The use of liniments dates back to the time of the Renaissance physician Paracelsus. Liniments became popular in the mid-1800s and early 1900s as “cure-alls”. Although they do not cure everything, today’s liniments are easily made at home with safe ingredients and can be very effective in treating some ailments.

Depending on the ingredients, liniments can be used to: disinfect cuts, minimise the appearance of varicose veins, rubbed on bruises to heal them more quickly, or for what they are best known for: helping to relieve arthritis, aches and pains and associated discomfort.

A liniment is a natural preparation that is less thick than an ointment and is based on oils or balsams and alcohols. It is usually applied externally as a treatment for rheumatism and bruises in combination with massages and frictions.

A wide variety of other uses are possible. In France, for example, a liniment traditionally used to cleanse and protect babies’ skin from nappy rashes has become very popular. It is as easy to prepare as combining olive oil and lime water, sometimes with a little beeswax. And it works very well because the liniment, which has a basic or alkaline pH (the opposite of acidic), when it comes into contact with acidic faeces and urine, neutralises them, thus preventing skin irritation.


Liniment oleo-calcareous is an ancient liquid that was originally intended to combat superficial burns. Little by little, it has been used more and more for babies’ bottoms.

The brand mustela, for example, has a commercial version of this liniment. Of course, it is best to choose one without additives, so if you prepare it yourself, you can be sure of its composition.

The homemade oleo-lime liniment in our recipe is an oily, greenish-yellow mixture made from olive oil (or other vegetable oil) and lime water. The word comes from the Latin “linimentum”, which means “to anoint”, i.e. to rub with an oily substance.

This liniment, among other virtues, is super-fatty and leaves a protective film on baby’s skin, preventing skin irritation caused by wetness or rubbing from nappies. Therefore, there is no need to rinse it on the baby’s bottom, as its basic pH neutralises the acidity of urine. In short, the liniment cleanses the baby’s bottom (thanks to the action of the lime water) while nourishing, moisturising and protecting against future aggressions by leaving a protective film on the skin.

On a general level, as a skin care product, it has a great associated value because, as you know, the level of absorption and hydration of a cream in the skin depends on how natural its components are. This is what happens with this liniment made up of 3 totally natural ingredients: beeswax, oil and lime water. Such a simple product, but which turns out to be enormously emollient due to its great absorption capacity in the skin.

This is why it is not only ideal for treating babies’ sore bottoms in a natural way, but also has many other possible uses:

-It can help prevent the appearance of stretch marks, so it should be used on affected areas, especially for expectant mothers during pregnancy.

-It also soothes and softens episiotomy scars and sensitive nipples during the first days of breastfeeding.

It can also be used to treat baby cradle cap or even as a make-up remover as long as we take into account its basic pH and then rinse with water or a hydrosol adapted to our skin type.

-In personal care, if we use a little borax and ozonised oil, as we will see below, it can be very useful in the treatment of sensitive or itchy skin.

In fact, if you are looking for a multi-purpose skin care product, this liniment is what you need to prepare, because despite the mismatch of beeswax and lime water (we are talking about the original recipe) it is preserved for a long time due to the intrinsic antiseptic properties of this combination. As it avoids the use of chemical preservatives, it is an ideal product to spread on the skin of the whole body, and even on the face it is very moisturising.


In addition to being an ideal alternative for changing the baby, we must bear in mind that industrial baby cosmetics still too often contain toxic substances. In addition, sanitary towels generate a considerable amount of waste…

The recipe for this homemade liniment could not be simpler. Simply add 50% lime water and 50% olive oil, which are mixed vigorously in a bottle. The only drawback of this product is that the two phases of the solution tend to separate. You will need to shake the bottle before each use.

If you prefer to avoid this process of shaking the bottle before each use, you can add a cosmetic emulsifier such as lanette wax. If you use beeswax, which as you know is not suitable for emulsifying oils and liquids, the phases will also end up separating, although, with a little more beeswax, it becomes quite thick and can be used as it is, as the lime water, after mixing, is also curative.

To prepare about 200 ml of this liniment, we will need:

100 ml of lime water

100 ml olive oil

And, optionally, about 4 grams of beeswax or lanette wax.

However, beeswax is the most natural and ecological alternative that also provides emolliency and innumerable properties to the skin, making our liniment, despite the gap, have a smoothness that is not possible to achieve without this addition.

As we said, the lag is not really a problem since this combination of oil, wax and lime water has a long durability due to the antibacterial properties of lime water (the solution of sodium hydroxide* in water) which prevents our liniment from spoiling quickly.

