A plant so spicy it can destroy nerves, giving pain relief

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/11/15/scovilles-for-good.html


According to the online sources, Tiger Balm at least contains no capsaicin but does contain lots of camphor, menthol, and methyl salicylate. The camphor in particular can cause serious skin irritation and the methyl salicylate (near cousin to aspirin) is taken up systemically to a degree that at least one person (a teen girl) has died of overdosing on it.

I love capsaicin, both oral and topically, but be very wary of the other stuff that gets packaged with it. OTC capsaicin cream runs 0.1% and can be moderately intense; IIRC the prescription stuff goes quite a bit higher and might be better taken with a topical analgesic.

Lest anyone be confused, I am by no means an MD, pharmacologist, or any other sort of authority on the subject. I’m just a geezer who has had my share of aches and pains since I was a teen and have tried to stay informed rather than discover side effects the hard way.


As a TB user, I thought it odd when I read the claim it contained capsaicin. Thanks for confirming that it does not.

(@doctorow typo in your post - it’s not ‘capcasin’.)

ETA Out of interest, is there any reference for this:

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Yeah, the potential for people shooting up with this on their own is kinda low. Or at least not twice.

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That makes sense. IIRC, capsaicin is only neurologically active, not chemical, so no amount of it will produce physical effects. Other than clawing your tongue out of your mouth and such.


ETA Out of interest, is there any reference for this:

at least one person (a teen girl) has died of overdosing on it.


… Hope Cory reads this.

Budding Teen Athlete Dies from Overdose of Muscle Cream

Perhaps, @doctorow he will now. I doubt any amount of Tiger Balm (as opposed to ‘muscle cream’) could do this, but the cause was the repeated use and retention in the body.

BTW apart from red and white Tiger Balm variants, my belief is that there are different red variants. One I bought in SE Asia was different, I swear, to the one I bought years later in UK at a pharmacy. I think the one I bought - even later - in UK at a Chinese suprmarket might have been more like the SE Asia one - but I bet they have a different supply source. Or was I imagining it? Anyone else observed this?

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The cream she was using was Theragesic, which is basically just methyl salicylate (oil of wintergreen), the active ingredient in most of the non-capsaicin creams (including both red and white TB, BenGay, etc.)

She was overdoing it to a ridiculous degree, but then people do that.

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Just imagine the things a cartoon villain could do with this stuff! “Oh no, Batman, you will feel no pain. No pain at all! Yaaahahahhaa!”

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Sci Show just did a video on this a few days ago :slight_smile: the video is very informative

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So, bring a can of this stuff with you to your marches and demonstrations, to neutralize the cops’ weak-ass pepper spray.

I’ve had constant hip pain since I got back from a horseback trip in Iceland. First World Problem, I know, but it’s exhausting to be in pain All. The. Time. I had Cortisone shots just before I went, so can’t get them again until next month. I’m doing PT in the meantime (OK, I don’t always do all of the exercises and stretches every day) and taking Turmeric. I tried NSAID’s, but they made my feet swell.

Long way of saying I’d love to try this!


That’s white tiger balm. Red tiger balm also has clove, cajuput, and, cinnamon.

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Too bad there aren’t any games available yet that can take full advantage of the RTX capabilities.


Woah, but if “pain is information”, then isn’t disabling the messaging system akin to fingers in the ears? I see the value in temporarily disconnecting the pain receptors, but unless the underlying condition is also addressed, isn’t this just a cycle to be repeated, each time the pain growing back worse?


you know, i got a really sore elbow from fly fishing last month and nobody felt sorry for me either - true story


And also putting yourself at serious risk of hurting yourself unawares? Like lepers do?

For most people, pain is telling you something.


We know what happens when you destroy nerve endings. The gates turn up the amplification.


Hey, I DID caveat!

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Chronic pain, especially from an untreatable chronic underlying condition, isn’t so much “information” as it is a DoS attack on your ability to think straight.