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Properties and Uses of Tiger Balm

Within the world of ointments and ointments we find one that catches our attention. It is known as tiger balm, although you should not worry because it does not contain any animals but a compendium of oils and medicinal plants.

This product has been studied and tested with beneficial effects for muscle and skin aches. Tiger balm is used by rubbing and massaging the sore part to feel short-term relief.

If you suffer from muscle or joint pain, we recommend this reading to see if the solution of different symptoms fit your problem.

What is Tiger Balm?

Tiger balm is a mixture of different extracts and plant active ingredients that act by reducing discomfort in muscles and joints. In turn, due to the presence of elements such as camphor or menthol, they produce a refreshing sensation and a quick relief of the affected area.

Red and white tiger balm

Its origin dates back more than a century. It arises in China, although it has spread rapidly to other Asian countries (such as Thailand) and, today, can be found in most Western countries, such as Europe and the United States.

Within the manufacture of tiger balm, we can find different formulas (such as red or white balm) and even adapted to the junior public or with other marketing touches. However, the originals are white and red.

The interesting thing is that it has been studied in different investigations and have proven a positive effect of the active ingredients when applied to treat localized pain in muscles and joints.


We can find 2 different products, based on red or white tiger balm. It is simply a modification of the composition to offer somewhat different effects.

  • Red tiger balm: produces a warming effect, as it contains a higher concentration of cinnamon extract and clove extract.
  • White tiger balm: produces a cold effect, because it contains a high concentration of camphor and mint.

The concentration of each of the active ingredients included in tiger balm is as follows:

Active substance Red balm White balm
Menthol 10% 8%
Camphor 11% 25%
Peppermint oil 6% 16%
Cajeput oil 7% 13%
Clove oil 5% 1.5%
Cinnamon oil 5%  

As you can see, no extracts that derive from animals (much less from the tiger), as has been falsely commented upon once. In fact, its name derives from the original Aw Boon Haw, which was thus placed in honor of the creator’s son, whose translation into the Western world is «friendly tiger«.

How Tiger Balm Works

To know the reason for its functioning and the ability to relieve pain, we have to select one by one each of the elements and active ingredients that are part of the Aw Boon Haw balm.

Let’s see the main effect of its active ingredients, whose basis is the local relief of pain in a short period of time.


Refreshing action and also slightly anesthetic.


Promotes blood circulation by contraction and muscle relaxation. It produces a cooling and heating effect.

Peppermint oil

In peppermint oil we can find menthol and other compounds, such as menthol, menteno, phellandrene and limonene.

Refreshing and slightly anesthetic action. Traditionally used to treat muscle aches, forming part of the composition of many muscle soothing sprays. It works by muscle contraction helping to reduce the initial symptoms.

Cajeput oil

Cajeput is traditionally used to reduce the effects of the common cold. Applied to the skin it has antiseptic and antiparasitic effect.  In addition, it has calorific properties that act as a relaxant for tense or sore muscles.

Clove oil

It offers stimulant and antiseptic properties. In general, it acts as a pain reliever.

Cinnamon oil

Found only in the white balm of Tiger, has disinfectant, anti-inflammatory and relaxing action of muscles and joints, so it is already appropriate to treat injuries or specific pains.

In addition to the extracts, it has added compounds, such as petroleum jelly, to characterize the final appearance and facilitate its application on the skin.


Uses of tiger balm

The applications that can be given of the balm of

Applications of tiger balm

Tiger are immense, although all are designed for application on the skin.  However, not all of them are related to reducing pain in muscles and joints, but they go something further.

Proven Remedies

Back pain

The main ingredients of tiger balm to achieve this effect is camphor and menthol, helping to soothe localized pain in different parts of the back. We will rub it with the balm until we get its total absorption by the skin.

It is preferable to use, in this case, white tiger balm, since it contains much more concentration of menthol and camphor than white.

Toenail fungus

The antimicrobial effects of cinnamon and clove oil can reduce the proliferation of fungi and bacteria on the nails, applying it daily alone or in collaboration with other active ingredients for the treatment of fungi.

It is more indicated to use the red balm for its content in cinnamon and cloves.

