What are the Different Types of Thai Liniment?

Angela Crout-Mitchell
Angela Crout-Mitchell
Thai liniment is used as a traditional treatment for bruises.
Thai liniment is used as a traditional treatment for bruises.

The uses of Thai liniment are well documented among such athletes as boxers and martial arts fighters, though this common ointment is also used by non-combative athletes as well. Liniment uses include treating bruises, muscle pain, and sprains. There are several types to choose from, including zheng gu shui liniment, tiger balm liniment, and some people choose to create their own homemade versions, too. Traditionally, these liniments were imported from Thailand and are famous for their analgesic and cooling, soothing properties. Most types of Thai liniments are available in liquid or spray form for easy application.

In commercial Thai liniment, the herbs added to the mixture are responsible for relieving pain and aiding in the reduction of muscle strains and bruises. Almost every type of liniment has camphor and eucalyptus oil for cooling effects. While each recipe for this soothing liniment is different, they are all formulated to provide quick relief after a workout or fight and are often used as part of a post-event massage. Liniment dosage is usually unlimited, though it is recommended to be aware of possible skin irritation.

One very popular type of Thai liniment is zheng gu shui liniment made with menthol and camphor. This liniment has long been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine and other holistic practitioners. In addition to offering cooling and pain-relieving properties, it is also associated with improving blood flow to aching or damaged muscle tissue and is suggested for relieving the discomfort of arthritis. Some holistic healers also suggest zheng gu shui liniment for encouraging regrowth of bone tissue.

Another type of Thai liniment often used among athletes and any one needing relief from muscle pain and discomfort is tiger balm liniment. It is often used to treat problems such as headaches, backaches, and other types of tissue pain. This type of liniment works quickly and can be used over a large area of the body if needed. Along with camphor and menthol, lavender oil and eucalyptus oil are common ingredients in tiger balm liniment.

Some people choose to make their own Thai liniment for convenience and to ensure the quality of the ingredients used. Homemade recipes usually start with a rubbing alcohol base and include herbs such as powdered myrrh for its astringent properties and goldenseal for its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Homemade liniment also often includes a small amount of cayenne pepper, as it encourages blood flow to injured areas due to its stimulating capsaicin element.

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Discussion Comments


I agree that liniment creams work really well, but I have a hard time finding one that doesn't bother my skin.

Every time I have used a liniment cream I end up getting some kind of a reaction. The area where I have applied the cream gets red and itchy. It doesn't matter if I use a cream or a spray.

There must be some common ingredient in the ones I have used that I am allergic to. If I knew what this ingredient was I could make my own and use something in place of what I was allergic to.

My husband uses a liniment cream on his sore knees. He is a carpenter and is on his knees a lot during the day. When he comes home in the evening, applying a liniment cream really gives him some relief.

As strong as that stuff smells, it should work pretty good!


@LisaLou - I am glad you found out how comforting and soothing a liniment cream can be. Liniments have been around for years, and many countries have been using them long before people in the United States have.

I have arthritis in my joints and nothing brings soothing relief quite like a good liniment cream will do. This is especially nice after a long day of gardening.

Sometimes my hand are so stiff by the end of the day I can hardly move them. After applying some liniment cream they feel much better and I can move them without as much pain.

I have even made my own liniment cream in the past. One of the things I add to mine is wintergreen essential oil. This is supposed to help with pain and has an ingredient that is similar to aspirin.

It also smells really good. I would say the only bad thing about some liniments is the smell. If you don't like the smell of camphor, it can be hard to get past that and realize all the benefits the liniment is giving you.


I always thought that liniments were just a marketing gimmick and didn't really do much good. If I had some aches and pains, I would just take some pain medication and keep going.

After I hurt my back and my friend recommended I try some tiger balm, I thought I would give it a try.

I was amazed at how soothing this felt on my back. It is hard to reach this area myself, so my husband rubs it on for me, and I can immediately feel the tension leave my muscles.

I get the most relief if I apply this right before bed and use a hot compress to really help the liniment soak deeply into my body. It feels good to wake up in the morning without a sore back.

Now I am a big fan of liniments and make sure I always keep some around the house in case of an emergency.

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    • Thai liniment is used as a traditional treatment for bruises.
      Thai liniment is used as a traditional treatment for bruises.