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Storied pain reliever arnica has been flying under the radar for years because of the controversial claims that it can reduce aches, sooth sore muscles and lessen the severity of bruising. The flowering herb has been used in medicinal care for centuries and today, depending on the formulation, it is a popular homeopathic pain remedy.

Despite missing the stamp of approval from the FDA, arnica products have an ever-growing fan base. A nod from natural medicine advocates Doctor Oz, Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Mercola have given topical arnica a major boost in popularity. Nutrition stores have kept arnica on hand for years and now arnica creams and gels are well within reach at any self-respecting drugstore.  Should arnica be on your shelf, too?

Topical applications contain diluted amounts of arnica, just enough to harness the flower’s legendary anti-inflammatory properties. The theory is that these creams, gels, ointments and oils fight the buildup of fluid and blood that occurs after minor sports injuries and other light soft tissue trauma.

Countless numbers of weight trainers and other fitness buffs, including the hard workin’ guys and gals at My House Fitness, have known about arnica cream for years. In the early days, you don’t know your limits. Later, you push your limits. At some point, a more experienced individual will notice and can logically assume that you will be walking like a rusty robot tomorrow. Receiving advice about arnica is one of the many rites of passage for the physically inclined.

When arnica cream made a guest appearance in the naughty novel Fifty Shades of Grey, it was introduced to an entirely new crowd outside the gym. In the book, the main character presents his girlfriend with arnica cream and Advil. Even if you hadn’t heard of arnica, it was obvious the cream was something meant to help ease some amount of physical discomfort.

Personally, if there’s a chance I could override the “ouch” effect from too many supersets, I’m going to give it a try. I recommend you turn to a certified personal trainer or nutritional counseling who specializes in wellness for a more qualified opinion of arnica. If you do go ahead and spring for it beforehand, you can expect to spend less than $15 for a decent size tube of cream or gel. Remember not to apply arnica to broken skin and start with a small amount in one area to see how your skin reacts.

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