Tiger Balm vs Biofreeze: Top Pain Creams Compared
Both Biofreeze and Tiger Balm are topical analgesics. You can use them for mild or moderate joint pain, muscle soreness, and discomforts from conditions such as arthritis. In this comparison guide, we’ll go over the pros and cons of each brand, plus the ingredients used, how to use them, and more.
Categories of Topical Pain Relievers
Anesthetics numb an area to relieve pain. They work only for a short period. They are available in the form of patches, creams, or gel.
Capsaicin relieves pain by reducing natural substances in your body that aid in the transmission of impulses from the sensory nerves to the brain.
These are pain relievers that stimulate the nerve endings when you apply them on the skin. They are commonly used to relieve musculoskeletal pain. When applied, the reliever causes a hot and tingling sensation that interferes with how nerve endings perceive pain. Instead of the pain in your muscles, you feel the hot sensation from the pain reliever.
Salicylates are pain relievers in the category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAID. They work by reducing substances that cause pain and inflammation in the body. Some forms contain aspirin, which inhibit the transmission of pain from the sensory nerves.
Below is a head-to-head comparison of the two products so that you know which to choose:
Biofreeze is a product originally formulated by Performance Health Inc. In 2006, Hygienic Corporation acquired Performance Health Inc. Located in Akron, Ohio, Hygienic Corporation is in charge of the research, sourcing for ingredients, and improvement of Biofreeze.
Tiger Balm is a product from Singapore. It is a product manufactured and distributed by Haw Par Healthcare Limited. The head office of the company is in Haw Par Technocentre in Singapore. Haw Par is a Chinese company operating in Thailand and other countries.
How Do the Products Work?
Biofreeze follows the scientifically proven working principle, the gate control theory. The menthol in the analgesic works as a counterirritant to divert your attention away from the pain you feel. According to a research paper published in the British Medical Journal, pain results from the stimulation of two afferent nerve fibers.
When you apply the pain balm on the affected area of the skin, the ingredients (mostly menthol) are absorbed through the skin and stimulate the nerve fibers that are not responsible for pain (non-nociceptive fibers). The stimulation of these fibers reduces pain. Menthol will first cause a cooling sensation that eases the pain.
Biofreeze offers a variety of professional-grade analgesics, including:
All ingredients in Tiger Balm are natural and herbal. The company claims to have extensive research on the analgesics properties of each of the ingredients. It is considered safe as it does not travel through the bloodstream like oral pain relievers. When rubbed on the skin, the ingredients are absorbed through the skin to cause a warm and numbing sensation that relieves the muscles of swelling and pain.
Among their many topical pain relievers include:
Ingredients in the Products
Ingredients in Biofreeze include:
- Aloe Vera Leaf Extract – Aloe reduces inflammation in tissues and can also relieve pain. An article in the Journal of Pharmacognosy Review proves that Aloe is effective in fighting inflammation when applied on the skin.
- Menthol – This is the primary ingredient in Biofreeze. The company claims to have found the right concentration to give the best results. It uses 3.5% menthol.
- Arnica Extract – Arnica extract works when you have an open wound that you need to help heal quickly. Biofreeze suggests that it enhances the body’s strength and ability to heal. The Journal of Royal Society of Medicine strengthens its claim by saying Arnica is effective in speeding up recovery.
- Boswellia Carterii Resin – This is a classic pain reliever. It complements menthol in offering a cooling sensation that relieves pain. The Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, India, proves the effectiveness of the ingredient in relieving pain.
All ingredients in Tiger Balm are natural. They include:
- Camphor – This is the primary ingredient responsible for the tingle effect that Tiger Balm gives. In Tiger Balm, the ingredient reduces itchiness and pain. Some fungal medications also contain the ingredient. These are medications used to treat warts, cold sores, toenail, and hemorrhoids. It might cause itching, stinging, and redness on the area applied.
- Menthol – Menthol is an extract of peppermint. Medically, menthol treats sore throats, toothaches, itchiness, pain, headaches, and rashes. In Tiger Balm, menthol causes a cooling and numbing effect that relieves pain on the affected area.
- Cajuput Oil – Cajuput oil has the same effect as menthol; it acts as a counterirritant. It is an extract of cajuput leaves and twigs. Medically, the ingredient treats fungal infections, scabies, toothaches, and colds. However, there is little research available in the side effects and effectiveness of the use of cajuput oil for clinical uses.
