Tiger Balm

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The white and red versions of Haw Par Tiger Balm.

Tiger Balm (Chinese: ; pinyin: Hǔbiao Wànjīnyóu; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Hó͘-phiau Bān-kim-iû) is the trademark for a heat rub manufactured and distributed by Haw Par Healthcare in Singapore.


It was developed during the 1870s in Rangoon, Burma, by herbalist Aw Chu Kin, son of a humble Hakka herbalist in China, Aw Leng Fan. His father had sent him to Rangoon in the 1860s to help in his uncle's herbal shop. Eventually, Aw Chu Kin himself set up a family business named Eng Aun Tong meaning "Hall of Everlasting Peace". On his deathbed in 1908,he asked his sons Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par to perfect the product. By the 1920s, the sons had mde it a very successful business empire in Burma with its runaway success, the Tiger Balm medicinal ointment.[1]

Named after Aw Boon Haw whose name means "Gentle Tiger", Tiger Balm is an herbal formulation for external pain relief. Tiger Balm is available in several varieties, the "cold" Tiger Balm White (recommended for use with headaches) and the "hot" Tiger Balm Red. Another version is called Tiger Balm Ultra.[citation needed]

From the package notes that accompany Tiger Balm

Tiger Balm is made from a secret herbal formulation that dates back to the times of the Chinese emperors. The Aw brothers, Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, inherited the formulation from their herbalist father who left China. They called it Tiger Balm, after Boon Haw, (whose name in Chinese meant "Tiger") who was instrumental in devising the remarkable selling strategies that made Tiger Balm a household name in many East and South Eastern Asian countries today.

[citation needed]

when Aw Boon Haw travelled to Singapore in the 1920s to seek new markets for Tiger Balm, he set up a branch first at Amoy Street, then moved to Cecil Street and finally to Neil Road between 1924 to 1926, at the junction of Neil and Craig Road. During the 1930s the Aw family founded the Tiger Balm Gardens in Singapore and Hong Kong to promote the product.


Ingredient[2] Red White
Menthol 10% 8%
Camphor 11% 11%
Dementholised mint oil 6% 16%
Cajuput oil 7% 13%
Clove bud oil 5% 1.5%
Cassia oil 5%  

The remainder is a petroleum jelly and paraffin base. The packaging label states that the active ingredients are menthol and camphor.

The original Tiger Balm Red and Tiger Balm White have 25% of camphor.[3] A new product named Tiger Balm White HR uses eucalyptus oil instead of cajuput oil.[3]


Tiger Balm is claimed by proponents to relieve mild ailments.[4]

In popular culture[edit]

In the James Bond novel Role of Honour, authored by John Gardner in the 1980s, one of the villain's henchmen whom Bond faces is named Tigerbalm.

Gérard Depardieu was reported to have instructed Robert De Niro how to use Tiger Balm and water to solve an erection problem while shooting a scene for Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900 in 1977.[5]

In "Home Insecurity," an episode of The Venture Bros., villain Baron Ünderbheit discovers his trusted henchmen have betrayed him, and thus forces them into resignation. They are presented with Tiger Balm as a seemingly amicable parting gift, though it turns out to be an omen for Ünderbheit's retaliation for their betrayal, subsequently revealed to be "tiger bombs."

In Whitechapel, Rupert Penry Jones' character DI Joseph Chandler uses white Tiger Balm at the onset of headaches.[6]

In the Mountain Goats song Love Love Love, Sonny Liston rubbed Tiger Balm into his glove.

Tiger Balm is mentioned in the novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tiger Balm: Heritage, retrieved 2009-09-30 
  2. ^ Tiger Balm information
  3. ^ a b Tiger Balm shop
  4. ^ http://tiger.the-balm.com/uses.htm
  5. ^ http://www.torontosun.com/entertainment/movies/2010/09/13/15334891-wenn-story.html
  6. ^ [1] The Guardian, "Have you been watching... Whitechapel?
  7. ^ Larsson, Stieg.The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Knopf, 2008.

External links[edit]