or simply added to a nice warm bath to soak away your aches and pains.