The Haw Par Corporation is the maker of Tiger Balm, a major player in the category of topical analgesics, over-the-counter pain relievers that are sold throughout the world. Created in the late 1800s by a former Chinese imperial court herbalist, Aw Chu Kin, who moved to Burma, Haw Par was later run by his sons and now has its headquarters in Singapore. The company makes Tiger Balm ointments, creams, plasters and patches.
Tiger Balm Red
Tiger Balm Red is formally known as "Tiger Balm Red Extra Strength Pain Relieving Ointment." According to the IHerb.com website, which sells a variety of Tiger Balm products, it is used "for temporary relief of minor aches and pains of muscles and joints associated with over-exertion, simple backache, arthritis, strains and sprains." The active ingredients in Tiger Balm Red are camphor at 11 percent and menthol at 10 percent. Inactive ingredients include cajuput oil, cassia oil, clove oil, dementholized mint oil and paraffin petroleum.
Tiger Balm Pain Relieving Ointment Ultra Strength is intended for the temporary relief of minor aches and pains of muscles and joints associated with over-exertion, simple backache, arthritis, strains and sprains. The active ingredients are camphor at 11 percent and menthol at 11 percent. Inactive ingredients include cajuput oil, cassia oil, clove oil, dementholized mint oil and paraffin petroleum.
Red vs. Ultra Strength
Red and Ultra Strength Tiger Balm contain the same active ingredients in almost the same percentages, as well as the same inactive ingredients. Both products are recommended for the same aches and pains. The Red variety smells of cinnamon and the other varieties of Tiger Balm, which are white, do not. Unlike Red Tiger Balm, white varieties are said not to stain your clothing. Other than that, there appear to be no significant differences between Red and Ultra Strength.
There is an "extra strength" Tiger Balm ointment consisting of camphor at 11 percent and menthol at 10 per cent, almost the same as the Red and Ultra Strength varieties. Regular strength white Tiger Balm contains 11 percent camphor and only 8 percent menthol. A "soft" version of Tiger Balm smells of lavender.
If the anecdotal evidence is to be believed, Tiger Balm is quite effective. At the least, it has a large number of supporters. A number of testimonials on the Ibiblio website, for example, tout the merits of Tiger Balm. However, in 2009 the FDA sent a warning letter to the company stating that a Tiger Balm patch qualified as a drug and must therefore be approved by the FDA. But none of the other Tiger Balm products was affected.