Tiger balm: 19 good reasons to always have it at home

As a sportsman, you regularly suffer from muscle and joint pain or contractures.

At home, it’s the small inconveniences of everyday life (headaches, colds and other seasonal rhinitis) that sometimes make your life difficult.

At a time when the overuse of medicines is increasingly being pointed out, there is a need to raise awareness.

What if tiger balm, considered to be one of the best herbal remedies, was the solution?

tiger balm brand

This ointment from the Chinese pharmacopoeia is extremely popular in Asia because of its rare formulation which makes it an ally of choice in natural medicines.

Very effective thanks to the heat effect produced, it allows to quickly reduce the pain while diffusing its bewitching smell due to the presence of essential oils.

Originally used to relieve musculoskeletal pain, tiger balm also has many other applications, often little-known that we will travel through together.

The tiger balm story

For millennia, herbology has been one of the most important modalities used in traditional Chinese medicine.

This art consists in combining the active principles of medicinal plants and minerals in the form of powders, infusions, ointments or oils, in order to treat various diseases.

In the late 1870s, the Chinese herbalist Aw Chu Kin developed his formulation, which would later become known internationally as “tiger balm“.

aw-boon-part

He founded his first traditional medicine shop in Rangoon, Burma, under the name of Eng Aun Tong for “The Hall of Eternal Peace”.

He rediscovered according to ancient formulas that the combination of camphor, menthol and Chinese cane tree in the form of a cream acted as a natural and powerful local analgesic: the tiger balm was born, and its popularity grew rapidly.

When he died, his two sons took over the family business and created the Tiger Balm brand, transferring the company to Singapore in 1926 and transforming it into a well-known brand throughout Asia.

Used today by millions of people around the world, this balm is the undisputed witness to the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine.

Different varieties of tiger balm and their composition

Although the composition of tiger balm may vary from one formulation to another, it is found mainly in two varieties: the red tiger balm, which contains the essential oil of cinnamon that gives it its red colour, and the white tiger balm.

Ingredient Tiger balm red Tiger balm white Tiger Balm Liniment
Camphor 25 % 25 % 15 %
Menthol 10 % 8 % 8 %
the essential oil of mint 6 % essential oil of eucalyptus – 14 % essential oil of eucalyptus – 6 %
Cajeput essential oil 7 %
cinnamon oil of cinnamon 5 % lavender oil – 5 %
clove essential oil 5 % 1,5 % Methyl salicylate 38 %

The red tiger balm will be used mainly for muscular and joint pain and contractures, while the white tiger balm will treat headache and respiratory ailments.

What is the main ingredient in Tiger Balm?

Camphor

Camphor is extracted from camphor (Cinnamomum camphora), considered the tree of life in China because of its longevity. The essential oil extracted from leaves and young twigs, called ravintsara, has antiseptic, immunostimulating and antidepressant properties. It represents on average 25% of the composition of the tiger balm.

Menthol

Menthol is obtained by extraction from peppermint essential oil and known in Japan for more than 2000 years. Its most well-known property is the effect of freshness that it generates, with a decongestant action. It also has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Menthol is present at about 10% on average in the ointment.

clove essential oil

Clove oil is extracted from cloves (Syzygium aromaticum), an Indonesian tree known for its medicinal and culinary virtues of flower buds (the famous nails!). This oil has interesting antiseptic and analgesic properties, and is present at about 1.5% in the white tiger balm, and at 5% in the red balm.

white tiger balm

The white tiger balm is also made up of a significant portion (up to 15%) of essential oil of eucalyptus, the koala tree native to Australia. It stimulates the immune system, acts against infections and releases the respiratory tract.

Red tiger balm has three additional ingredients

the essential oil of mint (between 8 and 10%), with local analgesic and anaesthetic properties, and facilitating digestion through its draining and antispasmodic effects.

red tiger balm

Cajeput essential oil (between 6 and 8%),

Cajeput tree is an aromatic tree originating in India, cousin of tea tree whose name means “white tree”. It is sought after for its powerful antiseptic properties, but also expectorant and protective cutaneous.

cinnamon oil of cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum) (about 5%),

Cinnamomum aromaticum is a tree originating in China with a rich aromatic bark, cinnamon, well known to cooks. It has been used for millennia for its strengthening and purifying virtues: antibacterial, antiviral and parasitic, it treats infections of all types.

The rest of the product is composed of a paraffin base, in order to fix and give its texture to the ointment.

The various components of tiger balm act on nerve receptors in two ways. Camphor and clove initially create a heat effect, followed by a cold sensation from menthol and cajeput.

The result of this over-stimulation of the nerve receptors is desensitization to pain, which helps relieve your symptoms. This way, you get back in shape.

The main uses of tiger balm and what does Tiger Balm actually do?

As we have seen, tiger balm has a rich composition giving it interesting anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and is useful in many situations of daily life.

Whatever the type of tiger balm (red or white) chosen, this ointment can only be used externally. If this remedy works on all parts of the body, contact with eyes and mucous membranes should be avoided. The oral route is also excluded (unlike some essential oils) due to the presence of camphor.

It is generally recommended to take a small amount of it in the hand, then rub the painful area with circular movements. As soon as the area starts to heat up, you can stop rubbing: that’s when the tiger balm will work. You should then feel a sensation of cold. This operation can be repeated 2 to 3 times a day for more results.

