Tiger Balm Vs Biofreeze Review [2020]

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Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH

The aches and pains are starting to wear on you. In the back of your mind you keep thinking taking so much Tylenol can’t be good for me. You try to stay away from Motrin also because your doctor said your going to get an ulcer. However, the pain is getting to be too much. Meanwhile, standing in the pharmacy aisle you wonder, which is the better option Tiger Balm vs Biofreeze?

Many people fail to realize that topical pain relievers can be fast and effective options for many types of pain. However, these agents are used fro everything from arthritis to fibromyalgia. Certainly, topical creams and gels can work wonders for suffering patients. The best part is that the liver and stomach issues are also and issue. On the other hand many oral pain medications sold over the counter can be dangerous.

Topical Products Used for Pain

Before we look at Tiger Balm and Biofreeze specifically, it is important to understand what types of topical pain relievers are on the market. Subsequently, there are many options that work in different ways to treat pain. Therefore, if one isn’t effective for you often another type will be. For instance the four main categories are laid out below.


These medications work by numbing the area that is having pain. Consequently, they numb the skin by blocking signals the nerves in the painful area are sending back to the brain. This effect is reversible, meaning once the medicine wears off or is broken down the nerve sensation comes back.


Capsaicin comes from hot chili peppers and creates a burning like sensation when applied to the skin. After that, it is thought to deplete nerve cells of the chemical that allows the sensation of pain to be transmitted. This is why some people may notice an increased sensation when it is first applied followed by pain relief.


Counterirritants do as the name implies they irritate the nerves in the pain area. As a result, this creates a hot or cold sensation that lasts for a short time after applying them. Ultimately the hot or cold sensation also helps override the pain signals. This then provides a sense of pain relief.


Salicylates are the original drugs in a class known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). For example, the best known salicylate is aspirin. These work by inhibiting the COX enzyme that causes the formation of prostaglandins which causes pain and also inflammation.

Product categoryActive IngredientsExample
AnestheticsLidocaine, benzocaine,

Uber Numb 5% Lidocaine Topical Numbing Cream, 2 Ounce, Advanced Formula Rapid Absorption Non-Oily
CounterirritantsCamphor, menthol, garlic,
eucalyptus, wintergreen

Dermaline - Camphor Ointment Pain Relieving Rub - Analgesic Ointment - Muscle Pain, Stiffness, Joint Pain - Pomada Analges...
SalicylatesSalicylic acid, aspirin
Aspercreme Maximum Strength Pain Relief Crème with Aloe for Arthritis, Joint & Muscle Pain, 5 Ounces

These products come in a variety of forms such as:

  • Gels
  • Creams
  • Ointments
  • Patches
  • Sprays

All are absorbed through the skin to provide relief at the site. That is important because when taken by mouth being absorbed in the GI tract is where some of these products could cause side effects.

Tiger Balm

Tiger Balm is said to be an ancient Chinese product that is very popular especially in Asia for treating pain. It is claimed that the ingredients in Tiger Balm has been in use for over 1,500 years. Today is is widely available online and in stores in nearly 100 countries around the world. The pain reliever does not requires a prescription and is sold Over The Counter (OTC).

Many options are available, which helps you pick the type of product that is best suited for the pain you are experiencing.

Tiger Balm products include:

Tiger Balm Extra
Strength Ointment
Camphor 11%
Menthol 10%

Tiger Balm Extra Strength Pain Relieving Ointment - 0.63 oz
Tiger Balm Ultra
Strength Ointment
Camphor 11%
Menthol 11%

Tiger Balm Tiger Balm Ultra Strength-1.7 oz Ointment
Tiger Balm Pain
Relieving Patch
Camphor 80mg/patch
Menthol 24mg/patch
Capsicum extract 16mg/patch

Tiger Balm Pain Relieving Patch, 1 Pk, 5 Ct - Walmart.com - Walmart.com
Tiger Balm Pain Relieving
Hydrogel Patch Large
Camphor 230mg/patch
Menthol 70mg/patch
Capsicum extract 46mg/patch

Tiger Balm Pain Relieving Patch Large - 4 ct - The Online Drugstore ©
Tiger Balm
Arthritis Rub
Camphor 11%
Menthol 11%

Tiger Balm Arthritis Rub 4 oz - Walmart.com - Walmart.com
Tiger Balm
Menthol 16%
Oil of Wintergreen 28%

Tiger Balm Topical Pain Relieving Medicated Oil (Liniment), 2 oz – Prince  of Peace Ent Inc
Tiger Balm
Muscle Spray
Camphor 11%
Menthol 11%
Methyl Salicylate 25%

Tiger Balm Active Muscle Spray | Walgreens
Tiger Balm
Muscle Gel
Methyl Salicylate 16%
Menthol 8%

As you can see, many different products are now available and they may each contain a slightly different blend. Let’s look at camphor and menthol, which are the core active ingredients in Tiger Balm.

