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Your Breast Surgery Recovery: Using Arnica To Minimize Bruising and Swelling


Arnica Montana
Arnica Montana

Your Breast Surgery Recovery: Using Arnica To Minimize Bruising and Swelling

When I was anticipating my lumpectomy in 2004, I consulted a friend who was a trained naturopath and she strongly recommended that I start taking homeopathic arnica 2-3 days prior to my surgery and continuing for 5 days post-surgery to minimize the pain, bruising and swelling.  She said it also helped to recover from anesthesia.

I took her advice and was very happy I did.  I found arnica to be extremely effective for post-surgical bruising and swelling.  So was my plastic surgeon – in fact, he was so impressed, he thereafter began recommending it to his patients and had it sitting in a prominent place on his reception desk!

What Is Arnica?

Arnica montana is a perennial herb found (according to Wikipedia) widely distributed throughout North America, in Europe from southern Iberia to southern Scandinavia and the Carpathian mountains, and all the way to Siberia.  For some reason, it doesn’t grow in the United Kingdom, in Italy or in the Balkan region. 

Arnica’s favorite habitat is nutrient-poor meadows, moors and heaths and grows as high as 9,800 feet above sea level (3,000 metres).   The flowers and roots are used in herbal medicine and homeopathic remedies, typically in remedies applied directly to the skin.

How Arnica Helps

The active components of Arnica montana include sesquiterpene lactones and flavonoids which are known to reduce inflammation and ease pain. It also contains thymol, an infection-fighting essential oil, and carotenoid, a powerful antioxidant.

The proposed method of action is by stimulation of white blood cells and dispersion of fluids that accumulate around surgical sites.  The cumulative effect is a boost in immunity, acceleration of healing and anti-inflammation.  The thymol component also helps the body combat bacterial infection, which is important when you’re sitting in a hospital working on breast surgery recovery.

The Science

Several studies have found Arnica montana to be no more effective than a placebo in relieving pain, swelling, and bruising.  Maybe they were not using the proper strengths – who knows?

For myself, I found it to be extremely effective and everyone I’ve recommended it to felt similarly.  Homeopaths have used arnica for more than 200 years to treat injuries, in particular swelling and bruising, with great results.

I did find some positive studies:

(1)  In a 2007 study of 190 adults having their tonsils removed, scientists discovered that those taking a homeopathic dilution of arnica had a small but significant decrease in pain compared to patients assigned to a placebo.  Robertson A, Suryanarayanan R, Banerjee A. “Homeopathic Arnica montana for post-tonsillectomy analgesia: a randomised placebo control trial.” Homeopathy 2007 96(1):17-21.

(2) A 2002 study of 37 people undergoing surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome found that taking a homeopathic dilution of arnica and applying arnica ointment also produced a significant decrease in post-surgery pain.  Jeffrey SL, Belcher HJ. “Use of Arnica to relieve pain after carpal-tunnel release surgery.” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 2002 8(2):66-8.

(3) A 2006 study of 29 patients undergoing face-lifts found that patients taking perioperative homeopathic arnica montana exhibited less bruising.  Seeley BM, Denton AB, Ahn MS, Maas CS. “Effect of homeopathic Arnica montana on bruising in face-lifts: results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.”  Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2006 Jan-Feb;8(1):54-9.


I strongly recommend that you consult a trained naturopath or homeopath to get the dosage correct for YOU.  Having said that, I do have a homeopathic protocol that comes highly recommended:

Homeopathic Arnica Protocol

  • Three days prior to surgery take one dose of Arnica 30C
  • Two days prior to surgery take Arnica 30C two times per day
  • One day prior to surgery take Arnica 30C three times per day
  • On the day of surgery take Arnica 30C four times before surgery commences.
  • Post-surgery take Arnica 30C every 15 minutes as soon as possible in recovery during the first hour.
  • After the first hour repeat Arnica 30C every hour for the duration of the day.
  • One day post-op take Arnica 30C every four hours for the duration of the day.
  • Day two post-op take Arnica 30C four times per day.
  • Day three post-op take Arnica 30C  three times per day.
  • Day four post-op take Arnica 30C two times per day.
  • Day five post-op take Arnica 30C one time per day and continue until full recovery.
As you will notice, the protocol increases the frequency of repetition of doses leading up to surgery and then after surgery, the repetition increases significantly, then starts to decrease as the body heals.  This protocol has been highly recommended, but please check with your health professional prior to commencement.
Check out my Useful Links page to buy arnica from recommended sources.
If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

My Top Favorite Things to Promote Breast Surgery Recovery


My Top Favorite Things to Promote Breast Surgery Recovery

Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / Sura Nualpradid

My Top Favorite Things to Promote Breast Surgery Recovery

I thought it might be helpful to share with you my list of my top favorite things to promote breast surgery recovery.  I have personally tried all of these and found that they worked wonderfully well.

