A pink taxi

A pink taxi

August 24, 2011

Tiger Balm: a Vignette

The instant my nose detects the faintest smell of tiger balm, I remember my beloved grand father. He had discovered it in Communist China, before the era of globalization. We can find it today at Carrefour!

My grandfather was a physician. We used to go to him for the slightest ailments, the worse headache the painful sprains. But I never remember him prescribing antibiotics. If he thought I was anemic, by looking at my lower eyelids, he would send me straight to the kitchen for some eggs (hence my disposition to protein diets!) He gave Vitamin E shots to family members who felt a dash less energetic. Pills, like mysterious elixirs were cut in half and pressed in our mouths with a goblet of luke warm tea or ice cold water (from a straw) by his bedside.

I once came to him with a severe neck ache. He asked me to sit on the floor, next to his chair. And he took the all too familiar tiger balm out, rubbed a generous amount on the painful side and I was miraculously cured with a good neck rub.

We all have creams we believe to be miracle creams. My mother-in-law swears by Vaseline for any ailment, diaper rash, aching feet, cuts and burns.

My mother's favorite cream is a lotion she finds on Swiss Airlines. It serves as an eye make-up remover, hand cream or mosquito balm.

My father always carries a tiny tube of antibiotic cream, called Theramycin. We end up knocking at his hotel door when we need first-aid care and he takes it out of his shaving kit, where he stores band-aids, IBProfen, nail clippers and a Swiss knife.

As a mother of three, I have my own favorite remedy creams. Finistil for mosquito, especially the ferocious Mediterranean ones (the Swiss ones pale in comparison). I now buy my sister her own tube for the summer, because I had the whole extended family, without exaggeration, sharing a single tube in summer in France.

My all year round cream is Excipial, a very rich Swiss cream that the pediatrician recommended for my daughter upon birth. Any time my kids complain about a dermatological itch, I rub some Excipial and its good as new. Its scent is very pleasant.

But its not nearly as recognizable as the Tiger Balm scent my grandfather carried in his pockets.


  1. The new cosmetic trend is to go back to organic and natural ingredients. My wife swears by anything that contains olive oil!

  2. While people came for medical advice to my father in law,I used to interrupt and give my own cure.The lovely doctor used to push me around stating that being married to his daughter does not make me a doctor.
    I have a travel pouch that contains some magical balsams that I have acquired from him,that look more like the ones carried by Indian healers.