*Water hydroxide dissolved in water is also known as slaked lime.

Therefore, here is our favourite recipe for preparing our chalky bio-liniment. It would be, like the previous one, with beeswax, but, instead of simple olive oil, we would prepare it with a marigold oil.

To prepare about 200 ml of this liniment, we will need:

100 ml of lime water

100 ml of marigold oil*, macerated for example in virgin sunflower oil.

And, optionally, about 6 grams of beeswax.

*Preparing a wave is not at all complicated if you have some dried marigold flowers as you can see in this link to a previous article:

In this blog we would also like to propose an alternative recipe, without lag, with a chemical wax emulsifier, borax. The “perfect beeswax emulsion” that we propose in our blog to prepare this homemade lime lime oilseed oil would consist of an addition of 0.5 grams of borax.

Normally, we should use one gram of borax for every 15 grams of beeswax that we incorporate in our formulation, so that the chemical emulsion of the wax with the borax is produced. In this case, and since we will use half the amount of beeswax, half a gram of borax will be enough to emulsify the liniment.

Our alternative recipe can also be prepared with a slightly ozonised, edible-grade olive oil, which not only prolongs the shelf life of the recipe, but also provides extra care for babies with nappy rash or, if used for personal care, is particularly suitable for dermatitis with associated itching or pruritus.

Our recipe for about 200 ml of liniment would be yes:

100 ml of lime water + 0.5 grams of borax (to be added to the lime water)

100 ml lightly ozonised olive oil (food grade)

And about 6 grams of beeswax.


Lime water must first be prepared. Lime water is a calcium hydroxide solution obtained by mixing air lime (slaked lime) and water. It has antiseptic and cleansing properties. It cleanses the skin and balances its pH, which tends to acidify with urine.

Although it is possible to replace olive oil with other vegetable oils, it is not possible to replace lime water.

To do this, we will need:

Half a litre of demineralised water and

About 5 grams of calcium hydroxide.

Preparation lime-water instructions: If you do not have demineralised water, you can boil drinking water and let it cool.

Once cold, you can add the tablespoon of calcium hydroxide, stirring well. After a short time you will see that the lime will sink to the bottom of the bottle.

Let it stand for an hour and then transfer the mixture with a funnel and a paper filter into a glass container. This lime water can be stored for several months in a cool place. A part of it (100 ml) is used to prepare our homemade liniment.

Our lime water is now ready. There may be small, whitish calcium carbonate crystals that form in contact with the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the lime water. They are harmless and do not affect the water quality. If they really bother us, we can always filter the lime water again.


Once the lime water is obtained, dilute the 0.5 grams of borax in 100 ml of the lime water.

Then melt the beeswax in the olive oil in a bain-marie.

Remove from the heat and add the lime water, stirring constantly with an electric whisk. Leave to cool and then we can use our homemade liniment.

As always, it is best to have a glass container with a dispenser to ensure longer shelf life.

APPLICATION: Apply with cotton wool or a washable wipe, and do not rinse, it is not necessary. As a precaution, we always recommend testing the elbow crease before application to check for allergic reactions. Lime water has a high pH. It should therefore not be applied directly to the skin. However, mixed with an emulsified fatty substance, it is harmless.


We have taken as a reference to write this section of homemade liniment base recipe the blog of: “”.

Unlike herbal oil macerates (known as oleates or oleates), traditional liniments, in the American herbalist tradition, are made with water-based ingredients that evaporate quickly from the skin.

According to the Central European herbalist tradition, as we will see below, herbal oils and tinctures infused in equal parts in alcohol are used. And, optionally, essential oils are added.

The following list details possible combinations based on natural components:

We have included a list of the most suitable substances as “vehicles” for the preparation of our homemade liniments.

Witch Hazel Decoction: Calms and soothes redness and inflammation, helps reduce swelling, useful for bruises, insect bites, sunburn, varicose veins; the disadvantage is that witch hazel extracts herbs somewhat less effectively than stronger alcohol preparations; witch hazel is a good balancer that softens the drying effect of vodka/alcohol.

Vodka, whisky or high proof rum: Extracts most herbs very effectively, especially the resins; the drawback is that pure vodka/liquor dries out the skin; using a large proportion of witch hazel decoction (50 to 60%) combined with alcohol can give us the best of both ingredients.

