Bruising is a normal response to an injury. Tiny blood vessels beneath the skin can be damaged by even a small impact, leaving behind blood trapped beneath the skin.
This trapped blood is eventually reabsorbed by the body as the injury heals. In the meantime, it can leave a gray, bluish, or purple patch that is tender to the touch.
Bruises can be difficult to treat, as most of the damage is beneath the surface of the skin. However, some home remedies may be able to speed up healing, minimize their appearance, and prevent them from happening in the first place.
The following home remedies are safe for minor bruising and may help get rid of bruises faster.
Arnica montana, or arnica, is an herb widely used for pain and bruising. This is because it contains compounds that are known to have an anti-inflammatory effect that can be absorbed through the skin.
Some research has found that arnica may be an effective remedy for bruising.
- One study found that people who took oral arnica after a rhinoplasty (nose job) had improved appearance of post-surgery bruising.
- Another study found that applying a 20 percent arnica ointment to the skin sped up healing time when compared with a placebo.
People should look for oral arnica, arnica gel, or arnica ointment that contains at least 20 percent arnica, which can be purchased online. It can be applied as directed on the product package.
If using oral arnica, it is usually best to let the pill dissolve under the tongue. An arnica mouth spray should also be used to coat the underside of the tongue.
A person should stop using the product if irritation or a rash develops.
Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes found in the pineapple plant. These enzymes may have anti-inflammatory properties and help reduce bruising and swelling when applied to the skin.
A study in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery found that oral bromelain improved pain and swelling after tooth extractions when compared to a painkiller and a placebo.
A person can apply a cream or gel containing bromelain two to three times a day or as otherwise directed.
Oral bromelain supplements can cause unwanted side effects, including digestive problems and increased heart rate. People who are allergic to pineapple should not use bromelain.
Bromelain supplements are sometimes recommended after surgery to help minimize bruising, but a person should only take bromelain by mouth if directed by a doctor.
Similar to bromelain, quercetin is a flavonoid derived from certain fruits. It may have natural anti-inflammatory powers that can help heal bruises.
Some skin creams and gels intended to help with bruising contain quercetin, usually in combination with bromelain, vitamin K, or other ingredients. Creams or gels containing quercetin can be used as directed on the package, typically twice a day.
Taking quercetin by mouth has not been proven to be safe. It can also interact with many medications. Avoid taking oral quercetin supplements unless directed by a healthcare professional.
The body needs vitamin K to help the blood clot when necessary. But a pill may not be the best solution, especially for those taking blood thinners or other medications. Topical vitamin K, however, shows some promise as a remedy for bruises and is generally safe for most people to use.
A study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that people who applied a vitamin K gel after having a cosmetic procedure had less bruising than those who used a placebo.
Many different vitamin K products are available over-the-counter. A person should look for one that lists vitamin K near the beginning of its ingredients, and apply it as often as directed.
Vitamin K cream is available for purchase online.
R.I.C.E. stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Many people who have had surgery or have sprains or strains employ this tactic to aid recovery, but it has benefits for bruising as well.
These actions aim to temporarily reduce blood flow to the injured area, which can help prevent some swelling and bruising.
Elevating and resting the area, as well as applying ice for up to 20 minutes per hour and using a light compression bandage, can help decrease the blood flow and inflammation that contribute to bruising.
Following R.I.C.E. as soon as possible after an injury and throughout the healing process can also decrease pain.
A person's diet can have an impact on all areas of health, including how their injuries and bruises heal. Certain foods can strengthen the body's blood vessels, which may minimize bruising.
Other foods can help keep the body's skin and tissues strong and pliable. Eating a healthful, balanced diet that includes the following foods may help prevent or heal bruises:
- Pineapple. Eating fresh pineapple gives the body a natural dose of bromelain, which may help the bruise heal faster.
- Fruits with natural quercetin. Foods with high amounts of quercetin include apples, citrus fruits, red onion, dark-colored berries and cherries, and leafy green vegetables.
- Citrus fruits. One study found that citrus flavonoids significantly improved bruising in seniors who had senile purpura, or ongoing bruising. Citrus fruits include oranges, tangerines, and lemons.
- Foods with vitamin K. A diet that includes vitamin K will prevent deficiency and may help a person bruise less. Good sources include kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, soybeans, strawberries, and blueberries.
- Lean protein. Fish, poultry, tofu, and lean meat provide protein to help strengthen capillaries. Avoid sources of protein with high amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, such as hamburger or fried meats.
- Zinc-rich foods. Zinc helps the body heal wounds and tissues. Good sources of zinc include crab, lobster, spinach, pumpkin seeds, and legumes.
Frankincense essential oil may help with pain relief and relaxation. It works well when a few drops are added to a Vitamin K or arnica product.
A person can create a soothing cold compress for injuries with a cool washcloth and a few drops of rosemary and lavender essential oils applied to the cloth.
It is important to dilute oils with a carrier oil or a lotion before putting directly on the skin unless directed otherwise. Using essential oils without diluting them can cause skin irritation.
Although bruises happen to everyone, some bruising may be a red flag for an underlying medical problem or nutritional deficiency. Symptoms to see a doctor about include:
- bruises that appear without an obvious injury
- frequent bruising
- bruising very easily
- bruises that suddenly appear after taking a new medication or supplement
- bruises in strange places, such as the back or abdomen
Women tend to bruise more than men, and older people bruise more than younger people.
There is no magic trick to prevent or erase bruises. The good news is, most bruises are harmless, and there are home remedies to reduce their appearance and help them heal faster.
Most topical products are safe to try but do not take oral supplements for bruising without talking to a healthcare professional first.