In the Hospital

Whether you are recovering from mastectomy, lumpectomy or breast reconstruction surgery, there will be incisions to heal.  The body requires protein to heal properly and if you’re a vegetarian, that can pose a problem.

If you can, have a friend bring you some homemade soups, salads,  stews made with fresh organic ingredients while you’re in the hospital mending because that would be much better than the processed food most hospitals serve.

1.  Protein – since you probably won’t be able to get organic meat in the hospital (or if you’re a vegetarian), your best bet is to have a good quality protein powder that you can mix into juices or soups.

2.  Arnica – you can take this in homeopathic pills, a cream or a gel but it’s great stuff for limiting surgical bruising and pain.  Don’t miss out on this one!  This is the one I used.

3.  Transfer Factors – Because of the fact that your immune system is clearly not operating as well as it could be it only makes sense to rebuild it as quickly as possible and I have found few things that work better than Transfer Factors.  You are relying upon your immune system to be your best defense against cancer and if it is not operating at optimal levels, you could be leaving the door wide open for a recurrence.  Transfer Factors will not only help you rebuild your immune system, they also help the body repair itself.  This is the one I recommend.

4.  Essential oils – to promote the healing process, decrease pain and the chances of infection, limit bruising and increase oxygenation to the healing incisions.  I used PanAway, a remarkable essential oil blend of helichrysum and wintergreen.  Since your incisions will be covered, just apply the essential oil to the areas you can access – the oil will migrate where it is needed.  Just be aware – some nurses might frown on this (I did this by myself in the bathroom!).

Healing at Home

5.  Sleep – once you’re home it will be easier to get some rest!  Sleep is the absolute best way for your body to heal itself.  Don’t feel guilty about getting some extra sleep – you need it right now.

6.  Continue 1, 3 and 4 above – in addition to PanAway, try Lavender and Frankincense for their superior skin healing qualities.  Lavender also helps you to relax and promotes deeper sleep.

7.  Keep stress levels down –  too much stress can slow down the healing process.  Keep stress levels down by taking time out to meditate.  If you can learn to visualize your body healing itself, it will happen that much quicker.

8.  Bromelain – an enzyme found in the stems of pineapples, useful for reducing post-op swelling. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and boosts the immune system to reduce pain, bruising, and tenderness. It is a natural supplement that works the same way as Ibuprofen, the well-known over-the-counter drug, the only difference being that bromelain will not harm your liver.

9. Flaxseed – just 1-2 tbsp of freshly ground flaxseed per day can help reduce your risk for cancer recurrence, fight the effects of inflammation, help your body repair itself, is full of fiber which will help you detox and minerals. For more information, check out this article: 9 Fantastic Benefits of Flaxseed

Reducing Scar Tissue Adhesions

I had the latissimus dorsi flap breast reconstruction so had a sizable scar on the left side of my back just under my shoulder blade.  I had a friend massage cypress and wintergreen essential oils around the edges of the scar (while it was healing) and into the incision itself after it had healed.  Cypress increases circulation and wintergreen is a natural anti-inflammatory and decreases pain.

After about 8 weeks post-op, I had my massage therapist do some cross-fiber massage over the scar to reduce adhesions which could limit my range of movement.  I still get that done 8 years later because adhesions tend to cause trouble even this far down the track.  Gentle stretching of the arm above the head (yoga is wonderful) also helps quite a bit.  I created a video to show others how to do the massage procedure.

The important thing post surgery is to stay positive and relaxed, and let nature run its course.  Remember, your body is adept at self-healing.  It knows how to repair itself.  All you have to do is give it the proper nutrition, minimize stress, get plenty of rest, and promote good circulation.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.