A liniment heats the skin and underlying muscles and joints to relieve pain. The base of a liniment may be either rubbing alcohol or an edible alcohol such as vodka. If you do use rubbing alcohol, remember that it is toxic to drink, so label it accordingly. Alcohol is cooling and quickly evaporates, leaving no oily residue. Occasionally, though, a person will prefer using a vegetable oil base, making the liniment more like a concentrated massage oil. Oil heats up faster and will stay on the skin longer, making it better for massages.
Essential oils such as cinnamon, peppermint, and clove give a liniment its heating action. All skin-heating preparations, including Tiger Balm and White Flower Oil, contain peppermint and/or camphor, which stimulate both hot and cold reactions in nerve endings in the skin. The brain registers these sensations at the same time. The contrast between the two messages makes a liniment seem much hotter than it really is.
The most effective liniments also contain muscle-relaxing and inflammation-reducing essential oils such as rosemary, marjoram, and lavender. They penetrate into the skin to work directly on the muscle.
For arthritis, rheumatism, and other inflammatory conditions, use chamomile, marjoram, birch, and ginger in a massage oil. These same oils can also be added to a pain-relieving bath. For arthritic hands or feet, try a daily hand or foot bath.
Essential oils for joint pain: birch, chamomile, clove, cypress, fir, ginger, juniper berry, marjoram, peppermint, rosemary
Essential oils for heating liniments: cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, peppermint