Ethanol: Also known as ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol, ethanol is a clear, colourless liquid that serves as the main ingredient in alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine or brandy. It is a renewable product of organic origin. Because it can be easily dissolved in water and other organic compounds, ethanol is also an ingredient in a variety of products, including as a fuel substitute, hence it is also called burn alcohol. But be careful, because not all burning alcohols are natural like ethanol.

Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol): This is a classic liniment base, fast-acting and very effective, but also the least natural option on the list. In this case, many herbalists skip the “only natural ingredients” rules and use isopropyl alcohol for liniments because of its high level of efficacy. While it is not a natural option, as it volatilises quickly, it is hardly absorbed by our skin, making it an ideal vehicle for the herbal active ingredients that we actually absorb.

However, it is best to avoid using this alcohol, or even vodka, if you are sensitive to them. The safest bet in that case is apple cider vinegar or apple cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar: Liniments can be made with vinegar if alcohol is to be avoided; the main drawback is the strong vinegar smell, but this can be softened by diluting it with witch hazel.

Vegetable glycerine: Vegetable glycerine can also be added to some of the mixtures to soften them. If we feel that our homemade liniment dries out the skin too much, we can add a few drops of glycerine. Too much glycerine will make the texture too sticky, so it is best to try a few drops and add more, gradually, if necessary.

It is possible to mix and match ingredients; for example, it is possible to use half witch hazel and half vinegar. Or 75% witch hazel and 25% organic alcohol.


When preparing our liniments, as with almost any other homemade preparation, it is best to use dried herbs that will provide a longer shelf life for our ointments and liniments.

Many of the herbs listed below are warming, which means they stimulate circulation and reduce stiffness.

Cooling herbs can be useful when there is redness and swelling and we are looking for a cooling/warming effect.

Antimicrobial or antiseptic herbs are used in some liniment recipes to heal cuts and sores. The resins should be crushed or pulverised and are best extracted with some form of alcohol.



Arnica (Arnica montana) for bruises, swelling, pain, arthritis, aches, pains, do not use arnica on broken skin or cuts.

Juniper berries (Juniperus communis) to warm, stimulates circulation

Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa, M. spp.) Anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, helps rheumatic joints

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) antimicrobial, repairs damaged skin, for varicose veins

Cayenne (Capsicum annuum) reduces the sensation of pain, gives warmth, use very little to avoid burning the skin.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) for bruises, sprains, relieves pain, useful for bone injuries, do not use on open wounds.

Willow bark (Salix alba) anti-inflammatory, rich in the analgesic salicin (a compound similar to aspirin), for persons over 16 years of age, not suitable for pregnant women, nursing mothers, consult a doctor if taking anticoagulants.

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) especially useful for nerve pains, varicose veins, swelling

Helichrysum flowers (Helichrysum italicum) for pain, bruises, sprains and varicose veins.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale), warming, increases circulation

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) leaves and flowers, refreshing, for all skin types.

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) reduces inflammation, soothes irritated skin

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) refreshing, pain relieving (although the herb is very mild, the menthol crystals will be much stronger)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) anti-inflammatory, helps with cramps, pain, varicose veins and irritated skin

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) rich in pain-relieving salicylic acid; avoid or seek medical advice in advance if allergic to aspirin

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) stimulates circulation, helps with sore joints

Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) very soothing, refreshing

Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) can be used externally as a mild relaxant and for sore muscles.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) potent antiseptic, use small amounts (1/4 tsp at a time), slow-growing endangered woodland herb, use Oregon grape (Berberis nervosa) as a substitute if necessary.

Goldenrod (Solidago spp) for general aches and pains

Violets (Viola odorata, V. spp.) refreshing, soothing, helpful for lymphatic inflammation.



Frankincense resin (Boswellia sacra) anti-inflammatory, relieves pain

Myrrh resin (Commiphora myrrha) anti-inflammatory, antiseptic,…

Pine resin (Pinus strobus, P. spp.), warming, used for arthritis, joint stiffness and rheumatism; pine needles can also be used in infusion.

Dragon’s blood resin (Daemonorops draco, Croton spp., etc.) for wound healing, inflammations and rheumatism

Menthol crystals: Menthol crystals add a cooling and analgesic sensation to homemade liniments.


Menthol crystals are strongly scented solid crystals that have been extracted from the essential oil of peppermint or spearmint. Menthol is a common ingredient in commercial pain preparations because it produces a cooling and analgesic sensation when applied to the skin.

