Tiger Balm Ointment Ingredients

Updated March 23, 2017

Tiger Balm is an ointment used to relieve aches and pains in the joints and muscles. It was invented by a herbalist in Burma in the 1870s. It is rubbed directly on the area of pain and produces a warm, tingling sensation when applied. The makers of Tiger Balm claim that it dilates the peripheral blood vessels, pulling blood closer to the surface. Several active ingredients in Tiger Balm ointment produce its distinctive effects.

Clove Bud Oil

Clove bud oil is a local anaesthetic that numbs the area where it is applied. It also acts as an irritant to stimulate blood circulation. It has a very strong medicine-like smell that is characteristic of the Tiger Balm ointment.

Mint Oil

Mint oil is another local anaesthetic that reduces pain in the area where it is applied. It has long been used as a treatment for rheumatism.


Menthol smells like spearmint or peppermint and is mixed with mint oil in Tiger Balm. It helps activate the mint oil and creates the cooling sensation on the skin.


Camphor has long been used to treat sprains and rheumatism. The Tiger Balm manufacturer claims that it numbs the peripheral nerves and relieves pain on contact. It also has a very powerful yet fragrant smell that is associated with Tiger Balm ointment.

Cajuput Oil

Cajuput oil adds the more flowery smells of rosemary and cardamom to Tiger Balm ointment. It acts as a stimulant that encourages blood circulation and gives the sensation of warmth. Cajuput oil is also used to treat rheumatism.

Cassia Oil

Cassia oil is produced from an evergreen tree native to Asia. It releases a cinnamon smell and is said to have healing properties. It is a common substance in traditional Chinese medicine.


Tiger Balm's base consists of petroleum jelly and paraffin. This makes up more than half of the ointment. It has no animal products and some erroneously assume that Tiger Balm is made from actual tigers.

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About the Author

Kent Ninomiya is a veteran journalist with over 23 years experience as a television news anchor, reporter and managing editor. He traveled to more than 100 countries on all seven continents, including Antarctica. Ninomiya holds a Bachelor of Arts in social sciences with emphasis in history, political science and mass communications from the University of California at Berkeley.