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What is Tiger balm?


A versatile product, Tiger Balm can be used to relieve a wide range of ailments. It is applied directly to the skin. Its ingredients provide a simultaneous sensation of cold and heat: while camphor and clove oil heat, menthol and cajeput cool. It is most often used for the relief of muscular pains, colds and flu-like illnesses.

Background of the story of Tiger Balm

The inventor of this ointment was Aw Chu Kin, an herbalist who lived in Rangoon. He studied different kinds of ointments and discovered that the mixture of camphor, cloves and menthol brought real relief. Tiger Balm was born.

In 1908, Aw Chu Kin died leaving the company to his two sons Boon Haw and Boon Par, and the two brothers developed the marketing of this product, which takes its name from the elder brother, as Haw means Tiger. Seeing the potential of this product, they moved to Singapore in 1926: the artisanal product became a world famous trademark.

An undeniable success of the effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tiger Balm is used by millions of people in over 100 countries.

Active ingredients

There are 2 varieties of Tiger Balm










Mint EO

Mentha arvenisis


Chinese cinnamon

Cinnamomum cassia


Eucalyptus EO


Clove Bud EO



Cajeput EO





– Sore muscle (suitable for athletes

– Joint pain.

– Rheumatism.

– Aching muscles.

– Backache.

– Nasal congestion.

– Headaches.

– Sinusitis.

– Coughs.

– Colds.

– Insect bites.


It is the essential oil of cinnamon of China, which gives it its red colour.

Its active compounds are in order of importance:

  • Camphor has anaesthetic, analgesic, antiseptic, decongestant, anti-inflammatory and stimulating properties. It is also an insecticide. Another key point: it produces a sensation of cold and heat and increases blood circulation.
  • Menthol is made from mint extracts. It has anaesthetic properties that act by tightening muscles to help reduce muscle and joint pain. It is also a disinfectant, mosquito repellent and produces a cold sensation.
  • Mint (Mentha Arvensis) an essential oil that is rich in active anaesthetics and analgesics. It is a vasoconstrictor and produces a refreshing sensation.
  • Cajeput essential oil has expectorant, anti-catarrhal, analgesic properties. It is also a venous decongestant and circulatory tonic. It is also stimulating, invigorating and antimicrobial.
  • Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) essential oil has tonic and stimulating properties, it increases the activity of the central nervous system.
  • Clove buds essential oil is analgesic, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic.

Some of the aromatic compounds also have significant benefits:

  • Cinnamaldehyde: cinnamon smell, antibacterial and antifungal.
  • Eugenol: clove odor, anaesthetic.
  • Coumarin: vanilla smell, anti-coagulant.
  • Linalool: floral odour, also used as an anti-mosquito.

The product also contains benzyl alcohol, a preservative, which is used as an active ingredient in lice control products, and a texturing agent, cinnamic alcohol, which helps to make the product solid but able to melt when heated.

The ingredients of Tiger Balm are mixed with a fatty substance, such as petroleum jelly or beeswax, to facilitate its application.


Properties and virtues

Tiger Balm is a versatile product that can be used for a wide range of problems and in particular against all types of pain.

Nail fungus

This is an infection of the nail. In Tiger Balm, camphor, menthol, and cinnamaldehyde have antiseptic and antibacterial benefits, Clove bud essential oil is also antifungal.

Novel Treatment of Onychomycosis using Over-the-Counter Mentholated Ointment: A Clinical Case Series 2011🔗


Muscle pain and tension

Thanks to menthol, the ointment gives a local anaesthetic, which provides short-term relief and also improves blood circulation. A faster muscle repair is observed.

Tiger Balm can therefore be used to relieve all types of muscle pain, whether occasional or chronic, such as back, shoulder and neck pain, aches and pains, etc.

It can also be used to prepare for a sports warm-up, thanks to the improvement in blood circulation that it provides.

Topical menthol increases cutaneous blood flow 2017🔗


Joint pain

Its anaesthetic properties and certain anti-inflammatory ingredients can provide longer lasting relief for joint pain, whether occasional, arthritic, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis.



