Tiger Balm vs Icy Hot – Which Is Better?

This article is a comparison between two over-the-counter topical analgesics – Tiger Balm and Icy Hot:

Tiger Balm

It is a topical pain reliever medicine which is produced from herbal ingredients. The company that produces this product was founded in 1870 by an herbalist in China.


Menthol – it is a natural compound of plant origin (derived from the plant family genus Mentha) that is known to produce cool sensation via the activation of the transient receptor potential cation channel.

According to research, menthol relieves pain by 95 percent.

Calms sunburns when mixed with aloe vera gel. In addition, it helps to reduce inflammation and is known to be a counterirritant.

Camphor – it is obtained from the bark of the tree Cinnamomum camphora.

It is applied to the skin as a “counterirritant,” that reduces swelling and pain and increases local blood flow.

During the 19th century, it was used to relieve symptoms associated with flu and cold, including a cough and itchy throat.

Currently, it is used for the temporary relief of minor pains and aches of joints and muscles linked to a backache, strains, arthritis, sprains, and bruises.

Its antifungal properties make it beneficial in treating toenail fungus.

Other ingredients:

  • hard paraffin (derived from petroleum);
  • yellow soft paraffin;
  • dementholised mint oil;
  • clove oil;
  • cajuput oil.

It is available in various formulations, including:

  • Muscle Rub – it is manufactured to ease pain from physical exercise;
  • Liniment – it can be applied to larger areas to relieve pain;
  • Patch – it works well on shoulder and lower back pain;
  • Neck & Shoulder Rub – it is a cream that has a vanishing scent and is designed for fast relief of neck and should pain;
  • Arthritis Rub – it comes in an arthritis-friendly pump and is specifically manufactured for arthritis pain;
  • Ultra-Strength Rub –  it has a strong menthol scent since it contains more than other formulations;
  • Extra-Strength Pain-Relieving Ointment – it has a strong menthol scent and is the standard Tiger Balm ointment formula.
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Icy Hot

It is an OTC topical medicine that is used to dull pain and to relax muscles.


Methyl salicylate – it is a topical analgesic that treats inflammation as well as it helps relieve the pain.

Menthol – it is one of nature’s most effective natural pain relievers.

Other ingredients include:

  • water;
  • triethanolamine;
  • stearic acid (a fatty acid found mainly in animal derivatives);
  • oleth-3 phosphate;
  • emulsifying wax;
  • cetyl esters;
  • carbomer.

It is available in various formulations, including:

  • Stick – it should be applied to the affected area and massaged in until absorbed into the skin. It contains 30% methyl salicylate and 10% menthol as the active ingredients;
  • Balm – it is available in a 3.5-ounce jar and contains 29% methyl salicylate and 7.6% menthol as the active ingredients;
  • Advances Cream – it has 16% menthol and 11% camphor. It lacks methyl salicylate;
  • Vanishing Scent – in this formulation, the scent disappears quickly after application. It has 2.5% menthol;
  • Power Gel – it is a fast-acting formula with 16% percent menthol;
  • Spray – it contains 16% menthol as the active ingredient;
  • No Mess – it contains 16% menthol as the active ingredient and does not stain;
  • Sleeve –  it is recommended for bursitis, tendonitis, arthritis, sprains, bruises, muscle strains, and cramps. It has 16% menthol in lotion on a flexible sleeve pad;
  • Patches – it has 5% menthol on an adhesive pad. Adults can wear it for up to 8 hours.


Tiger Balm

It is mainly used for;

  • sinus congestion;
  • joint pain associated with arthritis;
  • discomfort from mosquito bites;
  • backaches;
  • acute headaches;
  • relieving muscle stiffness.
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Icy Hot

It temporarily relieves minor pain associated with:

  • cramps;
  • arthritis;
  • bruises;
  • backaches;
  • sprains;
  • muscle strains.

Mechanism of Action

Tiger Balm works by acting on receptors that help in mediating pain relief and by providing the skin with a cooling sensation.

Icy Hot works by providing a cooling sensation followed by a warming sensation that distracts you from the pain.

Side Effects

Tiger Balm

Some people can experience breathing problems as well as irritation after using this over-the-counter medicine.

Icy Hot

Some people can experience skin irritation after using this OTC medicine.


Tiger Balm

It is recommended to:

  • not use 30 minutes after bathing or 60 minutes prior to bathing;
  • not bandage or cover with wrap;
  • not apply to wounds or irritated skin;
  • avoid contact with mucous membranes and eyes.

Icy Hot

If you are prone to allergy from salicylates, consult a healthcare provider before using this topical analgesic. In addition, it is recommended to:

  • not use with a heating pad;
  • not bandage tightly;
  • not apply to wounds broken, irritated, or damaged skin;
  • avoid contact with mucous membranes (moist linings of the orifices) or eyes.

Bottom Line – Tiger Balm vs Icy Hot

Tiger Balm is a topical pain-relieving ointment which is prescribed for arthritis, sore muscles, backache, and aching joints. It is made from various herbal ingredients that are mainly found in Asia.

The only downside to the product lies in the smell, which some find a little overpowering. The main ingredients in this product are menthol and camphor.

Icy Hot is a topical pain reliever that is recommended for aching joints, minor arthritis pain, backache, and sore muscles. You can apply it up to 4 times per day.

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The main ingredients in this product are menthol and methyl salicylate.

Both products are menthol-based, but Tiger Balm has camphor, whereas Icy Hot has methyl salicylate in its original formulations.

Tiger Balm appears to be safer since it is manufactured from natural products. Regarding their price, Tiger Balm is a bit pricer.

3 Home Remedies For Backache

#1 Heating Pad

It appears to have analgesic effects on the affected muscles.

#2 Lavender Essential Oil Lavender oil

The anti-inflammatory properties of this essential oil can help in reducing the swelling, while its analgesic and antispasmodic properties can help in relieving muscle pain.

Additionally, this essential oil is known for helping to reduce stress, relax the nerves, and ease insomnia.

#3 Epsom Salt Bath

Soaking for approximately half an hour can help to ease sore back muscles, particularly after exercise.

Note – the risks of side effects from an Epsom salt bath are low.



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