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How to Make an Herbal Liniment

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Sore muscles from weekend adventures? Minor burns got you down? More and more families want natural remedies at their fingertips for everyday uses and emergency scenarios. Follow these simple instructions to learn how to make your own herbal liniment, a soothing solution for common bumps and bruises as well as more serious injuries.

Witch hazel flowers with essence isolated on white background

Crafting your own remedies empowers you to take control of your family’s well-being, even in unexpected situations. In addition to liniments, you could try making a simple herbal tincture. Another way to increase your self-reliance is to grow a medicinal herb garden rather than buying the herbs; our master gardener tips will help your garden thrive! Then, to develop a more comprehensive skill base, read this post about learning the art of herbalism to maintain health and wellness.

What are herbal liniments?

An herbal liniment is a liquid herbal preparation for rubbing into the skin. They can provide extra comfort for burns and sunburns, strains and sprains, stiff and sore muscles, and injuries from accidents or trauma. In an emergency scenario or just when you want to have an all-natural remedy on hand, liniment-making is a good skill to have.

Choosing a Liniment Base: Witch Hazel

You can use rubbing alcohol, vinegar, or even vodka as the base for an herbal liniment, but witch hazel extract is one of the most commonly chosen bases. It’s effective and versatile, even though it doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. While people often mix other herbs with witch hazel extract for a more complex herbal liniment, even a basic preparation of witch hazel alone works great as a liniment.

Benefits of Using Witch Hazel

The advantages of making an extract from witch hazel include adding a longer shelf life, and being able to create more complex liniments using witch hazel extract as the base.

The medicinal benefits of witch hazel are many and varied.

  • It’s a natural astringent.
  • Folk uses of witch hazel include soothing burns, insect bites, and stings; as a styptic to astringe tissues and slow bleeding.
  • Native American tribes used it for many purposes, including as a tea for colds, for cholera, and asthma.
  • A tea made from witch hazel (properly called a decoction in herbal parlance) was used by the Menominee as a rub down for the legs, and to “cure a lame back”.
  • The Iroquois used it for bruising.

You can read about 15 healthy and frugal uses for Witch Hazel here.

How to Make an Easy Witch Hazel Extract and Liniment

This easy recipe for witch hazel extract can be scaled up or down based on the amount of witch hazel bark that is available. This is a different method of preparation than typically used to make tinctures (which are also referred to as extracts), but it works very well and will yield a similar product to the witch hazel extract that you can pick up at your local pharmacy.

Expert Tips

Without the addition of alcohol, the witch hazel extract only has a shelf life of 48 hours or so. It’s best to complete the process of making the liniment by adding alcohol, and then you can use that as a base to make other variations.

You may find that you have the best results from using dried ingredients. Extra water content from fresh herbs may make your liniment spoil sooner.

Experiment with different combinations of herbs and base liquids to find the perfect blend for your needs. Keep detailed notes on each batch you make, noting the herbs used, their proportions, and the effects they produce. Over time, this will help you refine your recipes and create custom liniments tailored to specific purposes, whether it’s soothing sore muscles, relieving joint pain, or promoting relaxation.

Consider the potency and properties of each herb you incorporate, aiming for a balanced blend that addresses your desired outcome, whether it’s pain relief, inflammation reduction, or skin healing. Remember to research each herb’s potential interactions and contraindications to ensure safe usage.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and trust your intuition – the beauty of herbalism lies in its versatility and ability to be customized to suit individual preferences and needs.

Variations With Other Herbs

Now that you know how to make your own witch hazel extract, you might be interested in making other, more complex liniments. Some herbs that are excellent for this include:

  • Goldenrod (Solidago spp) – Goldenrod, a common weed in much of North America, is ideal for a liniment to soothe muscle related injuries like strains and sprains.
  • Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) – Comfrey is a good herb to include in a liniment for broken bones and blunt force trauma. Read this post for a more extensive discussion of herbal wound care.
  • Plantain (Plantago spp) – A popular herb for many different skin discomforts, plantain complements witch hazel’s soothing capacity on insect bites and stings. Combined with jewelweed, some herbalists have reported success in dealing with poison ivy.
  • Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) – Wormwood has an affinity for fatigue related pains. Mugwort liniments are great after a long day of hiking or hard physical labor.
  • Arnica (Arnica montana) – Another excellent choice for general muscle related pain, arnica is often used in oil-based preparations but is equally as useful as a liniment.
  • St. Johns’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) – This can be especially useful for injuries involving nerve pain. Be aware that St. John’s wort has a  reputation for increasing the sensitivity of the skin to sunlight, so you may need boost your sun protection while using it.
  • Other popular liniment ingredients include warming herbs that increase circulation, such as angelica, cayenne, and ginger.

Growing Witch Hazel

If you want to know if witch hazel grows in your area, the USDA Plants Database has excellent information on range, habitat, and identification. Witch hazel can also be added as a landscape plant in many areas, and bears unusual yellow flowers during winter when nothing else is blooming. It would be an excellent choice if landscaping with an eye towards herbal emergency preparedness!


Are there advantages to using a homemade herbal liniment?

Absolutely! You can personalize the ingredients to target specific needs, control the quality of ingredients, and avoid harsh chemicals often found in commercial products. Plus, it’s a great skill to learn.

Is making my own liniment safe?

Always consult a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedy, especially if you have underlying health conditions or allergies. Patch test any homemade concoction on a small area of skin before applying it fully. Remember, safety first!

Do I need fancy equipment to make a liniment?

Nope! Basic kitchen tools like a stovetop, glass jars, and cheesecloth are all you need.


More Resources for You

Final Thoughts

You can learn to make your own herbal liniment, a natural remedy for sore muscles, minor burns, and everyday injuries. By following these easy instructions, you can prepare this all-natural pain reliever for immediate use. Keep your kit stocked and be prepared for any discomfort!

“This is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any disease. Consult your personal medical professional.”

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