For me, the word “liniment” conjures up images of a very old-timey medicine cabinet. But that certainly doesn’t mean that this old-time remedy won’t work well! The fact that liniments have been around for so long just speaks to their effectiveness.
So what are liniments? Liniments are healing external applications that can be used for a variety of issues, depending on what herbs are included in the mixture. Liniments can be used as a disinfectant for cuts and wounds, while they can also help to soothe sore and inflamed muscles and joints. Some liniments are formulated for helping with circulation problems, arthritis, rheumatism, sprains, strains, and bruises.
You can choose warming herbs to help stimulate blood circulation and to help with problems like arthritis, pain, or stiffness. Examples of warming herbs include black pepper, cayenne, or ginger. On the other hand, cooling herbs like peppermint are helpful for reducing swelling and inflammation.
For a general, all-purpose cooling liniment that can be used for disinfecting and healing scrapes and cuts, I chose to use equal parts of lavender, rosemary, chamomile, and peppermint. Other popular herbs that you might use include: arnica, calendula, comfrey, Echinacea, eucalyptus, goldenseal, myrrh, oregano, Oregon grape root, St. John’s Wort, and thyme. Research the individual herbs to know what mixture will work best for the type of liniment you’d like to create.
In general, making a liniment is very simple and is much like making an herbal tincture. However, you should always label your liniments that they are for EXTERNAL USE ONLY. Whereas most tinctures can be used internally or externally, liniments are NOT to be consumed.
To make a liniment, fill a jar with your dried herbs. In the example here, I used equal parts of my chosen herbs: lavender, rosemary, chamomile, and peppermint. You can use fresh herbs, too, you just might want to chop them first.
You’ll then need to cover your herbs with a menstruum (the substance that draws out the medicinal properties of the plants). The most basic liniment menstruum is rubbing alcohol, but witch hazel, vodka, or vinegar could also be used. For my liniment, I used ¾ rubbing alcohol and ¼ witch hazel. This should prevent the liniment from becoming too drying for my skin.
Leave the herbs to infuse into the rubbing alcohol for around 4 weeks and shake the jar regularly (you can let this mix go longer without hurting anything). After, you’ll need to strain out the herbs through cheesecloth, or some other tightly woven fabric and into your storage bottle. Here, I am using a piece of an old t-shirt. Make sure to squeeze the herbs well – there’s a lot of liquid hiding in there! If desired, you could also add essential oils to your liniment at this time.
Place a label on your liniment bottle so you never forget what’s in there and then apply the liquid to cuts, scrapes, bites, and bruises using a cotton ball when they occur. And then make your own salve to apply after cleaning with the liniment!
Store your liniment in a cool, dark location and it will keep indefinitely.
If you’re interested in learning about other formulations for liniments, try looking into Dr. Kloss’s formula – it’s one of the most famous liniment recipes around.