Camphor is an oil found in camphor trees that is a counterirritant. When applied topically it excites and desensitizes nerves by activating heat-sensitive receptors on the skin. This heating sensation allows camphor to receive pain, irritation and itching.

Menthol is a compound made from the oils of various types of mint. It imparts a cooling effect on nerves when applied to the skin by stimulating receptors and then causing them to loose sensation. When this occurs it provides pain relief.

While Tiger Balm is normally used for pain relief (normally joint pain or arthritis) it can also be used as a chest rub to soothe nasal congestion symptoms. In fact is has also been used in tension headaches.

Directions for use of the ointment are to rub into the affected area 3 to 4 times per day for pain relief. Most patients will get relief within 10-20 minutes of use.

Tiger Balm Pros: 

  • Can be used with other pain relievers taken by mouth.
  • Tiger Balm does have research showing it may be effective for muscle aches & pains as well as tension headaches.
  • Has been widely used and should be considered safe for use.
  • Various different dosage forms allow for selection of a product that is most appropriate for your pain.
  • Some people also think the product has a pleasant smell.

Tiger Balm Cons: 

  • Skin irritation can occur in studies up to 4% of patients had this problem. Therefore, try Tiger Balm on a small area at first to see if you have a reaction.
  • With deep pain topical application may not provide adequate pain relief.
  • The smell is strong and consequently may be overpowering if used on large areas.
  • The cost per ounce is higher than many other pain relieving products.
  • Excessive amounts or prolonged use may damage skin.

Tiger Balm Cost:

  • The cost of 0.6 ounces of extra strength ointment is $4.79*.
  • That comes out to $7.60 per ounce

*Price subject to change


Biofreeze is a popular product with medical professionals. It has been on the market since the 1990’s and used for things from arthritis pain, backaches to muscle soreness from athletics. It is available over the counter and does not require you to get a prescription from your doctor.

There are several different formulas which allow you to pick a product that matches with your pain. It is often marketed to athletes as an alternative to icing their sore muscles.

While the original formula has been refined over the years, the product has proven to be very popular and is now sold in a variety of different products, including gels, sprays, roll-on, creams, and patches.

Biofreeze products include:

Biofreeze SprayMenthol 10.5%
Biofreeze Pain Relief Spray, 4 oz. Aerosol Spray, Colorless (Packaging May Vary)
Biofreeze Roll onMenthol 4%
Biofreeze Pain Relief Roll-On, 3 oz. Colorless Roll-On, Fast Acting, Long Lasting, & Powerful Topical Pain Reliever (Packa...
Biofreeze PatchMenthol 5%

Biofreeze CreamMenthol 10%

Biofreeze Gel PumpMenthol 4%
Biofreeze Pain Relief Gel, 32 oz. Pump, Colorless (Packaging May Vary)
Biofreeze SinglesMenthol 4%
Biofreeze On-the-Go Pain Relief Gel, 5 mL Packets, 100 Count, Green (Packaging May Vary)

Biofreeze is a single ingredient product. Therefore, it only contains menthol and the main difference between Biofreeze products is the percentage of menthol (ranging from 4%-10%). As a result, the higher the percentage the more of an effect it will have on the skin.

Active ingredient

Menthol is made from mint oil extracts such as peppermint. The cooling sensation it provides just under the skin is what puts the “freeze” in the Biofreeze name. As a result, it may feel similar to putting ice on a sore muscle. Consequently, this cooling sensation is what actually provides the pain relief. Menthol is also used in other over the counter products to help with pains ranging from cough to canker sores.

Biofreeze is used for minor relief of pain and soreness in the muscles and joints. These problems are often associated with:

  • Strains
  • Sprains
  • Arthritis
  • Backaches

The directions for using Biofreeze are to apply and gently rub into affected areas up to four times per day. Furthermore, remember that Biofreeze should NOT be applied to the eyes or any damaged area of the skin. If the pain persists for more than 7-10 days contact your doctor.

