Vicks VapoRub

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Vicks VapoRub ointment is a mentholated topical ointment. VapoRub is indicated for use on the chest, back 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 & 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.

Safe use[edit]

VapoRub can be inhaled with hot steam. 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.

A Penn State study showed Vicks VapoRub to be more effective than placebo petroleum rub for helping cough and congestion with regards to helping children and even adults sleep.[4] 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.[5]

Another study suggests VapoRub is an effective cough medicine for guinea pigs.[6]


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

Lunsford Richardson developed the formula in 1894[7] when he created a salve for his children, after traveling to France.


Active Ingredients: Label reads: Active Ingredients (Purpose)


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


Ingredient  % Purpose
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 & Lemon:

  • cedarleaf oil
  • nutmeg oil
  • petrolatum
  • thymol
  • turpentine oil


  • lemon fragrance


In India, Vicks VapoRub is made by Procter & Gamble (P&G). The formulation is almost the same as the one stated above. P&G states Vicks Vaporub to be an Ayurvedic Medicine, which is indicated on the package.

The ingredients (per 100 g of product) are stated as follows:

Ingredient English Amount
Pudinah ke phool Menthol 2.82 g
Karpoor Camphor 5.25 g
Ajowan ke phool Thymol 0.10 g
Tarpin ka tel Turpentine oil 5.57 ml
Nilgiri tel Eucalyptol 1.49 ml
Jatiphal tel Nutmeg oil 0.54 ml
Ointment base q.s.

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. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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 3928210Freely accessible. PMID 24468694. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Schwarcz, Joe (2003). Dr. Joe & What You Didn't Know: 177 Fascinating Questions About the Chemistry of Everyday Life. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1550225778. 

External links[edit]