Herbal Liniments

Simple to make, herbal liniments are a great element for any home medicine cabinet!  They offer instant relief for pain, inflamed muscles, bruises, and sprains.

Depending on which botanicals are included, liniments can be used to disinfect cuts and wounds, and may benefit a variety of conditions including sore and inflamed muscles, joints, circulation problems, arthritis, rheumatism, sprains, strains, and bruises.

Liniments may also be formulated to warm or cool.  Warming herbs like Black Pepper, Cayenne, or Ginger can be added to stimulate blood circulation and assist with arthritis, pain, stiffness, and conditions aggravated by exertion or cold weather.  Cooling herbs like Peppermint or Menthol crystals are useful for swelling, inflammation, and areas that are hot due to sprains, bruises, and other injuries.

Basic Herbal Liniment

This recipe provides the basic guidelines for making herbal liniments and is completely customizable.


• Rubbing Alcohol or other menstruum of choice.   *See note below.

• Fresh or dried herbs. Popular choices are: Arnica, Black Pepper, Calendula, Cayenne, Chamomile, Comfrey, Echinacea, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Goldenseal, Lavender, Myrrh, Oregano, Oregon Grape root, Peppermint, Rosemary, St. John’s Wort, Thyme, and Yarrow.

• Optional additions: Menthol crystals and/or essential oil(s) of choice.

1.  Place herbs in a clean glass jar. If using fresh herbs, chop them first.  Cover thoroughly with rubbing alcohol or other menstruum of choice, and cap with a tight-fitting lid. Place the jar in a warm area and shake daily or as often as possible.

2.  After 4-6 weeks, strain the herbs out using cheesecloth.  If desired, add Menthol crystals (they will dissolve in alcohol) and/or essential oil(s).  Pour the liniment into dark glass bottles.   Make sure to label the liniment for “External Use Only”.

3.  When properly stored in a cool dark place, the liniment will keep almost indefinitely.  To use: gently rub onto skin and allow to evaporate.  Be careful not to rub too hard or vigorously as this can cause irritation.

*Note: Rubbing alcohol is typically used to make liniments because it extracts the therapeutic herbal constituents, rapidly penetrates and evaporates from the skin, and is an all-purpose antiseptic and disinfectant.  You could also use Vodka, Witch Hazel Extract, or Vinegar as a solvent.  Basically, you’ll need a menstruum to extract the properties of the herbs which will absorb quickly and deeply to penetrate skin.  If alcohol alone is too harsh or drying on your skin, try mixing it with Witch Hazel Extract or Vinegar until you find a medium that works for you.

Kloss Liniment

Available in Rosemary Gladstar’s book Medicinal Herbs: A Beginners Guide, this very old and strong recipe was first published by the famous herbalist Dr. Jethro Kloss in his classic book Back to Eden in 1939. Kloss’s liniment is useful for reducing inflammation of the muscles, cleansing wounds, and soothing insect bites.  Instead of Goldenseal, you can also substitute Chaparral or Oregon Grape Root.  According to Rosemary Gladstar, who has been using this recipe for over 30 years, this is one of the finest disinfectant remedies available.  In her own words: “Quite truthfully, you shouldn’t be without it.”


• 1 ounce Echinacea powder

• 1 ounce organically grown Goldenseal powder (may substitute Chaparral or Oregon Grape Root)

• 1 ounce Myrrh powder

• ¼ ounce Cayenne powder

• 1 pint Rubbing Alcohol

1. Place the powder in a jar and cover with rubbing alcohol (a food-grade alcohol can be used, but rubbing alcohol seems to work best), leaving a good 2-inch margin above the herbs. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Place the mixture in a warm location and let it sit for 4 weeks.

2. Strain and rebottle. Label the bottle clearly for “External Use Only”.

3. To use, apply directly on wounds or moisten a cotton ball with liniment and swab the infected area. Repeat as often as needed until the infection goes away.

For more information, watch our video on making herbal liniments:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDVzYK96l4Y

Step by step recipe and instructions for making Kloss’s Liniment from LearningHerbs.com: http://www.learningherbs.com/news_issue_13.html


11 Responses to “Herbal Liniments”

  1. [...]  The one place I’ve found online that I find myself going to over and over again is Mountain Rose.  They have a wealth of information about how to make herbal liniments, sources for buying the [...]

  2. avatar LindaMAlbert says:

    What quantity of menthol crystals would be added to this for a muscle ache reliever liniment?

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi LindaMAlbert,

      Thank you for the great question!

      Menthol Crystals are extremely potent. I would add a very small amount to your liniment, and then test it once that the crystals have dissolved. You can continue to add a little more until you have the perfect amount in your liniment. Since the crystals are so potent, it’s better to slowly increase the amount than add too much.

      Enjoy your liniment, it will come in so handy during the summer months!

      ~ Irene

  3. avatar AshfromOC says:

    Can’t wait to try this recipe! Just curious, what are the benefits to using powdered herbs over dried or fresh herbs in this application? Also, Do you use a cheesecloth to strain? Thank you for sharing the recipe!! ;o)

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi AshfromOC,

      Thank you so much for your question!

      You can use fresh or dried herbs, either powdered or cut into pieces. The classic and time-honored recipe by Jethro Kloss does call for dried and powdered herbs. However, you’re welcome to adapt the recipe to include fresh herbs or non-powdered dried herbs. Cheesecloth is perfect for straining the liniment.

      Thanks again, happy medicine making!

      ~ Irene

  4. avatar Anne says:

    Do you have a recipe for a liniment I could make to use on my horses legs, she has calcium deposits on her joints and despite glucosamine and other meds she does get pain and inflamation in her joints (specially when it is damp or wet weather)I do use the comercial very well known one, would however prefer to use homemade

  5. avatar Jessica says:

    I am looking to use Arnica in a homemade liniment. I only have access to arnica powder (ground up flowers), is this ok? Or there more benefits to the whole (dried) flowers?
    thank you!

    • avatar Kori says:

      Hi Jessica~That is a great question! Yes, you can use the ground arnica powder for the oil, it will just be a little more challenging to strain the powder and the herbs. Good luck with your liniment! ~Kori

  6. […] Liniment tips and ingredients & Dr. Jethro Kloss’ must have liniment recipe! […]

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