Tiger Balm To the Rescue !


Even though healthcare is free in Canada, I haven’t taken any antibiotics or any over the counter medicine in the past ten years. No aspirin, Tylenol, Vicks, Advil. Nada.

It’s not because I reject the healthcare system. If I get bitten by a dog or a snake, I will gladly get my anti rabies or anti venomous shot. If I get pneumonia, I won’t say no to a dose of antibiotics, to the contrary. In fact, if you get sick, I highly recommend you to consult your doctor and follow their prescription.

But the US Center for Disease Control And Prevention tells us of misuse and overuse of antibiotics. Many demand antibiotics when it is not needed, while studies show overuse of antibiotics can upset sensitive gut flora, develop strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and drive up healthcare costs. Most importantly, I think taking antibiotics to treat light symptoms can make antibiotics less effective for severe diseases later in life.

So instead of overusing drugs, I rely on sleep, rest, good nutrition and items such as Tiger Balm, amongst others.

An ointment developed in the 1870s by Chinese herbalists in Singapore, Tiger Balm has many uses. What is it good for?

Remedy for the Common Cold

Tiger Balm can minimize symptoms in the common cold or sore throat. Applied on the chest, nose, throat, around the nostrils, it can help clear the nose and relieve stuffiness. I then get a clean shirt, and sleep. I feel much better in the morning!

I found this works best for me. Previously, I tried different medication. Syrups, Vicks cough drops, but nothing is as effective as Tiger Balm.

Tiger Balm can also fight the onset of the common cold. If I feel cold, I apply it to hands and feet. It helps stimulate the limbs and improve circulation. Try it in chilly weather or in cold weather environments.

Better Endurance for Aerobic Exercise

When going for a long run, I apply a bit of Tiger Balm on my face, especially around the nostrils. I feel fresh and perform better and longer. I do not get cramps. When running outdoors, I notice the effect wears off after two hours. Then performance drops dramatically.

Interestingly, studies show that ingestion of mint improve time to exhaustion and reduce perceived exertion. See study (1) and (2). Menthol and mint oil are active ingredients of Tiger Balm and can explain the improved performance. You can also buy peppermint oil or a mint drink but Tiger Balm also has the added benefits of improved circulation in cold Canadian weather.

Through various experiments, I found it is best for aerobic exercise. For any exercise requiring power or speed, such as weight training or sprints, it is not very effective.

Soothing Soreness and Pain

I apply it on sore muscles after a long run : calves, quads, feet, thighs. It relieves pain, if any. It also helps reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). I apply it as many times as necessary. I then use the Shiatsu massager.

For those doing contact sports or martial arts, I found Extra strength (red) Tiger Balm can also help for muscles bruises, pain or irritation.  If I also apply tiger balm to my calves, feet, arms and legs, I am able to kick with power for long periods of time without cramps.

Advice for martial artists: do not apply it in broken skin, you will regret it 🙂

Other Uses

When hiking, I always bring Tiger Balm. It repels mosquitoes and insects, the bane of Canadian forests. It also soothe itchy mosquito bites. If I forget the ointment, I always regret it, painfully 🙂

Tiger Balm can also help various aches. Rubbing a tooth with a small cloth will decrease toothache. Rubbing your stomach can get rid of constipation. Put it on temples for headaches.

I also found its powerful smell helpful for smelling shoes or socks 🙂 If I forget to wash a pair of socks after hiking, putting an open jar of Tiger Balm nearby gets rid of the odor.

As you can see, Tiger Balm has a large variety of uses. Why would I ingest medication when Tiger Balm can be potent in many cases? For a mere $10, I get an ointment that will serve me and my family for months.

Warning : Don’t apply tiger balm to mucus membranes, eyelids, broken skin or genital areas. You will feel the burn and will not be funny! 


  1. Abbas Meamarbashi and Ali Rajabi. The effects of peppermint on exercise performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 201310:15
    DOI: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-15
  2. Mündel, T. & Jones, D.A. The effects of swilling an l(−)-menthol solution during exercise in the heat. European Journal of Applied Physiology May 2010, Volume 109, Issue 1, pp 59–65

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