DIY Arnica Salve to Soothe the Bruises and Strains of Your Active Lifestyle

Arnica salve is a must have remedy for your herbal apothecary.  It is useful for bruising, muscle strains, sprains, and other injuries where the skin is not broken but there is pain, inflammation, and bruising.  Arnica salve reduces shock after injuring and speeds healing. Athletes use it to reduce inflammation and speed recovery after training workouts.

Arnica salve has been used successfully for osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel, and other muscle and joint pain.  It is my go-to remedy for bug bites and farm injuries, where the skin is not broken.

My daughter requested a “bruise salve” as she’s taken a few tumbles on her walk to work.  Arnica is the best herbal remedy for those injuries that you get when you walk or work a lot outdoors.  In this recipe I’ve combined arnica with yarrow leaves.  Yarrow is also a great bruise remedy that quickly resolves bleeding, reduces inflammation, and speeds healing to an injury.

What is arnica?

Arnica is a pretty yellow daily-like flower that blooms only for a few weeks in the spring.  You’ll find it on the edges of wooded areas.  It grows in dappled sunlight and part shade.  The plant grows 12 to 18 inches high with opposite leaves.  Arnica flowers are bold and 2 to 3 inches across.  It’s a perennial.  Both flowers and leaves are used medicinally, though I harvest only flowers and leave the plant to grow through the season, ensuring a strong stand for future harvests.

For more about identifying arnica in the wild see this post.

Arnica salve begins with infused oil.  If you have fresh arnica blossoms you will make arnica infused oil using the quick method below.  If you have dried arnica blossoms you can use either the quick way or the slow way described below.

Arnica infused oil the quick way

Arnica salve begins with arnica infused oil.  When using fresh arnica, infuse olive oil with arnica flowers using heat, to inhibit mold.  When infusing oil with fresh plant materia, there is the risk of mold developing when the infusions are done at room temperature over several weeks.  Instead of infusing at room temperature, heat is used to minimize mold contamination, since fresh plant material is being infused.

Make a double boiler using a saucepan, a canning jar ring and a wide mouth pint mason jar.  Fill the jar with 2 cups of fresh arnica flowers.  Yarrow leaves may also be added to the oil to increase the potency of the salve.

Place the canning jar ring in the bottom of the sauce pan.  Place the open Mason jar on the ring in the saucepan.  Fill the saucepan with water so that it comes halfway up the side of the Mason jar.

Simmer the saucepan on medium heat for one hour.  Turn off the heat.  Allow the Mason jar to come to room temperature.

Strain the infused oil, separating the oil from the plant material.  Squeeze the plant material to retain as much of the oil as possible.  Add ¼ teaspoon of vitamin E to the infused oil to inhibit rancidity.  Label and date the infused oil.  It will keep for up to 3 years if kept in a cool, dry place.

Arnica infused oil the slow way

If you are using dried arnica flowers you can proceed with the oil infusion the slow way.  Place 1 cup of dried arnica flowers in a pint size Mason jar.  Cover the flowers with olive oil or another carrier oil.  Ensure that the flowers are fully covered with oil.  Cap tightly.  Place the jar in a warm cupboard out of direct sunlight.

Shake the jar once a day or as often as you think of it.  After 4 to 6 weeks, strain the jar contents, retaining the oil.  Squeeze the plant material through a potato ricer or other press to capture as much of the oil as possible.

Add ¼ teaspoon of vitamin E per pint of oil.  Label and date the jar.  The infused oil will last 3 years if kept out of light and heat.

Arnica Salve

Salves have a soft, spreadable consistency that melts on skin contact. The arnica in this recipe may be combined with yarrow leaves to increase the potency of this salve for bruises, sprains, and injuries.

Yield: 2 ounces


  • 3 ½ tablespoons arnica infused oil
  • 2 teaspoons beeswax (about 8 grams)


  • Make a double boiler using a glass measuring cup.
  • Add arnica infused oil and beeswax to the glass measuring cup.
  • Simmer until the beeswax melts.  Remove from heat.
  • Stir the mixture as it cools to prevent separation.
  • Spoon the mixture into a 2 ounce salve tin.  Cap tightly, label, and date.
  • To use:

    • Salve is helpful for bruises, strains, sprains, and sore joints and muscles.


    Avoid using arnica on broken skin or burns.  It should not be taken internally.  Arnica should not be used by people who are allergic to arnica or by people who may be sensitive to other members of the compositae family.

Where to find arnica flowers?

Make arnica salve to soothe the inflammation, bruises, and strains for your active lifestyle so that you don’t have to quit living life to the fullest.  You’ve got the recipe, now go find the flowers.