Chinese Topical Pain Relief: A Comparison

Chinese Topical Pain Relief: A Comparison

Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM) has been practiced over thousands of years. By practicing TCM, practitioners use various psychological and/or physical approaches plus some herbal products to address health issues in patients. One type of product that TCM practitioners are most frequently using is Chinese topical pain relief. However, there are so many products on the market today. Which one should you choose?

What Chinese topical pain relief products do we have in the Market?

Generally speaking, as Chinese topical pain reliever, we have tiger balm, ultra balm, and Zheng Gu Shui in the market.  

Which Chinese topical pain relief products should I use?

Before making the decision, you need to know what these Chinese topical pain relievers are as well as what they do. 

1. Tiger Balm

The iconic Tiger Balm is the best known product on this list, having made a discernible impact on North American market and become a household name across the country. Tiger Balm comes in a variety of formats, but the major two are the white and red formulas. Almost identical in composition, these two balms do have different uses, properties and effect; the red formula is notably stronger, and creates a mild heat sensation as well as a cooling one, whereas the white formula is more versatile and simply cooling.

Tiger Balm Red

With its slight scent of cinnamon and cloves, the red formula has a higher camphor content than its counterpart. It is therefore used mainly for pain relief, though it also creates a cooling sensation on the skin.


  • Primarily for muscle and joint pain
  • Can be used to relieve pains caused by arthritis, backaches, over-exertion

Medicinal ingredients: Camphor, menthol, cajeput oil, dementholised mint oil, cinnamon oil, clove oil

Strength: ★★★★☆ Versatility: ★★★★☆

Tiger Balm White

As mentioned before, the white formula is more commonly used as a decongestant than the red one, due to its proportionally higher content in mint; as it is milder, it can also be less irritating to the skin for prolonged use, and very small quantities can be applied to more sensitive zones. Mucous regions, however, should still be avoided altogether.

Tiger Balm, White Regular for pains from


  • Decongesting chest, nose
  • Relief from minor headaches caused by muscular tension
  • Can be used to relieve muscle and joint pains
  • Relief from menstrual pain

Medicinal ingredients: Dementholised mint oil, cajeput oil, camphor, menthol, clove oil

Strength: ★★★☆☆ Versatility: ★★★★★


2. Ultra Balm

Ling Nam Ultra Balm from

Ultra Balm

As its name suggests, is an incredibly powerful topical pain relief ointment. Its high concentration of camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus, wintergreen and peppermint oils create a cooling, soothing, almost numbing sensation over any region on which it is applied. The part of wintergreen oil is absorbed by the body, salicylic acid, is the same metabolite absorbed when taking aspirin: this balm therefore works as an anti-inflammatory as well as an analgesic. Eucalyptus also acts as a decongestant, and Ultra Balm can work wonders to clear up the chest.


  • Powerful relief from muscle and joint pain
  • Powerful relief from chest congestion

Medicinal ingredients: Wintergreen, peppermint oil (menthol), camphor, eucalyptus

Strength: ★★★★★ Versatility: ★★★☆☆

*Notes:Because of its intensity, Ultra Balm should be applied with care, and should never come in contact with sensitive areas on the body.

Kwan Loong Oil

With its strong concentration in menthol, eucalyptus and wintergreen oil, Kwan Loong is very similar to Ultra Balm in composition, though liquid in form. It has an anti-inflammatory as well as a decongestant and analgesic effect, and can be used during massage.


  • Powerful relief from muscle and joint pain
  • Powerful relief from chest congestion

Medicinal ingredients: Menthol, eucalyptus, wintergreen Oil Strength: ★★★★★ Versatility: ★★★☆☆

*Notes:Because of its intensity, Kwan Loong should be applied with care, and should never come in contact with sensitive areas on the body.


3. Zheng Gu Shui

Zheng Gu Shui External Analgesic Healing Liniment for body pain 100ml from

Literally meaning “broken bone oil,” Zen Gu Shui is a complex mix of traditional Chinese ingredients, making the other products on this list look simple by comparison. This liquid topic pain relief liniment can be used during massage, comes in a variety of formats, and can also be used in a bandage once soaked on a cotton ball. Popular among athlete, it has both a warming and a cooling effect. Uses:

  • Relief from pain associated to sports injuries, sprains, bruises
  • Relief from muscular tensions, especially for headaches

Medicinal ingredients: Camphor, Menthol, Cinnamon bark, Angelica Root, pseudoginseng, etc.

Strength: ★★★★ Versatility: ★★★★★

*Notes: Zhen Gu Shui can potentially stain clothes.


In short, you can choose these Chinese Topical Pain Relief products according to their use, strength and versatility. If you pursue high strength, ultra balm is a good choice; however if you pursue high versatility, Zheng Gu Shui is an excellent option. 


Lierre stocks all the major Chinese Traditional Medicine herbal formulas and natural remedies, including plasters, balms and ointments. Though most of our herbal formulas are only available on prescription or to trained professionals, our selection of herbal remedies can be used by anyone for quick and easy relief from muscular and articular tensions and pains. Do not hesitate to visit Lierre for more information!

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