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What is a Liniment?

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A liniment is a substance created from a slow maceration of any organic substance, typically stimulating or warming plant matter that is allowed to steep in vinegar, alcohol, oil, or a mixture of any of these substances. It is typically applied topically to help relieve minor aches and pains, or may be used as an astringent or disinfectant.

Liniments are typically processed through 'cold infusion' or maceration, and rarely, if ever are they made using any type of direct heat. Technically, two kinds of liniments exist: 'oil-based' liniments, and 'water based' liniments, both of which are used topically. Oil-based liniments are vinegar or alcohol-based tinctures that have been mixed with a carrier oil and (if so desired) some essential oils, while water-based liniments are simply vinegar or alcohol-based liniments applied topically without the addition of oils.

What are liniments used for?

Liniments are used for a wide variety of purposes, although their most common use is as a topical rub typically employed to help relieve aches, pains, and swellings. A liniment typically fulfills three distinct functions: It soothes, it warms, and / or it cools. Depending upon the physical need or the intended purpose for the application, one may choose to apply a cooling or a warming liniment to an ailing area, provided that the area in question is not an open or an infected wound. Both cooling and warming liniments function as a soothing substance, although warming liniments are preferred over cooling ones (or vice versa) depending upon the weather or your current physical state. Aside from being soothing balms to aches and pains, liniments may be used as topical antiseptics, provided that they have been tested and proven to be hypoallergenic.

What are liniments made of?

Liniments can be made from a wide assortment of herbs and spices, although generally the choice of organic matter employed for the creation of liniments are typically either warming herbs (cinnamon, ginger, chilies etc.) or cooling herbs (mint, eucalyptus etc.). Some liniments may include accompanying 'notes' – that is, herbs that possess soothing, energizing, invigorating, or detoxifying properties that are intermixed with the basic concoctions to further improve the overall effect of the whole end product. When creating a liniment, it is best to employ dried herbs and spices more so than fresh ones, typically due to the processes (there are roughly two different ways to make liniments) which the plant matter have to undergo prior to its becoming a true liniment. Fresh herbs may take too long a time macerate, and may in fact spoil during the process, which is why dry herbs are always a better choice.

How are liniments made?

The is roughly two different methods to make a liniment: the first and most basic method of making a liniment involves nothing more save the simple maceration of herbs or spices in either (your choice) of alcohol, oil, or vinegar or a mixture of any of the three. Liniments may technically be oil-based or water-based (as described above), with nothing more to it than that. You may choose to macerate your choice of organic matter in alcohol, vinegar, or oil and then strain and decant it afterwards to be used as a liniment. You may even choose to mix different liniments together, or make one base liniment (sometimes generally alcohol or vinegar based) with different kinds of herbs, which, after the maceration period is then strained, decanted, and mixed with an oil (your choice of either an essential oil or a base oil).

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt, © 2013

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