ABOUT WHITE FLOWER OIL
White Flower Analgesic Balm comes in a small unassuming bottle - almost dainty and perfume-like. But once the cap comes off, watch out, it's an atomic minty bomb.
White Flower Oil was created in 1927 by Gan Geok Eng and sold in Singapore and Penang. The story goes that Eng originally created the oil for private use and named it after his favorite flower. When family and friends began requesting it, he was convinced to produce it on a commercial basis.
It is also the basis of the formula for Wood Lock - another popular Chinese medicated oil.
WHITE FLOWER OIL ACTIVE INGREDIENTS
Also called wintergreen oil, this organic ester is naturally produced by many species of plants, particularly wintergreens. It makes up approximately 40% of White Flower, which is our culprit in terms of the very strong odor.
Wintergreen oil (along with menthol, eucalyptus oil, camphor, and turpentine oil) is known as a counter-irritant. Counter-irritants create a feeling of cold or heat that can overpower the painful joint or muscle.
Wintergreen oil is also a salicylate, as evident by its proper name: methyl salicylate. Salicylates are compounds related to aspirin. By using them topically, it may help a patient avoid most of the negative side effects of taking aspirin or aspirin-related compounds by mouth, such as:
ulcers of the stomach and small intestine,
gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), and
even serious gastrointestinal bleeding from ulcers.
A study published in 2014 on collagen-induced arthritis in mice concluded, "[methyl salicylate] has great potential to be developed into a novel therapeutic agent for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis." But, in its pure form, methyl salicylate is toxic, particularly when taken internally. People should never exceed the directions on the label due to the risk of salicylate toxicity (aspirin poisoning). A single teaspoon (5ml) of methyl salicylate contains 7g of salicylate, which is equivalent to more than twenty-three 300 mg aspirin tablets. It has proven fatal to small children in doses as small as 4ml.
Every rose has its thorn, right? To lighten things up (literally), when mixed with sugar and dried, methyl salicylate is triboluminescent. Which is almost as fun to say, as it is to see. It's an optical phenomenon in which light is generated through the breaking of chemical bonds in a material when they are pulled apart, ripped, scratched, crushed, or rubbed. Next time you've got some Wintergreen Life Savers and a dark room, try it out.
MENTHOL This an organic compound is made synthetically or obtained from mint oils. Approximately 15% of White Flower oil is menthol.
Menthol's ability to enhance cooling sensations via stimulating the cold-sensitive transient receptor potential channel melastatin 8 (TRPM8). This receptor is responsible for the well-known cooling sensation it provokes when inhaled, eaten, or applied to the skin.
Menthol also has weak analgesic (pain-killing) effects due to select activation of the κ-opioid receptor. This receptor is a protein that mediates a variety of effects including changing our perception of pain, consciousness, motor control, and mood.
CAMPHOR This waxy solid has a strong aromatic odor and makes up approximately 6% of White Flower oil. It is found in the wood of the evergreen tree Cinnamomum camphora; Dryobalanops aromatica; Ocotea usambarensis; and dried rosemary leaves (Rosmarinus officinalis). It is used for its scent. Additionally, camphor is easily absorbed through skin and produces a cool-feeling like menthol.
WHITE FLOWER OIL SIDE EFFECTS
There are no known major side effects for using White Flower topically (on the skin, external use only). Although one should seek medical attention if a severe allergic reaction occurs. Not a good idea to use on broken or damaged skin, and be sure keep it clear of the eyes - ouch.
PRECAUTIONS & WARNINGS:
Methyl Salicylate (wintergreen oil) might cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to aspirin or other salicylate compounds, or have asthma or nasal polyps. Use wintergreen with caution if you have one of these conditions.
Wintergreen oil can be poisonous for children. Taking 4-10 mL of wintergreen oil by mouth can be deadly. So keep away from the kiddos and do not use wintergreen oil on the skin of children less than 2 years old.
If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, wintergreen is safe in amounts found in food, but there's inconclusive evidence to know if it's safe in the larger amounts internally or topically. Either clear usage by your doctor, or select a topical gel that does not include wintergreen oil (methyl salicylate) in the ingredients label.
I found an established body of research that may suggest the use of menthol and wintergreen oil for mild pain relief. Given the very low risk and very limited side effects, it would seem worth a try for individuals seeking a complementary and/or off-the-shelf product for pain relief.
You can purchase it on Amazon.