The Difference Between Lotion and Liniment

Topical Herbal Pain Relief: The Difference Between Lotion and Liniment

Pain isn’t always predictable. That’s what makes having effective, fast-acting pain relief tools on hand a real game-changer for both athletes and active individuals. 

Thankfully, Traditional Chinese medicine offers a wide range of topical pain relief products that can be used either as needed or as a regular part of your fitness routine. Among the most popular are lotions and liniments – but which ones should you choose?

Read on to discover the difference between lotions and liniments, how to make the most of these products and which ones are right for you.  

Why Use Topical Herbal Pain Relief Products?

Topical pain relief products such as gels, lotions, liniments and plasters have been used for thousands of years as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Today, savvy athletes and active individuals continue to use these powerful herbal remedies to accelerate healing and improve performance. 

So, what’s so special about topicals like lotions and liniments?

The appeal of these products lies in their holistic approach to pain relief. Unlike oral pain medications that simply cover up pain (and can cause side effects), lotions and liniments are applied directly to the affected area, offering localized relief precisely where it's needed. This targeted approach not only provides fast-acting relief but also minimizes the risk of gastrointestinal upset or liver toxicity, common concerns associated with oral painkillers.

Here are a few of the key reasons why topical herbal formulas are an essential part of any training or wellness toolkit:

  • Immediate Relief
    Topical herbal formulas are fast-acting. They provide quick relief, usually within minutes of being applied directly to sore or injured areas.

  • Precise Treatment
    Topicals offer precise, localized treatment. They target the specific area where pain or discomfort is occurring, avoiding the need for medications.

  • Reduced Inflammation
    Most herbs used in topical formulas contain natural compounds that reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a key factor in pain and injury, so using lotions and liniments can encourage faster recovery and may even help prevent injuries by addressing inflammation early.

  • Increased Blood Flow
    Herbal topicals also contain ingredients that promote increased blood flow to the treated area. This increase in circulation stimulates the healing process by delivering essential nutrients and oxygen to damaged tissues, which promotes tissue repair and recovery.
  • Injury Prevention
    Herbal topicals aren’t just for pain or injuries – they can be part of a healthy self-care routine, too. In fact, using topicals regularly as part of your fitness routine can help prevent injuries down the road. Herbal topicals help to keep your muscles and joints in good condition, which reduces your risk of injuries, strains and overuse.
  • Enhanced Performance
    Reaching your performance goals is easier when you’re pain-free. By reducing inflammation, improving circulation and protecting your muscles and joints, herbal topicals help you move freely and with greater ease.

Lotions vs. Liniments: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to topical herbal pain relief, you may have encountered both lotions and liniments on the market. While they share the common goal of providing relief from pain and discomfort, there are distinct differences between the two. Let's explore the nuances of lotions and liniments to help you make an informed choice to support your training.


Lotions are typically water-based and have a lighter consistency. They often contain a blend of herbs, essential oils, and other ingredients designed to soothe the skin and provide a cooling sensation. Lotions are well-suited for general skin care and can be applied generously to larger areas of the body.

Best For:

  • General Muscle Support
    Lotions are versatile and suitable for everyday use, making them an excellent choice for daily muscle maintenance. They can also be used for minor aches and pains, but may not be as effective for chronic pain or injury recovery.

  • Cooling and Soothing
    Lotions typically provide a cooling or soothing sensation when applied to the skin. They are great for post-workout recovery and general relaxation.

  • Pain Relief on the Go
  • Lotions are easy to apply and travel well, making them a great ally to keep in your gym bag, suitcase or office desk.


    Liniments have an alcohol or oil base, which gives them a thinner, more liquid-like consistency than lotions. Liniments are created with a higher concentration of active herbal ingredients, making them particularly potent natural remedies. Plum Dragon Herbs Topical Analgesics (such as Ancestors Advanced, Bruise Juice, and Ho Family) are examples of potent herbal liniments for pain relief, strengthening, and injury prevention.

    Best For:

  • Targeted Pain Relief
    Liniments are best suited for localized application to specific areas of pain or discomfort. Their thinner consistency allows for quick absorption and deep penetration, targeting the source of pain more effectively. Athletes often prefer liniments for acute pain relief and injury management.

  • Warmth and Relaxation
    Liniments typically create a warming or heating sensation due to their alcohol or oil base. This warmth can help relax tense muscles and increase blood flow to the treated area, making liniments particularly beneficial for relieving deep-seated muscle pain. In some cases, however, liniments can have a powerfully cooling effect (like Herbal Ice).
  • Versatile Application
    Because liniments are highly concentrated herbal extracts, you can tailor the application to your needs. Along with applying it directly to an area with a cotton ball, you can also add a few drops of liniment to a lotion for a milder widespread effect. Or, apply with a compress or use them in soaks.
  • Topical Herbal Pain Relief to Make the Best

    While both lotions and liniments offer topical herbal pain relief, their composition, application, sensation and intended use vary significantly. Knowing the difference between lotions and liniments can help you choose the best product for your goals. 

    For instance, herbal lotions are great for general muscle relief and prevention. Liniments, like Plum Dragon Herbs Dit Da Jow range, would be a better choice if you seek potent, targeted pain relief and performance enhancement.

    Ultimately, having both lotions and liniments in your wellness toolkit can provide a well-rounded approach to managing pain and optimizing your physical performance. Learn more about Dit Da Jow liniments here, shop our collection of potent herbal liniments or make your own liniment with our pre-formulated herb packs!



    1 comment

    Do you have any complete recipes for a DIY liniment?

    Rod October 05, 2023

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