Arnica Balm for Pain

I am a huge sissy when it comes to pain. I mean, seriously, the older I get, the more pain there seems to be. And I have another confession–even as an aspiring herbalist, I haven’t found a proper way to deal with all of the aches and pains that I encounter, but I am working on it.

Arnica Balm for Pain - Stone Family Farmstead

In my studies, I have found quite a few herbal alternatives to over-the-counter medications to deal with many different afflictions, such as colds, coughs, flus, urinary tract infections, minor cuts and abrasions, upset stomach, and other nasties. My last “holdout” has been pain because, the truth is, I am afraid of it.


After having finished the Introductory and Intermediate Herbal Courses at Herbal Academy of New England, I’m feeling really compelled to try to pull together some real solutions for the various aches and pains I experience every now and then. I’d also like to have something “waiting in the wings” for headaches as well, though headaches aren’t usually something I suffer from.

Arnica Herb Flowers - Stone Family Farmstead

I must admit that when I experience shoulder, elbow, back, or really any other kind of general pain, I tend to run to the cabinet for my naproxin or ibuprofin. For me, pain is unbearably distracting—I mean, I can’t get anything done when I’m in any sort of pain; and being a person who loves to be productive, it’s really depressing when I can’t get things done.

It’s for this reason that I have been relying on nsaids (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and I’ve even been known to take half a vicodin so I can sleep, because I believe that our body heals best when we get proper sleep. Using these drugs is a problem for me because (1) I am a firm believer in natural living, and I don’t believe these drugs fit into the lifestyle I want to live, and (2) I am aware that they can be hard on one’s liver…and well, vicodin, that’s addictive, and while I don’t take enough to get addicted to it, I still don’t want to have to rely on it for pain reduction.

Out of desperation for relief–and equal desperation not to have to rely on nsaids or drugs–I began looking into anti-inflammatory and pain relieving herbs. There are many herbs that fit the anti-inflammatory “bill”, but the one that seems to have a particular affinity for pain as a result of injury is Arnica Montana (flowers).

Arnica Montana has significant anti-inflammatory and mild pain relieving qualities when applied topically in the form of infused oils, salves, or creams to bruises, strains, or sprains. This herb encourages healing and reduces pain and swelling, and also relieves sore and aching muscles.

How to Make Arnica Oil - Stone Family Farmstead

You can use this method to make the chamomile oil that is in the recipe, or for any herb that can be infused.

Satisfied that Arnica Montana was the herb for me to try first for my pain, I formulated an anti-inflammatory pain balm. I made it a few months ago for some semi-severe shoulder pain that I was experiencing for a few weeks, probably from working around the farm.

I like the idea of using this balm because while it isn’t as fast a pain killer as ibuprofen, naproxen or vicodin, it does work to relieve it. It also works well to bring down inflammation when used consistently over a few days. Over the past few months, I have been using this balm instead of pills, and I’ve noticed that I am much more aware of when the inflammation goes away because the pain goes away as well.

This balm doesn’t mask the pain the way pills do because it doesn’t relieve the pain completely. That may sound counter-intuitive, but it actually is a good idea to be able to feel a little of the pain still so we know when the herbs have finished their job of reducing the inflammation. This enables me to treat for the proper amount of time, without having to take anything that is hard on my liver (and for longer than I really needed it). Win/win.

Arnica Balm for Pain

Arnica Balm for Pain


  • 1/2 oz chamomile infused oil (anti-inflammatory; affinity to smooth muscle tissues)
  • 1/2 Tbsp castor oil (anti-inflammatory and analgesic)
  • 1/2 Tbsp emu oil (helpful for sore muscles, aching joints, or inflammation)
  • 1/2 Tbsp rosehip seed oil (anti-inflammatory)
  • enough arnica infused olive oil to make 3.5 oz oil (total)
  • 1/2 oz beeswax, grated
  • 40 drops rosemary EO (relief of muscle cramps and spasms)
  • 20 drops clove EO (anti-inflammatory)
  • 10 drops white thyme EO (helps relieve sore muscles)


  1. Add your chamomile, castor, emu, rosehip seed, and arnica oil to the top pan in a double boiler.
  2. Boil your water to warm the oils and melt the emu oil down completely (the emu oil is a bit thick, but the rest shouldn't need melting down, really).
  3. Once the oils are all liquid and mixed together, add your beeswax.
  4. Continue heating your oils and beeswax until the beeswax is completely melted.
  5. Once everything is liquid, remove from heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. You want to make sure you don't allow it to cool enough for it to harden. (If it does, just return it to the heat and melt it down again.)
  6. Once cooled for a couple of minutes, add your essential oils.
  7. Pour into tins or whatever container you would like to use. (I use 2 oz. plastic containers, but even small 4 oz. jelly jars work great for this).
  8. Allow to cool and apply with your fingers to the painful area 3x daily until pain is gone. Can also be used for monthly cramping.
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When I use this arnica balm, I plan to use it 3x per day for at least a week, if not two, or until the pain is gone (because I forget to apply it when things don’t hurt!). I figure that it’s not unusual to be prescribed anti-inflammatories to take for a couple of weeks to reduce inflammation, so I treat my balm just like I prescribed it to myself. I have had good success with applying it directly after an injury occurs, as well as when I’ve had a longer term muscle pain issue.

If you are interested in learning about herbs, let me recommend (affiliate link–read our full disclosure here):
Online Introductory Herbal Course

Rooster sitting in a barn on a rural farm

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Kristi Stone

Kristi Stone

Honestly? I'm the author of this blog...sometimes. My family and I live in Sunny Southern California on a one acre hobby farm where we are working diligently to one day produce our dairy, eggs, and produce. That takes A LOT of work, so if you don't hear from me as soon as you'd like, give me a shout out in the comments and I'll chat back as soon as I can between the garden, goat kids, chickens, husband, human kids, and playing with my grandboy, Kieran. And in the mean time, if you'd like to see more frequently what goes on at our farm, please feel free to join my Facebook group (see the right column) where I am more active. I'd love to get to know you! 🙂
Kristi Stone

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  1. Great oil and salve…. I love using herbs and natural remedies and pain has been an issue for me also… I also use tumeric (anti-inflammatory) and other herbs. I use arnica, but have not made my own, even though I do make other salves…. thank you for the reminder on this.

    • Hi Gentle Joy! I’m with you—I love using herbs and natural remedies too! Turmeric was just recommended to me recently for pain, and I’ll bet it would be a great addition to this balm!

  2. This sounds excellent! I need to get ahold of some arnica flowers. We have a lot of muscular pain from farm work here and I think this would help. Thank you for sharing your recipe on the Art of Home-Making Mondays! 🙂

    • I have really enjoyed using it and am so glad to have been able to find something to at least replace drugs for muscle aches and pains. I think you’ll like it, JES, with how much you use herbs. 🙂

  3. Definitely featuring this on the Homestead Blog Hop! This is wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Camilla says:

    I am new to making salves. I thought I had bought acacia flower but it is powder. What can I use it for, can I use it for infused oils for salves? Thanks

    • Hi Camilla! I haven’t tried using a powder to infuse oils yet, but I would think that if you did, it would be much harder to strain out. Because I’m like that, I would probably experiment and allow what doesn’t strain out to be part of the salve, because it would give it a nice color (depending on the herb) in addition to any leftover nutrients. But that’s just me. 🙂

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