Cold and congestion symptoms

Like the application of the vick vaporub ointment (it shares some active ingredients), menthol and camphor help us relieve the airways and offer us a pleasant sensation to breathe better.

The ointment is applied to the chest and back to feel an improvement within a few minutes.

We can use either of the two proposed formulas. Other formulas also include eucalyptus extract (eucalyptol), which also soothes the airways.


Whenever the symptoms of headache are related to sports activity (sudden post-exercise pain), the application on the neck and temple of tiger balm, thanks to menthol and camphor, offers a advisable alternative to produce a feeling of well-being and cold.

Muscle and joint pain

The cold sensation of menthol and camphor, together with the muscle constriction and relaxation produced by the rest of the active ingredients, manages to reduce the sensation of pain within a few minutes of applying, by rubbing, the sore part.

These active ingredients are used by reference pharmacological products, and they are also used in sports practice by sprays.

Mosquito bites

Many products designed to relieve the sensation of itching and pain after the bite of a mosquito, use extracts of mint (not just menthol) to produce a cold sensation that relaxes the muscle and tones the skin.

Likewise, cloves and cinnamon help reduce inflammation and the possibility that the wound can become infected, facilitating its rapid healing.

Poor blood circulation

The constriction of the blood vessels by the rapid absorption of their active ingredients favors the improvement of blood circulation. The key ingredient of this effect is camphor. It can be applied to arms and legs where we suffer pain due to poor blood circulation.

Unproven remedies

There are other remedies that are still being the result of research since the success rate is not known or if it really acts as a placebo (for having applied it, I have to feel better …).


There are those who say that the application on the neck and the skin near the jaw, due to the effect of menthol, helps reduce toothache (by extraction or infection). It needs rigor and research.

Stretch mark reducer

The cooling effect of the foot and the improvement of blood circulation could reduce stretch marks that form on the skin, although for this there are also other products more focused and scientifically endorsed, such as Rosehip.

Stomach pain

Applying tiger balm ointment by massaging the stomach area helps reduce bloating and stomach pain. This claim needs to be refuted in research and trialsinnic.

What Dosage to Use

There is no specific dosage, as tiger balm is an ointment for application on the skin.

The amount must be sufficient to be absorbed by the skin in the sore part.

For example, if we have pain in the sole of the foot by sports practice, we will use the equivalent of the tip of a finger to cover the whole part and facilitate its absorption, such as a sunscreen or anti-inflammatory ointment.

The frequency of use is up to 4 times a day. To do this, we must be sure that we do not suffer any type of allergic reaction to any of its components.

In the first applications, it is recommended to apply less amount until the skin reaction is observed.

Where to Buy the Balm

In Spain, it is not yet so famous as to be able to acquire it in many places, although there are pharmacies that have it. Likewise, the online world offers us the possibility of being able to acquire it with very low shipping costs or even without them.

For example, the 3 best-selling tiger balm-based products are these:

Contraindications and Side Effects

The side effects associated with tiger balm are related to allergies to menthol, cinnamon extract, cloves or cajeput.

Such effects are related to redness of the skin, burning sensation and irritation of the skin.

In this case, it is recommended not to apply the balm anymore and perform an allergic test to know the active ingredient origin and avoid other products based on them.

If we are allergic to menthol and apply it to the chest (to reduce respiratory congestion), we can suffer breathing difficulties. It is recommended to wash the affected area to prevent more product from being absorbed through the skin.

Tiger balm in pregnancy

There are no contraindications to balm in pregnancy, unless you are originally allergic to the active ingredients that are part of the product.


About Lela M Altman

Lela M. Altman is a distinguished biochemist dedicated to unraveling the intricacies of life at the molecular level. With a robust background in molecular biology and genetics, she has contributed significantly to our understanding of key cellular processes. Her groundbreaking research spans diverse areas, from DNA replication mechanisms to protein folding dynamics. Dr. Altman's work has led to innovative treatments for various diseases and shed light on the origins of life itself. Her unwavering commitment to scientific exploration has earned her accolades and respect in the scientific community, solidifying her status as a trailblazing figure in the field of biochemistry.

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