Do you know why it is called Tiger Balm?” Auntie Nom asks.

She opens the jar and rubs a little on my bruised knee. I feel the heat work its healing.

“Aw Boon Haw.”

“Aw Boon Haw,” I say.

“Gentle Tiger.”

The familiar smell of the ointment soothes me.

“It is made from the oil of the paperbark tree,” Auntie Nom continues.

“Come. I will show you.”

We walk along the dusty lane that runs through the village.

Saffron light encircles us.

“It all started with Hsi- Ling. She experimented with plants and found secrets that eased pain.”

She stops at a group of trees and pulls some of the bark away. It is white and spongy.

“Aw Boon Haw’s father was the first one to add it to other oils when he lived in Burma. It can chase away any pain.”

Years later I still carry a jar of Tiger Balm in my handbag. It eases a multitude of hurts, homesickness and even grief for the aroma brings back a healing story.

In reality all of us carry inside us a multitude of healing stories. I would love to hear yours. And whether you have ever used Tiger Balm.

Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.”


17 thoughts on “GENTLE TIGER

  1. The husband of one of the secretaries in a law firm where I once worked was a furniture refinisher who, on the side, offered his customers something he had put in little pots and labeled himself which he called “Bag Balm.” It supposedly came from the bags of cows. Its effects were remarkably like those of the Tiger Balm you describe. The smell wasn’t marvelous, but tolerable — especially if you weren’t going out to be with other people. I would even have bought more, but I fell out of touch when I moved to another law firm. I don’t think of him as a “healer,” though. His was a small commercial enterprise. The Bag Balm wasn’t a gift of love, as Auntie Nom’s was.

  2. As usual you told the story with a sprinkle of magic dust. I use tiger balm. Just a light dash across my forehead when I can’t sleep, it is calming, relaxing and has a little magic in it as well.

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