What is the difference between liniments, balms and ointments?
A liniment is also called an embrocation, from the Latin word linere, meaning to anoint. It is often in the form of a thin liquid that can be rubbed into the skin where there is pain in a certain area from stiffness, arthritis, or muscular aches.
The base often consists of alcohol, or a thin aloe base can also be useful.
Essential oils play a vital role in making these age old liniments. Dating back to ancient times these liniments were very popular around the world. I remember my grandparents using Sloans liniment for their aching limbs.
Now that we are using so many different valuable essential oils, it’s great to be able to make our own liniments and ointments and healing balms.
The ointments and balms are normally thicker in consistency, and the base consists mainly of melted beeswax and herbal macerates or infusions. Although there are many people now stewing the herbs in a pot containing olive oil and cooking over a medium heat to extract all the herbal compounds.
This may not be the best method as some compounds can be lost due to it not being extracted for a longer period of time.
How are they made?
Macerates are normally made over a two week period whereby the herbal extracts are slowly released. Some herbalists ensure they can shake the jar or bottle where they have macerated the herbs in, or some may stir it around every few days.
It is then strained through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove all the herbs and residue.
This macerate is then added to the beeswax and stirred continuously until it’s all well mixed.
Essential oils are then added to the final phase before the mixture has cooled completely.
There are a number of essential oils for pain that can be utilised by adding two or three essential oils together to enhance the activity and strength of the ointment or balm or even the liniment.
Liniment absorbs into the skin quicker with less grease on the skin.
Ointments have also been used around the world by the ancients and our ancestors. In fact my mom had used menthol camphor ointment for many many years. She started to use this on us whenever we fell or had a sprain when we were in our teens.
Menthol camphor ointment should be kept away from babies and young toddlers as it can create cooling of their respiratory tract and they can suffer breathing complications.
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