Tiger Balm

Tiger Balm 1

Whether you are feeling a twinge of pain post game, you have reached that age when your joints become a little stiff or you’d prefer to avoid taking pills to combat a head ache, the chances are you’ll have used or have been recommended to try Tiger Balm.

Does Tiger Balm work? In my experience, despite the iconic and beautiful packaging suggesting a mystical remedy from the Far East, actually using Tiger Balm for relief from minor aches and pains from muscle strain, headaches or backaches can be very effective. I understand this is is achieved by Tiger Balm changing the way your body and nerves feel pain. Simply put it’s a herbal analgesic – designed to address pain.

Tiger Balm is a liniment, a medicated preparation that is applied directly to the skin  and rubbed in to create friction with the intention of relieving pain and stiffness from sore muscular aches or arthritis.

Tiger Balm was developed during the 1870s in Rangoon, Burma, by Chinese herbalist Aw Chu Kin, the son of a Hakka herbalist from China who served the Emperor’s Court, Aw Leng Fan. In the 1870’s, Aw Chu Kin established in Rangoon a small medicine shop called “Eng Aun Tong” where he made and sold his special ointment.

In 1908, Aw Chu Kin died and he bequeathed his medicine shop to his two sons, Aw Boon Haw (which means ‘gentle tiger’) and Aw Boon Par (which mean ‘gentle leopard’). From Singapore  – where the owing company, the Haw Par Corporation, now has its head quarters – they sold the ointment to many adjoining countries including Malaya and Hong Kong and various cities in China. Aw Boon Haw was responsible for naming the ointment as “Tiger Balm”.

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Tiger Balm is available in Red (which smells of cinnamon), White (which has a distinctive lavender scent) and as an Oil. It is understood that each formulation contains active ingredients including camphor (Tiger Balm Red/Ultra and White 11%), menthol (Tiger Balm Red contains 10% and, milder, Tiger Balm White contains only 8%), cajuput oil, de-mentholized mint oil,  clove oil and paraffin petroleum. In addition, it is believed that Tiger Balm Red also contains cassia oil.

A product marketed by Tiger Balm called “Tiger Balm Ultra” is regarded as the “strongest” formulation. This contains a higher content of menthol, at 11%, when compared to the Tiger Balm Red and Tiger Balm White.

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Anecdotal evidence with a whole range of pain issues is that Tiger Balm can have an impact. For migraine sufferers, the is some evidence that Tiger Balm when applied provides a cooling sensation to the head which differs from the intensity of a migraine head ache thereby distracting the sufferer from the pain. There appears to be some use made of Tiger Balm like old fashioned “smelling salts” to provide some sensory stimulus and unblock a blocked nose.

Whether ii works or it has some placebo effect “Tiger Balm” – with “More Striking Power Than A Flying Tiger” – has a warming effect and comforting aroma that is very pleasant.

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Images by Tiger Balm/Haw Par Corporation




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I am an English trained and experienced lawyer. I have lived with my wife and family for nearly twenty years in the “California of Europe” - at the tip of Southern Europe. I am a proud European and driven to evangelize about the quality of life to be enjoyed here.

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