Against muscular and joint pain

The red tiger balm formulation is enriched with cajeput oil and Chinese cane oil, which increases its heating and analgesic properties. The World Health Organization (WHO) also recognises the use of eucalyptus essential oil, contained in white balm, against rheumatism.

 

These properties are very useful in reducing joint and muscle pain, whether it is physical (after sport, arthritis) or nervous (related to stress). You can therefore use tiger balm to relieve pain in the following cases:

Muscle pains

the ointment is absorbed directly into the pain to be relieved, its analgesic properties having an instant soothing and relaxing action on the aching muscle. It is therefore very much appreciated by sportsmen and women from all over the world.

joint pains and tendonitis: apply the balm to inflamed areas in case of joint or tendon pain.

Tiger balm is known to be particularly effective in relieving shoulder pain.

tiger balm and back pain use

Back pain and rheumatism

By applying it directly to the back, thorax and legs through friction. Tiger balm is also highly recommended in cases of torticollis.
arthritis: the tiger balm has a heating effect that reactivates the blood circulation locally and helps relieve painful joints.

Against ENT infections

White tiger balm usually contains eucalyptus essential oil and a fairly high concentration of menthol: it is highly recommended to relieve colds and other respiratory infections of the ENT sphere (combining the nose, mouth, throat and ears). It can be used in the following cases:

Cold, rhinitis or sinusitis

the ointment is applied by friction to the chest, or by inhalation (in adults and teenagers) by putting a hazelnut balm in a large bowl of hot water. Inhalation should be done 2 to 3 times a day. The balm will have an antiseptic action and reduce inflammation of the airways.


cough

when applied to the thorax and back, the tiger balm effectively clears the respiratory tract. blocked nose: you can delicately soak yourself in tiger balm under the nostrils (without touching the lips, which are more sensitive to irritations) to effectively decongest the nose.

sore throat

apply in light friction around the neck before going to sleep if you feel angina coming.

For headaches

The presence of menthol and eucalyptus gives the white tiger balm a refreshing pain-relieving effect in the case of headache.

If you suffer from migraines or mild to moderate headaches, you can apply a little tiger balm to the temples or forehead as you wish. It does not need to be penetrated, but it is essential to avoid contact with the eyes.

11 other tiger balm uses in everyday life

Tiger balm is particularly effective in the treatment of minor everyday problems such as muscular and joint pain, colds or headaches. But it also has many other applications that make it an essential part of the home. If you don’t know them yet, find them quickly in this section.

  1. Relieves mosquito bites: the desensitizing effect of tiger balm on pain relieves the pain of tiger bites, bringing a feeling of freshness and calming itching in the event of insect bites. Do not apply in case of wound or scratch.
  2. Insect repellent: in the summer, put a box of open tiger balm in the four corners of the room. The eucalyptus contained in it helps to keep biting insects away.
  3. Calms light burns and blisters: apply the balm lightly to affected areas.
  4. Fight against perspiration odours: apply to affected parts to effectively eliminate body odours.
  5. Treat digestive problems: in case of diarrhoea, apply a little tiger balm around the navel and cover with your hands for a few minutes to let the heat spread. On the other hand, a massage on the belly area helps relieve the digestive system in case of occasional constipation.
  6. Helps fight motion sickness: put a little balm under the nostrils to avoid nausea in the car or seasickness.
  7. Deodorize shoe closets: Place a jar of open tiger balm in the closet where you store your shoes to effectively eliminate odours.
  8. Fight against cold feet: in winter, massage your feet with a little balm. Its heating action helps to stimulate and improve blood circulation.
  9. Keep termites away: applying a little balm to the holes caused by termites in your wooden or bamboo furniture will help you get rid of them.
  10. Removes paint or glue stains on the skin: rub your hands carefully with a cloth impregnated with tiger balm. The paint or glue will dissolve and you can easily remove them.
  11. Remove stickers: scrub the remnants of a sticker with a little tiger balm and you will be able to remove the residue easily.

Tiger Balm side effects and contraindications

Like all products containing essential oils, tiger balm is contraindicated for children under seven years of age and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Tiger balm should be applied externally only. Avoid contact with mucous membranes, eyes, irritated or wounded skin. It is advisable to wash your hands thoroughly after use. Ingestion of the product is also dangerous due to the presence of camphor, so it is important to be vigilant with young children.

Tiger balm is authorised for sale and its safety has been demonstrated in clinical studies.

In 1990, a study of 20 patients concluded that tiger balm caused mild skin irritation in 0.5 to 1.5% of cases. If in doubt or if you have sensitive skin, you can test it on a small area of skin before use.

It is also necessary to be aware that the action of tiger balm is only intended to relieve a symptom.

How to get it?

Tiger balm is most often found in glass jars or iron cans. It can also be found in the form of oil or stick. The effects are the same.

To avoid counterfeiting and ensure product quality, pay attention to the brand you choose.

The most serious brand comes from Singapore and is called Haw Par: it is the original Tiger Balm by herbalist Aw Chu Kin, which can be found on the internet.

Tiger balm is also available in pharmacies, parapharmacy and specialty stores such as those selling organic and natural products.

Finally, laboratories specialized in Chinese medicine products develop balms that do not bear the name of tiger balm, but have identical composition and effects.

Prices vary, you have to count around ten USD in general depending on the chosen form. The main advantage of tiger balm is that it is used in small quantities, which saves you money.