Arnica is a plant that some people claim is useful for alleviation of bruising and soreness. It forms part of the homeopathic repertoire of herbal remedies, and the 200c designation refers to the amount of times the homeopathic manufacturer diluted the herb in water. Conventional medicine does not regard arnica as a useful medicine.
The scientific name for the arnica plant is Arnica montana. It is an herb that grows naturally in parts of Russia and Europe, but also forms part of the non-native flora of North America. With the potential to grow up to 2 feet tall (about 0.6 meters), the roots and flowers are the only parts that make up herbal remedies.
Homeopathy is a form of alternative health practice. Practitioners believe that a medicine becomes more effective the more diluted it is. They also base their remedies on the concept that "like cures like." This means that the herb or mineral that forms the base of the remedy typically causes the symptoms that the patient suffers from. With the treatment, however, the base is extremely diluted.
Usually in conventional medicine, a stronger concentration of medicine produces stronger effects in the body. Homeopaths believe the opposite, and recommend their more dilute remedies when they feel a stronger effect is necessary on the patient's symptoms. The numbered designations on homeopathic remedies refer to how dilute the remedy is.
For example, an arnica preparation of 6C means that the manufacturer diluted the herb six times. The first dilution contains one part herb to 99 parts water or alcohol. The next dilution takes one-hundredth of this mixture and dilutes it again in another 99 parts liquid. Between dilutions, the manufacturer shakes the mixture thoroughly. An arnica 200C product has gone through 200 dilutions.
Conventional science interprets this arnica 200C product as containing very little arnica, and is almost entirely water or alcohol. Some forms of arnica 200C are in pill form. The pills are either sugar pills or lactose pills, with some of the arnica 200C liquid included.
According to homeopathic interpretations of medical effectiveness, this arnica 200C product is much more potent than less diluted products, such as arnica 30C. Since arnica is a herb that, traditionally, is useful for problems like bruises, muscle soreness and swollen tissue, the 200C homeopathic version of the remedy is regarded by homeopaths as suitable for severe cases. The herb is dangerous in its non-diluted form for people who swallow it, and can cause serious problems like internal bleeding and even put people into comas.
Products with arnica that are not designed to be swallowed, such as skin ointments, are safe to use. Only the dilute homeopathic remedies are safe to ingest. Conventional science regard these preparations as having no biological effect due to the extremely low, almost non-existent, concentrations of the herb. As well as pills, homeopaths may also offer arnica 200C in injection form or as a skin ointment.