Used for centuries for its medical benefits, arnica montana, or simply arnica for short, is largely credited for its anti-inflammatory and muscle-soothing properties. As far back as the 16th century, Europeans used the flowering herb, which is indigenous to Central Europe, as a topical treatment for skin disorders. Throughout the years, Native Americans also considered it a remedy for wound healing and inflammation, and, more recently, professional athletes have been incorporating arnica plant extract into liniment and ointment preparations to help heal strains, sprains, and bruises. Considering its myriad uses and benefits, it's no surprise that this perennial herb has started sprouting up on the spa scene to help clients relieve tension, relax sore muscles, and more.
Because it is known for its physical activity programs, Red Mountain Resort & Spa (St. George, UT) offers clients a variety of treatments to soothe their sore muscles. In fact, the Arnica Friction Bolus Massage ($160, 80 minutes) is one of the spa's most requested services. "This is a highly desirable treatment for our guests who come to experience our outstanding hiking and adventure program or participate in the comprehensive fitness program we offer because it relieves muscle pain, tension, and stress," explains spa director Myrna Beardshear. The massage includes a warm bolus rub to stimulate circulation and relieve sore muscles, preparing them to better absorb the arnica and honeysuckle oils. "This massage is also good for increasing circulation and flushing metabolic waste after physical therapy," explains Beardshear. "The arnica provides temporary relief of bruises and minor muscle and joint pain, as well as reduces swelling and stiffness from exercise, sprains, and sports injuries."
At The Spa at Mount Washington Resort (Bretton Woods, NH), arnica is one of five options guests can choose from when selecting an essential oil blend to be used during the Aroma Massage ($105, 50 minutes; $140, 75 minutes). The massage combines the sense of smell with the healing benefits of touch and also includes a warm oil scalp treatment. According to spa director Libby Staples, most active guests of the resort gravitate toward the arnica essential oil. "Arnica is perfect for guests with muscle soreness, bruises, strains, and sprains," says Staples. "Because our resort attracts a lot of skiers, golfers, and outdoor enthusiasts, we use arnica a lot."
The Body Sage Day Spa at the Rusty Parrot Lodge (Jackson, WY) also gears treatments containing the powerful herb to those leading an active lifestyle who are in need of some muscle relief. The Aprés Ski Massage ($125, 60 minutes; $165, 90 minutes; $215, 2 hours), for example, combines sports-specific stretching, contrasting heat therapy using warm river rocks and cool marble stones, and a massage with arnica tonic and juniper oil. The combination is aimed at getting clients back on the slopes in no time.
Clients at Blue Marble Spa (San Diego) looking for some serious muscle tension relief can choose the Deep Tissue Massage ($130, 60 minutes; $180, 90 minutes), a treatment that incorporates a handmade blend of essential oils, including arnica, and focuses on releasing tension in the deeper layers of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments and chronic patterns of tension in the body. "The combination of deep tissue work and organic arnica oil has provided incredible results for our clientele," says spa director Kyra Johnson. "Both deep tissue massage and arnica independently help to heal the body and release muscle tension. Together, the results are intensified." In addition, says Johnson, guests are looking for more integrative ways to reduce stress and calm their bodies, and this treatment provides them with that. "We combine the use of organic aromatherapy oils and herbs, such as arnica, to treat the body holistically and improve our ability to maximize benefits."
In addition to the soothing effects the herb provides for clients with sore muscles, it is also beneficial for the skin. At The Greenbrier Spa (White Sulphur Springs, WV), clients can experience the benefits of arnica during the Green Tea Facial ($150, 50 minutes), which was designed to replenish lost moisture, build the skin's immunity to the environment, and calm easily irritated or sensitive skin. "We use arnica in our Green Tea Facial for clients who are suffering from skin conditions, such as rosacea, acne, inflammation, and redness," says spa director Cassandra Sessa. "It has the unique ability to increase circulation, help expel fluid buildup, and reduce redness." And, because of its anti-inflammatory properties, adds Sessa, the spa also incorporates the herb as a soothing agent in waxing services.
With more and more clients leading active and healthier lifestyles these days, now is a great time to help them stay in the best shape possible while relieving stress and tension by incorporating arnica into one or more treatments. Adds Beardshear, "We have had guests tell us how much better they felt after the Arnica Friction Bolus Massage and that their muscles felt looser, allowing them to handle physical activity during their stay at Red Mountain Resort & Spa with greater ease." —Nanci McArdle