I know several people who have  recently injured themselves and not just from falling over on the ice in this cold spell. Whether it’s injuries from falling on ice, being knocked off a bike, or even from surgery, there are some lovely herbs that can aid healing. Although I’d also recommend taking herbal remedies orally, a topical application to the affected area can work wonders.

Arnica (Arnica montana) is probably the herb that most people associate with reducing bruising and applying it to an injured area will work have speedy results, although care must be taken not to apply it to broken skin as it is toxic if used inappropriately. A recent human study showed arnica to be effective in reducing bruising (Leu et al., 2010). Arnica is also used by herbalists as an antiinflammatory and recent studies have also shown arnica to be as effective as standard antiinflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen gel in reducing symptoms of arthritis (Ross, 2008; Widrig et al., 2007) and diclofenac in a study on wound healing (Karrow et al., 2008).

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) has traditionally been used for healing of all tissues, including bone (hence the common name ‘knitbone’) and as an antiinflammatory and analgesic. As a healing agent, comfrey is so potent, that its use is avoided in deep or puncture wounds as there is a risk of infection being sealed in under a healed surface. Recent human studies have confirmed these activities, for example in wound healing (Barna et al.,2007) and studies have also shown some very positive results in use of comfrey ointment in reducing symptoms of back pain (Giannetti et al.,2010; Kucera et al., 2005), athritis of the knee (Grube et al., 2007) and it was superior to conventional antiinflammatory agent dicolfenac gel in reducing symptoms in ankle sprain (D’anchise et al., 2007; Predel et al., 2005).

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is used topically and orally for wound healing and intial studies support this. In addition, in a human study, a topical application of madecassoside, extracted from gotu kola showed an improvement in sun-aged skin (Haftek et al., 2008) and an extract increased firmness and elasticity of skin (Martelli et al,. 2000).


Barna M, Kucera A, Hladícova M, Kucera M. (2007) [Wound healing effects of a Symphytum herb extract cream (Symphytum x uplandicum NYMAN: ): results of a randomized, controlled double-blind study] Wien Med Wochenschr. 157(21-22):569-74. German.

D’Anchise R, Bulitta M, Giannetti B. (2007) ‘Comfrey extract ointment in comparison to diclofenac gel in the treatment of acute unilateral ankle sprains (distortions)’. Arzneimittelforschung. 57(11):712-6.

Giannetti BM, Staiger C, Bulitta M, Predel HG. (2010) ‘Efficacy and safety of comfrey root extract ointment in the treatment of acute upper or lower back pain: results of a double-blind, randomised, placebo controlled, multicentre trial’. Br J Sports Med. 44(9):637-41. Epub 2009 May 21.

Grube B, Grünwald J, Krug L, Staiger C. (2007) ‘Efficacy of a comfrey root (Symphyti offic. radix) extract ointment in the treatment of patients with painful osteoarthritis of the knee: results of a double-blind, randomised, bicenter, placebo-controlled trial’. Phytomedicine. 14(1):2-10. Epub 2006 Dec 13.

Haftek M, Mac-Mary S, Le Bitoux MA, Creidi P, Seité S, Rougier A, Humbert P.(2008) ‘Clinical, biometric and structural evaluation of the long-term effects of a topical treatment with ascorbic acid and madecassoside in photoaged human skin’. Exp Dermatol. 17(11):946-52. Epub 2008 May 21.

Karow JH, Abt HP, Fröhling M, Ackermann H. (2008) ‘Efficacy of Arnica montana D4 for healing of wounds after Hallux valgus surgery compared to diclofenac’. J Altern Complement Med. 14(1):17-25.

Kucera M, Barna M, Horàcek O, Kàlal J, Kucera A, Hladìkova M.(2005) ‘Topical symphytum herb concentrate cream against myalgia: a randomized controlled double-blind clinical study’. Adv Ther. 22(6):681-92.

Leu S, Havey J, White LE, Martin N, Yoo SS, Rademaker AW, Alam M. (2010) ‘Accelerated resolution of laser-induced bruising with topical 20% arnica: a rater-blinded randomized controlled trial’. Br J Dermatol. 163(3):557-63.

Martelli L, Berardesca E, Martelli M.(2000) ‘Topical formulation of a new plant extract complex with refirming properties. Clinical and non-invasive evaluation in a double-blind trial’. Int J Cosmet Sci. 22(3):201-6.

Predel HG, Giannetti B, Koll R, Bulitta M, Staiger C. (2005) ‘Efficacy of a comfrey root extract ointment in comparison to a diclofenac gel in the treatment of ankle distortions: results of an observer-blind, randomized, multicenter study’. Phytomedicine. 12(10):707-14.

Ross SM. (2008) ‘Osteoarthritis: a proprietary Arnica gel is found to be as effective as ibuprofen gel in osteoarthritis of the hands’ . Holist Nurs Pract. 22(4):237-9.

Widrig R, Suter A, Saller R, Melzer J. (2007) ‘Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study’. Rheumatol Int. 27(6):585-91. Epub 2007 Feb 22.