Come learn what a liniment is and how you can use them. Grab our DIY soothing muscle liniment recipe, too!- Scratch Mommy

What Are Herbal Liniments (and a soothing muscle liniment recipe)

What are Herbal Liniments?

Unlike a tea made with water or an extract that’s a concentrated, alcohol-based preparation designed for internal use, a liniment is a topical preparation of herbs that soothe and comfort the skin or muscles. Many herbal liniments use witch hazel extract as a base, but they can also be made with rubbing alcohol, apple cider vinegar, or diluted vodka.  

How are Liniments Useful?

Liniments are a great way to deliver herbs that offer comfort for sore muscles, stiffness, bruising, or sprains and strains right to the source of the discomfort. Witch hazel or apple cider vinegar are both soothing to the skin, and when combined with after-sun herbs can also be wonderful in a summer first aid kit if you accidentally get too much sun!

Here’s a look at several different types of liniments that you could make:

After Sun Care

This is one of my favorite types of liniments to have on hand. My very fair skin, combined with a love of the outdoors, means that I typically reach for this type of liniment a lot over the summer. Herbal ingredients that can make a good after-sun liniment include: peppermint, calendula (learn more about calendula here), elder flowers, lavender, rose, and marshmallow root. Make sure to use a skin soothing base for this type of liniment, such as witch hazel extract or apple cider vinegar.

Also check out our DIY Sunburn Salve recipe and Scratch Mommy Founder Jess’s DIY Sunscreen recipe (and her SkinShade for sale in the organic skincare shop).

Bruise Comfort

Even small everyday bruises can be uncomfortable, but after a fall or minor accident bruising can be particularly painful. Herbal choices to make a bruise-soothing liniment include arnica, safflower, calendula, and comfrey.

Soothing Overworked Muscles

Herbs that make good liniments for muscle comfort include arnica, comfrey, goldenrod, mugwort, and St. John’s wort, and these herbs can also be a thoughtful home care follow-up for strains and sprains, too.

You can even change how your liniment will feel on the skin by adding cayenne or peppermint. If you would like a cooling effect, you can include peppermint. A pinch of cayenne will have a warming effect, but be very careful to keep liniments with cayenne away from the eyes, face, and other sensitive areas. Both herbs are mildly irritating to the skin and help to increase circulation to the areas where they are applied, which in turn can speed healing.

Whichever type of liniment you decide to make, it’s a very simple, easy process to follow. These basic instructions below are for a liniment that can help comfort sore muscles, but by substituting other herbs you can adapt the liniment to your needs. As a hiker, mugwort is one of my favorites for this blend!

Make an Effective Soothing Liniment for Hard Working Muscles

Soothing Muscle Liniment
  1. Fill a clean glass jar half full with the herb or herbs of your choice. Click through the links above to learn more about our suggestions.
  2. Add enough witch hazel extract to completely cover the herbs.
  3. Use a clean utensil to gently stir the herbs and work out any air bubbles.
  4. Double check and make sure there is enough witch hazel to cover the herbs under one or two inches of extract.
  5. Allow your liniment to infuse for at least two weeks (4-8 is optimal) in a cool, dark place. Every day or two, check on your liniment and add more witch hazel if the herbs have absorbed it.
  6. At the end of your desired infusion time, strain the liniment and bottle in a small spray bottle for easy application.
Make sure to label your liniment clearly for external use only, and keep notes on which herbs you used and the ratios you used. That way, you can make more when you find a blend that works really well for you!
Your new liniment will be quite shelf-stable and will last for years. Simply rub and massage this liniment into your (unbroken!) skin to help soothe those aching muscles. I think you’ll find it to be one of the best items in your home apothecary!

Looking for more home apothecary DIY body care recipes? Here you go…


Looking to purchase handcrafted, herbal-infused skincare creations? Scratch Mommy Founder Jess has you covered in the Pronounce Skincare Shop!


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