From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sloan's Liniment, right, was once a popular over-the-counter drug.

Liniment (from Latin: linere, meaning "to anoint"), also called embrocation and heat rub, is a medicated topical preparation for application to the skin. Some liniments have viscosity similar to that of water; others are lotion or balm; still others are in transdermal patches, soft solid sticks, and sprays. Liniment usually is rubbed in to the skin, which the active ingredients penetrate.

Liniments are typically sold to relieve pain and stiffness, such as from muscular aches and strains, and arthritis. These are typically formulated from alcohol, acetone, or similar quickly evaporating solvents and contain counterirritant aromatic chemical compounds, such as methyl salicilate, benzoin resin, menthol, and capsaicin. They produce a feeling of warmth within the muscle of the area they are applied to, typically acting as rubefacients via a counterirritant effect.

Methyl salicylate, which is the analgesic ingredient in some heat rubs, can be toxic if used to excess.[1] Heating pads are also not recommended for use with heat rubs, because the added warmth may cause overabsorption of the active ingredients.

Notable liniments[edit]

An old bottle of AA Hyde Mentholatum Ointment

Use on horses[edit]

A 1914 advertisement for "Antiphlogistine"

Liniments are commonly used on horses following exercise, applied either by rubbing on full-strength, especially on the legs; or applied in a diluted form, usually added to a bucket of water and sponged on the body. They are used in hot weather to help cool down a horse after working, the alcohol cooling through rapid evaporation, and counterirritant oils dilating capillaries in the skin, increasing the amount of blood releasing heat from the body.[16]

Many horse liniment formulas in diluted form have been used on humans, though products for horses which contain DMSO are not suitable for human use, as DMSO carries the topical product into the bloodstream.[17] Horse liniment ingredients such as menthol, chloroxylenol, or iodine are also used in different formulas in products used by humans.[18]

Absorbine, a horse liniment product manufactured by W.F. Young, Inc., was reformulated for humans and marketed as Absorbine Jr.[19] The company also acquired other liniment brands including Bigeloil and RefreshMint.[20] The equine version of Absorbine is sometimes used by humans,[21] though its benefits in humans may be because the smell of menthol releases serotonin, or due to a placebo effect.[19]

Earl Sloan was a US entrepreneur who made his initial fortune selling his father's horse liniment formula beginning in the period following the Civil War. Sloan's liniment, with capsicum as a key ingredient, was also marketed for human use. He later sold his company to the predecessor of Warner–Lambert, which was purchased in 2000 by Pfizer.[22][23]


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  4. ^ Sinha, R P.; Mitra, S K.; Roy, P K. (16 March 1967). "Liniment A.B.C. poisoning". Journal of the Indian Medical Association. 48 (6): 278–9. PMID 6038536.[failed verification]
  5. ^ Weir, Archibald (February 15, 1896). "Fatal Case Of Poisoning By A.B.C. Liniment". The British Medical Journal. 1 (1833): 399–400. doi:10.1136/bmj.1.435.399-a. S2CID 19739440.
  6. ^ Fisher, O D. (November 1954). "Accidental Poisoning of Children in Belfast: A Report of two years' experience at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children". Ulster Med J. 23 (2): 124–131. PMC 2480209. PMID 20476409.
  7. ^ Swinscow, Douglas (February 1953). "Accidental Poisoning of Young Children". Arch Dis Child. 28 (137): 26–29. doi:10.1136/adc.28.137.26. PMC 1988641. PMID 13031693.
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  9. ^ Team, Strategist (November 11, 2013). "Answers to last week's quiz (#329)". Business Standard India. Archived from the original on July 3, 2020. Retrieved October 25, 2020 – via Business Standard.
  10. ^ "Icy Hot - Chempedia". 2 August 2008. Archived from the original on 2 August 2008. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  11. ^ Springville Journal Staff. January 30, 2015 The Mentholatum Company thanks WNY residents for success Archived 2016-07-30 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Freeman, Beverly J. (1998). Levi Minard, M.D., King of Pain. B.J. Freeman. OCLC 40881236. Archived from the original on 2022-03-14. Retrieved 2022-03-14.
  13. ^ "Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - Toilers in London, by One of the Crowd [James Greenwood], [1883] - Doctor Quackinbosh". Archived from the original on 2021-01-17. Retrieved 2022-02-24.
  14. ^ FRANCIS, George William (1853). The Dictionary of Practical Receipts; Containing the Arcana of Trade and Manufacture; Domestic Economy; Artistical, Ornamental&scientific Processes; Pharmaceutical and Chemical Preparations, Etc. (Third Edition.). J. Allen, D. Francis. Archived from the original on 2022-02-24. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  15. ^ Tiger Balm: Heritage, archived from the original on 2009-08-31, retrieved 2009-09-30
  16. ^ "Liniments and Poultices for Sore Horses". Archived from the original on 4 October 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  17. ^ "How is Horse Liniment Helpful to Humans?". Archived from the original on 2016-07-16. Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  18. ^ "Is Horse Liniment Safe for Humans?". 4 August 2015. Archived from the original on 9 June 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  19. ^ a b Millward, Robin (6 December 2010). "To all you neigh-sayers, this horse rub really does work". Archived from the original on 25 September 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2018 – via
  20. ^ "Horse Muscle Care And Joint Care Products - Absorbine". Absorbine. Archived from the original on 17 November 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  21. ^ "Horse liniment helps the pain". Archived from the original on 2012-07-02. Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  22. ^ Society, Jim Hodges, Curator, New Bern Historical. "Historical Society Curator Reveals Early 20th Century Success Story". Archived from the original on 5 November 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  23. ^ "Warner Lambert. - Pfizer: One of the world's premier biopharmaceutical companies". Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2018.

The dictionary definition of liniment at Wiktionary