Before adding to the liniment, the crystals should be dissolved in a small glass or glass bowl with a tablespoon of natural alcohol (ethanol) or vodka.

Once stirred and completely melted in the alcohol, we can add the menthol mixture to the finished liniment.

Menthol is used in small quantities, usually between 1 and 2% of the recipe. That is, between 0.6 and 1.2 ml of the mixture is added to the liniment. Higher amounts are usually too strong for sensitive skin.


Fill a jar with herbs, preferably dried, to 1/3 or 1/2 of its capacity.

Next, cover the herbs with alcohol, witch hazel and/or vinegar. Whatever combination you prefer, but make sure that the herbs are covered by at least several centimetres of liquid.

Stir well, cover and leave to infuse for 3 to 4 weeks, or even 6 weeks if desired.

Strain and you have your homemade liniment. It is best to label it with the date to avoid confusion.

Caution: If we have used vinegar in our recipe we will make sure that the lid is not made of metal, or the acid will start to form corrosion, which we do not want in our product.



You will need about 20 grams (a couple of tablespoons) of witch hazel bark, but a mixture that includes the bark is better, and about 500 ml of water.

To make the decoction:

In a saucepan, bring the water to the boil with the 2 tablespoons of witch hazel bark. Keep it on a low heat, without boiling, for about 20-30 minutes.

The volume will be reduced by about half, and you will get about one cup of witch hazel extract, after filtering (paper filter) the remains of the plant.

While simmering, our house will smell a bit like a hospital.  The aroma is not unpleasant, but it smells strongly antiseptic, like an operating theatre after sterilisation.

The witch hazel water is now ready for use.  As it is not preserved with alcohol, it will spoil quickly. It should therefore be kept in the refrigerator and used within a week.

However, if we want our extract to remain stable, it is possible to add alcohol to it. In this case, instead of calling it witch hazel water, we will call it stable witch hazel extract.

How to prepare a long-lasting witch hazel extract.

If we want to make a stable witch hazel extract, we need to add an alcohol of organic origin. Vodka, whisky or high-proof rum work well (isopropyl alcohol also works, but then it is not suitable for internal use).

For good preservation, the mixture needs the addition of at least 20% alcohol.  Some sources suggest 25% to make the extract really stable.

In this case, assuming that we have about 250 ml of witch hazel water left after the decoction, we will need to add about 60-65 ml of vodka.



Well, we have found some interesting recipes in the alternative natural literature that have probably become famous for their effectiveness.

 KLOSS liniment

Available in Rosemary Gladstar’s book “Medicinal Herbs: A Beginners Guide”, this very old and effective recipe was first published by the famous herbalist Dr. Jethro Kloss in his classic book “Back to Eden” in 1939. Kloss’ liniment is very useful for relieving occasional muscle aches and pains. Instead of goldenseal, chaparral or Oregon grape root can also be substituted.


Approx. 20 g of organically grown echinacea powder

about 20 g goldenseal powder (chaparral or Oregon grape root can be substituted)

about 20 grams of powdered myrrh resin

about 5 g cayenne pepper powder

Half a litre (500ml) rubbing alcohol.


Place the powder in a jar and cover it with rubbing alcohol (food alcohol can be used, but rubbing alcohol seems to work best), leaving a good 2 inches above the herbs.

Cover with an airtight lid and leave to stand for 4 weeks.

Strain it and re-bottle it and label it “For external use only” and you are ready to use it.

How to use: Remember that it is best to rub gently into the skin and allow it to evaporate. Always be careful not to rub too hard or vigorously, as this may cause irritation.



To prepare it, you will need:

20 grams of dried arnica flowers, can be replaced by goldenrod

1/3 cup vodka or ethanol

1/2 cup witch hazel water, or enough to fill the jar

Half a teaspoon of menthol crystals, dissolved in 1 tablespoon of vodka or ethanol.


Place the herbs in the jar and cover them with the vodka or alcohol. Stir well and fill the jar to the bottom with witch hazel, leaving a space of a few centimetres at the top to allow the herbs to expand.

Cover and leave to infuse for 3-4 weeks, stirring frequently.

After the infusion time has elapsed, strain it through a paper filter into a clean jar.

In a small bowl, dissolve the menthol crystals in 1 tablespoon of vodka or alcohol until completely melted.

Add the menthol-alcohol mixture to the strained liniment and stir well.

USE: Test the finished liniment on the inside of the arm to prevent possible allergic reactions before spreading it on sore areas of the body. Menthol can sometimes cause slight irritation. This liniment should therefore never be applied to wounded or irritated skin. The sore areas are usually rubbed a couple of times a day to relieve the pain.


