Arnica and St. John’s Wort Liniment

St. John's WortI’ve told you before that Kloss’ Liniment is one of my favorite medicinals, and Arnica (Arnica montana) is a close second. With boys in the house, and gardening/homesteading chores to do, we see a lot of bruises and sore muscles. Also known as the mountain daisy, mountain tobacco, or wolf’s bane, arnica is recommended by the German Commission E (a German publication for medical professionals to reference when prescribing herbs) for “external use in injury and for consequences of accidents, e.g., hematoma, dislocations, contusions, edema due to fracture, rheumatic muscle and joint problems.” Also known for treating bruised tissues, sprains, burns, and other injuries, St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) blends nicely with arnica for formulating a liniment. It is also esteemed as for treating damaged nerve endings. For the recipe I’m going to share with you, you will need the flowers from these herbs. If you cannot get fresh, dried can be ordered online or purchased from your local health food store.

Identifying the flowers

St. John’s wort grows in fields and along roadsides along most of North America and Europe. It is a perennial plant that grows from 1-3 feet tall with ovate leaves speckled with translucent glands. The flowers, which you will find from June until September, are yellow. They have five petals that surround a thick bunch of stamens. The petals have black dots along the rim. Arnica is found primarily in European wastelands, from Spain and Portugal to southern Scandinavia and along the Carpathian mountain range. It is not found in Britain. This flower grows from 8-24 inches with a single flower head. The base of the herb sports whorled, ovate leaves with another pair, or two, of leaves opposite up the stem. The yellow composite flowers generally grow about 1 ½ to 2 inches across and bloom from May until August. If you do not live in Europe, arnica can be grown in your herb garden.

Making the liniment

Combine equal amounts of arnica and St. John’s wort flowers in a clean quart canning jar about 2/3 full. Fill the jar with 70% rubbing alcohol, making sure to cover the flowers by at least two inches. Apply the cap and shake vigorously. Let stand in a warm, sunny window for 14 days, shaking daily. At the end of this time, strain the mixture through a clean muslin cloth, squeezing as much of the liquid out as you can. Store in a clean, glass bottle.


You can use witch hazel in place of the rubbing alcohol. Some herbalists prefer to use vodka for their liniments but I would rather stick with the rubbing alcohol for several reasons.

  • Isopropyl alcohol (the chemical name for rubbing alcohol) has been used historically for massage. By itself, it is known to relieve sore muscles.
  • Isopropyl also has a slippery feel to it, making it easier to massage with.
  • Vodka, or any other ethyl alcohol, could cause issues for someone who struggles with alcoholism. Not only could the smell be a temptation, but anything applied to the skin is absorbed into the blood. For that reason alone, I would not recommend it for use on children.
  • Because you want the herbs to do their work on your skin, you would not want to wash after using the liniment. But if you use ethyl alcohol, you will walk around smelling like an afternoon cocktail.

You may use this liniment for massaging sore, aching muscles or to gently rub on bruises and swellings. Only use on unbroken skin, as arnica is toxic if taken internally. However, there is a homeopathic arnica preparation that you can take simultaneously that will speed healing.

Photo by John Tann


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