- Cassia Oil – Cassia comes from the bark of cinnamon trees. The oil has effects on the circulatory system. Medically, the ingredient helps with high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, and disorders of the kidney. In Tiger Balm, Cassia oil relieves inflammation. Doctors recommend this ingredient only for short-term use.
- Clove Oil – Clove oil is an herbal derivative that fights pain. There is a need for more research on the ingredient as less is available online. However, the ingredient is common as a home remedy where it treats an upset stomach and acts as a pain reliever.
- Dementholised Mint Oil – Although this ingredient is common as a flavoring for a food, it also acts as a treatment for muscle and nerve pain, toothache, and also as a stimulant.
Because all the ingredients in the two pain relievers are natural, there are no serious side effects. Again, only apply the pain relievers topically so that they never get to the bloodstream where they can cause serious side effects.
The main ingredient in Biofreeze is menthol. When used topically, menthol can cause itchiness and can also result in a rash. However, it does so when you use it for a long time. If you apply it as directed, there will be no negative side effects.
Because the product contains aloe vera extract, anyone allergic to aloe vera will experience side effects. These side effects include a burning sensation, skin rashes, redness on the skin and eyes, and irritation.
According to WebMD, Arnica (used in Biofreeze) is safe when used topically. It can cause irritation and rashes. When taken orally, the ingredient is poisonous and can lead to death. As such, avoid applying Biofreeze on an open wound.
Tiger has more side effects than Biofreeze, thanks to the high number of ingredients. It causes side effects such as itching, redness, stinging, rash, and skin irritation. If you use it for a long time, the ingredients might cause nausea, headache, and vomiting.
Most of the ingredients are safe even when ingested, but they will have more side effects then. Ingredients such as camphor and cassia oil can cause liver damage. Mint oil, when used for a long time, can result in gallstones and breathing difficulties.
Camphor, the main ingredient in Tiger Balm, is not safe for children, pregnant, and breastfeeding women. Ensure you do not swallow the balm.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Biofreeze is effective in fighting mild to moderate pain and discomfort on joints and other parts of the body. It is also ideal when used for muscle soreness, especially by athletes. Since you use it topically, you are able to target the affected area for instant pain relief.
When used as directed and for a short period, the product doesn’t cause any serious side effects. You may feel a little burning sensation caused by menthol, but nothing more serious than that.
If you don't like the smell of menthol, its strong scent can be a problem. Again, be sure not to apply it on an open wound or use it for a long time as it can result in severe side effects.
Tiger Balm is more common with medical professionals. You can buy it over the counter or through a prescription. The manufacturer claims to sell more than 20 million jars annually, and it serves 70 countries.
All the ingredients are natural, which makes them safe. They offer instant pain relief from joint pain and other pains. If you have inflamed or sore muscles, the product can help.
Like Biofreeze, it causes skin irritation and rashes, though. You also need to avoid applying it on wounds or ingesting it as the side effects can be dire. Again, there are several counterfeit products out there that you need to avoid.
How to Use Them
This should be used on children older than two years. Apply it on the affected area not more than four times a day. Do not apply it on broken skin, and do not tie a bandage on the place where you apply it.
Children under 12 years and pregnant or breastfeeding women should consult their physician before using the product. To use the product, slowly massage it on the affected area until your skin absorbs it completely. Don't apply it more than four times a day. For athletes, you can apply it before and after your workout.
Is Biofreeze better than Icy Hot?
Both Biofreeze and Icy Hot are menthol-based topical pain relievers. Biofreeze contains 3.5% menthol while Icy Hot contains 2.5% menthol. As such, Biofreeze should offer better and faster relief, thanks to the high quantity of menthol.
Is it easy to wash off Biofreeze?
If you wash the area with soap and water, you will remove the Biofreeze on the skin. However, you cannot remove the menthol already absorbed.
How long do the effects of Biofreeze last?
Its effects will only last a few hours. You will need to reapply the balm every six hours.
Is Tiger Balm banned in the U.S.?
No. It's available as a supplement, meaning that it is not approved by the FDA. However, it has not been banned.
Is Tiger Balm effective in relieving joint pain?
Yes. However, the effects only last a few hours, and you need to apply it up to four times daily.
Is Tiger Balm made in China?
Haw Par Corporation is a Chinese company based in Singapore.