Author: Agatha Noveille from the website


Witch hazel extract. If possible with the following percentages: 86% witch hazel extract and 14% organic alcohol or ethanol.

Dried herbs of your choice, such as: arnica, comfrey, goldenrod, mugwort, and/or St. John’s wort. Peppermint leaf is also great for cooling, and calendula is always a wonderful addition to liniments.


Fill a clean glass jar halfway with the herb or herbs of your choice and add enough witch hazel extract to completely cover the herbs, with alcohol about an inch or two above them.

Let the liniment infuse for at least two weeks (4-8 is optimal) in a cool, dark place. Every day or two, check the liniment and add more witch hazel if the herbs have absorbed it.

After the desired infusion time has elapsed, strain the liniment and pack it in a small spray bottle for easy application.

Notes: A good idea is to take note of the herbs we have used and the proportions. This way, we can prepare more easily when we find a mixture that works really well.



We will need:

1 part yarrow

1 part marigold flowers

1 part St. John’s wort (fresh is ideal, but dried can be used)

1 part willow bark, optional.

1/4 part cayenne pepper or ginger pepper


Put roughly equal amounts of yarrow, calendula and St. John’s wort in a glass jar and then add a smaller amount of cayenne pepper or ginger.

If willow bark is available, it would also be interesting to add some willow bark for its salicylic acid content.

As you know, it is usually better to use dried herbs in our cosmetic products and preparations because this avoids moulds. However, with hypericum we can make an exception if we have it fresh because it provides better properties.

Pour “stable witch hazel water” (i.e. one part alcohol) over the herbs until covered and leave to infuse for 2 to 3 weeks. Strain and re-bottle, this time in a permanent glass container.

USE: Apply it a couple of times a day to activate circulation and prevent tired legs, as well as muscular pains, strains and stiffness.

If it is to treat varicose veins, it should always be rubbed in the direction of the heart to help tighten and tone varicose veins and improve blood flow.



As we mentioned earlier, in Europe, we have traditionally used tinctures and macerated oils (oleates) in the preparation of our homemade herbal liniments. We have taken this last section from the blog of naturopath Fátima Solé.

Our preparations have also been traditionally used to relieve all kinds of pain and discomfort, such as muscular pain, menstrual pain, arthritis, lumbago, sciatica, tendinitis…

They are also applied in the form of external frictions as they are absorbed quickly, like Anglo-Saxon liniments, facilitating the action of their components.

The plants used are usually more closely connected to our European and Mediterranean environment, and include dried plants such as rosemary, hypericum, as well as the exotic ginger, cayenne, arnica, comfrey root, juniper berries and marigold. A “hot” spice such as cayenne, ginger or cinnamon is also often included in the preparation to enhance its action.

And in the preparation, the alcohol macerate and the oil macerate are mixed in equal parts. In other words, for one part tincture, one part oil.

They can be simple macerates of a single plant, such as rosemary alcohol and arnica oil; or macerates composed of several plants, for example, mixing cayenne tincture and rosemary tincture together with hypericum oil and arnica oil. The important thing is that at the end half of the preparation is alcohol and half is oil.

These preparations are also left to infuse in closed, dark glass containers away from heat sources for a few weeks before they can be used.

Optionally, essential oils can be added, but in this case we must be more careful when using our liniment on children or pregnant women because they may find it excessively aggressive. In any case, in order for the addition of essential oils to be effective, only use 100% pure essential oils, preferably organic and extracted by steam distillation, always avoiding dermocaustic EOs such as cinnamon, oregano, savory, some species of thyme and eucalyptus, etc., and they should always be added with caution and in very low doses.

Among the essential oils that can be used in our homemade liniments, we have those of : clove, cinnamon, mint, rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, basil, tarragon, helichrysum, pine, balsam fir, laurel, wintergreen, katafray…

USE: Shake the liniment well before use. Apply with a gentle massage, never on areas where the skin is irritated or there are wounds. Temporary reddening of the skin may occur, this is normal due to the action of the ingredients. Special care should be taken with liniments containing cayenne or strong essential oils such as cinnamon, and do not touch the eyes after handling.

Reference bibliography:

Nature’s Medicine Chest, Reader’s Digest, 1997.

Aromatherapy, The Art of Healing with Essential Oils, Dominique Baudoux, Editions Amyris, 2008.


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