Vicks VapoRub

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Vicks VapoRub ointment is a mentholated topical cream. VapoRub is indicated for use on the chest and throat for cough suppression due to the common cold or on muscles and joints for minor aches and pains. Vicks VapoRub has also been used to treat mosquito bites. Users of VapoRub often apply it immediately before sleep. VapoRub was originally manufactured by the family-owned company Richardson-Vicks, Inc., based in Greensboro, North Carolina. Richardson-Vicks was sold to Procter and Gamble in 1985 and is now known as Vicks. VapoRub is also currently manufactured and packaged in India and Mexico. In the German-speaking area (the exception of Switzerland) it is sold under the name Wick VapoRub.[1] VapoRub continues to be Vicks's flagship product internationally, and the Vicks brand name is often used synonymously with the VapoRub product. People in almost every North American family call it "Vicks".

Safe use of VapoRub[edit]

Vaporub can be inhaled with hot steam just like normal vapes. Since VapoRub ointment is an oil-based medication, it should not be used under or inside the nose or inside the mouth, and it should not be swallowed. Any oil-based product can get into the lungs if used improperly.[2]

In pre-clinical animal studies, the application of Vicks VapoRub directly onto the tracheae of ferrets caused an increase in mucus production compared to a water-based lubricant.[3] However, since the authors used a water-based and not oil-based compound as a control, it is not possible to ascertain which component of Vicks VapoRub caused the increased mucus production. Because Vicks VapoRub was also directly applied to the ferret trachea, it is also difficult to extrapolate the results from this study to comment on possible irritation arising from the safe use of Vicks VapoRub in humans.


Vaporub ad from 1922, showing the international ingredients, and the factory.

Lunsford Richardson developed the formula in 1894[4] when he created a salve for his children, after traveling to France.

A Penn State study showed Vicks VapoRub to be as effective as a placebo petroleum rub for helping cough and congestion with regards to helping children and even adults sleep.[5] However the study also showed that, unlike with the petroleum rub placebo, Vicks VapoRub was associated with burning sensations to the skin (28%), nose (14%) and eyes (16%), with 5% of study participants reporting redness and rash when using the product.[6]

Another study suggests vaporub is an effective cough medicine for guinea pigs.[7]


Active Ingredients: Label reads: Active Ingredients (Purpose)

Regular: Camphor (synthetic) 4.8% (Cough suppressant and topical analgesic) Eucalyptus oil 1.2% (Cough suppressant) Menthol 2.6% (Cough suppressant and topical analgesic)

Lemon: Camphor (synthetic) 4.7% (Cough suppressant and topical analgesic) Eucalyptus oil 1.2% (Cough suppressant) Menthol 2.6% (Cough suppressant and topical analgesic)

Inactive Ingredients

Regular: cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, petrolatum, thymol, turpentine oil

Lemon: cedarleaf oil, lemon fragrance, nutmeg oil, petrolatum, thymol, turpentine oil


In India, Vicks VapoRub is made by Procter & Gamble. It is sold as an Ayurvedic medicine in India. The formulation is almost the same as the one stated above.

The ingredients (per 100 g of product) are stated as follows (English translations are not printed on the label):

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Vicks VapoRub Topical Ointment Children's Cough Medicine". Do not use: by mouth, with tight bandages, in nostrils, in wounds or damaged skin 
  3. ^ Abanses, Juan Carlos; Arima, Shinobu; Rubin, Bruce K. (January 2009). "Vicks VapoRub Induces Mucin Secretion, Decreases Ciliary Beat Frequency, and Increases Tracheal Mucus Transport in the Ferret Trachea". Chest 135 (1): 143–8. doi:10.1378/chest.08-0095. PMID 19136404. 
  4. ^ Schwarcz, Joe (2003). Dr. Joe & What You Didn't Know: 177 Fascinating Questions About the Chemistry of Everyday Life. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1550225778. 
  5. ^ Paul, Ian M.; Beiler, Jessica S.; King, Tonya S.; Clapp, Edelveis R.; Vallati, Julie; Berlin Jr, Cheston M. (2010-11-08). "Vapor Rub, Petrolatum, and No Treatment for Children With Nocturnal Cough and Cold Symptoms". Retrieved 2013-03-08. 
  6. ^ Allan, G. Michael; Arroll, Bruce (February 18, 2014). "Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence". Canadian Medical Association Journal 186 (3): 190–199. doi:10.1503/cmaj.121442. PMC 3928210. PMID 24468694. 
  7. ^ Laude, E; Morice, AH; Grattan, TJ (1994). "The Antitussive Effects of Menthol, Camphor and Cineole in Conscious Guinea-pigs". Pulmonary Pharmacology 7 (3): 179–84. doi:10.1006/pulp.1994.1021. PMID 7827436. 

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