Arnica is an herb—actually, a pretty yellow flower—that contains helenalin, a chemical compound known for being a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help you get rid of your muscle cramps.
“Arnica has been used for centuries for healing,” Jacqueline Berry, spa director at Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas, told me. “Using it in gel form is especially effective when applied to the skin for bruises, aches, and sprains, since the active chemicals can reduce swelling and decrease pain. It’s a great tool to have on hand when traveling to relieve post-flight muscle cramps.”
“Using [arnica] in gel form is especially effective when applied to the skin for bruises, aches, and sprains, since the active chemicals can reduce swelling and decrease pain. It’s a great tool to have on hand when traveling, to relieve postflight muscle cramps.” —Jacqueline Berry, spa director
While arnica alone can do wonders for your pain and discomfort, supplementing it with working out your muscles can make a huge difference too: “Used in conjunction with stretching or massage, it can reduce muscle and joint stiffness—especially in the neck and lower back,” Bevin Hamilton, licensed massage therapist at the eco-friendly Larchmont Sanctuary Spa in Los Angeles, said.
It doesn’t take long after applying the gel (Berry recommends this option from Naturopathica) to start feeling like yourself again—even in just 15 minutes. Maybe you have cramped legs, a tight neck, or sore shoulders; whatever the case, if you slather on arnica, you’ll be more likely to enjoy your trip without anything getting you down. (Including your seat neighbor who stole your armrest.)
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