Liniments are traditionally used to “rub down” either specific problem areas or as a body-wide brace after a hard work out.
Natural/herbal ingredients have been a part of liniment formulas for as long as there have been liniments. Even the more “chemical” ingredients, like menthol and camphor, are actually purified from natural sources in many cases. However, these latter ingredients are harsh when used in high concentrations, which is why these products are in our September 2004 chemical liniments article.
Although liniments are usually well tolerated when used properly, individual hypersensitivities/allergic reactions can be found with just about anything you put on a horse’s skin, including herbals. Concentrated, undiluted essential oils are particularly potent in this respect. As a group, though, the herbal-based liniments that don’t rely on high concentrations of camphor or menthol have a more gentle warming action and are better tolerated by sensitive horses.
Herbal liniments also tend to excel in the relief of acute injuries/inflammation. Counterirritants are contraindicated during the early inflammatory reaction, as they may make it worse and the underlying acute reaction makes the likelihood of significant skin reaction much higher.
We evaluated our herbal products as body washes, leg braces and full strength on both fresh or chronic injuries and sore muscles. Surface thermography gun readings were used to objectively determine warming vs. cooling effects.
Pain-relieving effect was recorded by both improvements in lameness grade and responses to palpation or flexion at 12-hour intervals. No anti-inflammatory drugs were given. Vet recommendations regarding exercise were followed.
The best results in terms of pain relief, rapid reduction of swelling and local heat were with Sore No-More. It’s pleasant to work with and nicely priced. It’s effective for muscular pain/swelling and with both acute and chronic tendons, ligament and joint problems and can be used under wraps or neoprene for added warming when stiffness is prominent.
We were also impressed with the Penn Herbal Pure Arnica liniment and consider it a strong choice. It was also effective — and a dollar stretcher when diluted — but it didn’t work as fast as Sore No-More.