How Does Tiger Balm work?


Tiger Balm contains camphor and menthol in varying amounts depending on the formulation you purchase. For example, Tiger Balm Fast Relief Muscle Rub Topical Analgesic Cream has 3% camphor and 5% menthol whereas Tiger Balm Arthritis Rub has 11% camphor and 11% menthol. So, why only 11% camphor? And why not Tiger Balm increase its camphor content to 25% or 50% even?


Well, let me tell you a little more about this wonder product.


Camphor’s medicinal use dates back to ancient Sumatra where it was used to treat sprains, swellings and inflammation. In ancient India where it generally goes by the name KarpÅ«ra, camphor has been used in Ayurvedic medicine as treatment for fever. Similarly, Chinese traditional medicine have also used camphor for centuries.


Camphor’s effectiveness has been referenced for it’s unique qualities in selectively stimulating nerve endings sensitive to cold and depending on the amount or degree of application (vigorous vs gentle), camphor can provide either a warm sensation (with vigorous application) or a cool sensation (with gentle application) thereby inducing local analgesia or pain relief.


Camphor’s analgesic effects have been popular in modern times that its use has expanded to use as an antimicrobial and also treatment for cough and cold symptoms. As a result of camphor’s expanded use to treat cough and cold symptoms, there have been cases of people ingesting camphor and even administering the product to children. For example, from 1974 to 1978 there were 706 ingestions of camphorated oil (45 Federal Register 63872). So in 1980, the FDA decided it needed to regulate camphor’s content on those that exceed 11% (45 Federal Register 63869). Although despite reports of camphor’s toxic effects in whole part related to ingestion (Hint: Do not drink this stuff), the FDA has not banned its use solely because of it’s pain relieving properties it provides.


On that note, you’ll probably not likely to find an OTC camphor exceeding 11%. Although, it seems reasonable that by increasing camphor’s content, it would also provide more pain relief. Think again.


Disclaimer: You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem. The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging.