What Is Tiger Balm?

This Topical Treatment Option for Arthritis Has Long History

Tiger balm
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You may have seen the product on your drugstore shelf or perhaps you have even tried it. Its name, Tiger Balm, sounds tough enough to battle the fiercest arthritis pain.

Tiger Balm has a long and interesting history. How has the topical medication stood the test of time and stayed on the market for so long? How does Tiger Balm relieve arthritis pain? What ingredients are in Tiger Balm?

Tiger Balm Is a Topical Analgesic

Tiger Balm is a topical analgesic (pain reliever) medication made from herbal ingredients.

Topical medications can be effective treatment options, especially for people who cannot take oral medications.

Tiger Balm is recommended for relieving back pain, joint pain, stiffness, sprains, and arthritis. There are also claims that Tiger Balm can relieve headaches, sinus congestion, and discomfort from mosquito bites.

The History of Tiger Balm

Tiger Balm is manufactured and distributed by Haw Par Healthcare in Singapore. Tiger Balm is based on a "secret" herbal formula that dates back as far as the Chinese emperors. Today, over 20 million jars of Tiger Balm are sold each year in over 70 countries.

Available Formulations of Tiger Balm

Tiger Balm contains camphor, menthol, cajuput, oil, and clove oil. It is available in several formulations, including:

  • Tiger Balm Extra-Strength Pain-Relieving Ointment: This is the standard Tiger Balm ointment formula and can be found in most drug stores. It has a strong menthol scent.
  • Tiger Balm Ultra-Strength Rub: This ointment contains more pain-relieving menthol than Extra-Strength Tiger Balm and is non-staining. It also has a strong menthol scent.
  • Tiger Balm Arthritis Rub:  Designed specifically for arthritis pain, this rub is a cream rather than an ointment. It comes in an 'arthritis-friendly pump' and is alcohol-free so it should not irritate the skin.
  • Tiger Balm Neck & Shoulder Rub: Designed for fast relief of neck and should pain, including that caused by sitting in an office all day. It is a cream that has a 'vanishing scent.'
  • Tiger Balm Patch: Similar to other pain relieving gel patches, this product is designed for larger muscle and joint pain relief. It works particularly well on shoulder and lower back pain. The odor is minimal.
  • Tiger Balm Liniment: A liquid version of Tiger Balm that can be applied to larger areas to relieve pain.
  • Tiger Balm Muscle Rub: Formulated for muscle strains, this non-greasy cream is designed to ease pain from exercise and other physical activity.

Warnings About Using Tiger Balm

There are important precautions you should take for the safe use of topical pain relievers.

Tiger Balm is for external use only and should not come in contact with your eyes or other sensitive areas. As with all ointments and creams, you should test it on a small area to make sure it doesn't irritate your skin.

For the full warning label, visit the Tiger Balm website or look on the product package.

The Botton Line About Tiger Balm

Tiger Balm, like many other topical medications for arthritis, can be purchased over-the-counter. The topical analgesic is applied to the skin and the active ingredients are absorbed through the skin.

Products that contain menthol, eucalyptus or oil of wintergreen may work by irritating the skin where it is applied. The skin begins to feel warm or cold, possibly serving as a distraction from the pain. Such formulations are called counterirritants and offer temporary pain relief.


Tiger Balm. Product Information. CVS. Accessed 03/18/2012.

Tiger Balm Patches. Product Information. Walgreen's. Accessed 03/18/2012.

History of Tiger Balm. Tiger Balm UK. Accessed 03/18/2012.

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