Tiger Balm was developed in the latter half of the 19th century (which also brought us telephones, non-Euclidean geometry, pasteurization, motorcycles, dynamite, Braille, light bulbs, abolitionists, the Periodic Table of Elements, communism and atomic theory), by Aw Chu Kin, a Chinese herbalist and entrepreneur, who was perhaps influenced by the Romanticists and Realists of his era, desiring both the ability to heal people, allowing them to more fully experience the joys of life, and secure for himself and descendants a marketable brand name and tidy profit. The ointment market being satiated in his home town, he traveled to Burma and set up shop. Personality and product made him popular and sales were good. His sons continued the business, branching into Singapore and eventually reaching over 100 countries. The balm’s original formula, utilized by the Chinese Imperial Court, is no longer used. It has been modified and enhanced (by chemists and government health regulators) to what can be found for a reasonable price, over the counter, at area drug stores across the United States.
I put a small amount on my fingertip, spread it into my hand, then slowly rub it into the bottom vertebrae of my spine and surrounding tissue, and then lower, to the base of my tail bone. I ready myself for the onslaught of magical relief and a slow heat radiates along the path my palms had traversed. It reaches beyond the surface to encompass the hurt and gently warm it.
It is not a cure-all but the warmth soothes in a familiar way, momentarily calming and freeing.
And I can return to class – a salve for my psyche and soul.