Biofreeze Pros:

  • Relieves pain quickly and pain relieves lasts after cooling effect is gone.
  • Can be used with other pain relievers taken by mouth.
  • Clinical studies have shown Biofreeze to reduce pain by 31% compared to placebo.
  • Has been widely used and therefore is considered safe for use.
  • Various different dosage forms allow for selection of a product that is most appropriate for your pain.

Biofreeze Cons:

  • Minty smell can be overpowering to some people.
  • Topically applied products may not have effects on deep joint or muscle pains.
  • Skin irritation is possible, especially with the higher strength formulations.

Biofreeze Costs:

  • A three ounce jar of Biofreeze cream costs $11.98*.
  • That comes out to $3.93 per ounce.

*Prices subject to change.

Tiger Balm vs Biofreeze similarities

Both Tiger Balm and Biofreeze use counterirritants as their main ingredients. They both produce pain relief by overwhelming neurons that are sending pain signals to the brain. This process eliminates the perception of pain.

Tiger Balm and Biofreeze are also both available in a variety of dosage forms. Depending on the pain you are having it might be beneficial to have a patch or a spray instead of a cream. Ask your pharmacist if you are not sure which dosage form would be best for your problem.

Tiger Balm vs Biofreeze differences

The key difference is that Tiger Balm contains camphor in addition to menthol. This is an additional way it can work to produce pain relief. However, if your skin is sensitive to camphor it could be an issue.

Another difference is the menthol strength in Tiger Balm is higher in the majority of the dosage forms, typically 10%. Finally, some Tiger Balm products also contain a third ingredient such as Oil of Wintergreen, Methyl Salicylate or Capsicum extract.

Tiger Balm Vs. Biofreeze FAQ’s

Is Tiger Balm made in China?

Haw Par Corporation is the manufacturer of Tiger Balm. They are based out of Singapore. The brand is widely known and sold across Asia and the United States.

Is Biofreeze better than Icy Hot?

Icy Hot is another brand name topical product used for pain. The basic formulations of Icy Hot contain menthol 2.5%. Therefore, Biofreeze would be expected to provide better pain relief as it has a higher concentration of menthol the active ingredient.

What is equivalent to Biofreeze?

Any product that is topical and contains menthol would be expected to be similar to Biofreeze. Equivalent is a term used in the pharmacy world that usually refers to generic equivalence. Meaning it has the same active ingredients at the same strength and would therefore be expected to provide the same results.

To get a true equivalent to Biofreeze you would need to first confirm the menthol percentage in the Biofreeze product you were looking at. Such as the spray, roll on, cream, patch etc. After knowing that then finding an alternative product that has the same strength menthol would be the only way to estimate equivalence.

Some products that might be considered equivalent include:
Icy Hot
Point Relief
Equate Pain Relief

Can I wash off Biofreeze?

Menthol will be absorbed after it is rubbed into the skin. Washing with soap and water should decrease the amount that gets absorbed. However, you would not be able to wash off any amount that was absorbed through the skin.

How long does Biofreeze last?

Pain relief from Biofreeze is only temporary. In order to get pain relief that lasts all day you would need to apply Biofreeze every 6 hours.

Is Tiger Balm banned?

Tiger Balm is not banned in the United States. It can be legally sold as under the dietary supplement act. This means it is not reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety and efficacy the way prescription or Over The Coutner (OTC) drugs are.

What is better Biofreeze or Tiger Balm?

The answer to which is better will come down to personal preference in many cases. However, you should start by trying Biofreeze first. This is because of the clinical studies that showed it has a benefit vs placebo. Biofreeze has not been shown to have a major risk for adverse effects.

Tiger Balm has been shown to provide benefits in tension headaches and topical aches and pains. However, people with a history of skin allergy should be cautious. Furthermore, chronic use with large amounts could cause skin damage.

Final thoughts

Tiger Balm and Biofreeze are both potential options to use for relief of minor aches and pains. Deciding which one is for your will depend on personal preference of pain relief and odors. Keep in mind that the cost of Tiger Balm is much higher than Biofreeze and other generic options available with similar ingredients.

Click here to get Dr. Jason Reed’s exclusive list of medication questions you MUST ask your doctor, for FREE!

Share your story

Have you used Tiger Balm or Biofreeze? Also, please share how they worked for you. Chime in below with your comments and thoughts.

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