Camphor, menthol, wild mint EO and cajeput EO have interesting anaesthetic and pain-relieving properties.

Chinese cinnamon EO, contained in the red version, increases the activity of the central nervous system. This could have a positive or negative effect depending on the case.

Menthol shares general anaesthetic activity and sites of action on the GABA(A) receptor with the intravenous agent, propofol 2008🔗

Tiger Balm as a treatment for tension headaches. A clinical trial in general practice 1996🔗


Headcolds and flus

Eucalypus has decongestant properties that help clear the respiratory tract in case of: colds, nasal congestion, bronchitis, headaches, flu, coughs, and helps to fight fatigue.

Menthol is also a decongestant for the respiratory tract.

Cajeput EO is expectorant and anti-catarrhal, therefore useful in case of cough and nasal congestion.


Mosquito bites

Menthol can repel mosquitoes, the linalool in the red form is also used as a mosquito repellent. Camphor is an insecticide.

The anaesthetic benefits of Tiger Balm can make it useful for relieving bites and avoiding scratching.

It can be used as both a preventive and curative treatment for mosquito bites.


Improving blood circulation

Cajeput EO is a venous decongestant and circulatory tonic. The coumarin contained in the red version of Tiger Balm has many benefits for blood circulation: it has blood thinning properties and can be useful when suffering from Raynaud’s disease

Camphor induces both cold and warm sensations with increases in skin and muscle blood flow in humans 2014🔗


Various forms

It is mainly available as an ointment and also in liquid form.

Usage and dosage

dermal allowedExternal use only

For any use, a small amount is sufficient to produce the desired effect, apply to the area to be treated and repeat as necessary 2 to 3 times a day.

– In case of muscle or joint pain: apply to the painful part of the body. It is advisable to massage the product into the skin.

– Before physical exertion: massage until completely absorbed or apply as a friction.

– For colds, coughs and flu: apply the balm on the chest, and sometimes on the back and forehead. It is recommended by the manufacturer to massage until the product is fully absorbed, rather than simply applying it and letting it sit on the skin.

– In the morning before going out and/or in the evening, massage your feet and hands with a small dab of Tiger Balm before putting on your socks and gloves. Feeling of warmth is guaranteed.

It is essential to wash your hands thoroughly after application, as any contact with mucous membranes, including the eyes, is dangerous.


Storage at a temperature below 30°C.

It may stain clothing.

Tiger Balm is not recommended in the following situations:

  • For children under 2 years of age; pregnant and breastfeeding women, because of the essential oils it contains.
  • Do not apply to mucous membranes, ears, eyes
  • Leave the product in the open air, do not wrap or cover with film, or apply heat (hot water bottle, blanket or heating pad).
  • Do not bathe immediately before or after use.
  • Do not apply to irritated, sunburned or chapped skin.
  • For external use only, as a result do not take it orally.
  • Stop application in case of inflammation, itching or burning occurs;
  • Keep out of reach of children.
  • Contains the following allergens: cinnamal, eugenol, limonene, coumarin, linalool, benzyl alcohol, isoeugenol and cinnamyl alcohol. As a result, a severe allergic reaction is possible


It is a powerful remedy and its use is not harmless. You should stop immediately and see a doctor if the symptoms treated persist, in the event of significant skin irritation.

Secondary effects of  Tiger Balm

Tiger Balm may cause skin reactions, such as redness, itching, swelling, stinging or burning and other skin irritations.

To avoid any risk, it is preferable to test on a small area of skin (on the inside of the elbow for example, as with all essential oils) before using it more widely.

Research on Tiger Balm

In a clinical trial to test the safety of eleven topical preparations commonly used in Hong Kong, As a result, Tiger Balm was found to be relatively safe, with only 0.5% to 1.5% of cases showing mild skin irritation.


Interaction with other medication

Although no drug interactions have been identified to date, the essential oils in the product may interact with homeopathic products and other essential oils. A doctor should be consulted if you are taking medicines, food supplements or natural medicinal products

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