Medicated oils are one aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a stream of medicine rooted in the Chinese philosophy of balance between the forces of yin and yang. Today, the making of products such as medicated oils is mostly practised by second and third-generation family businesses.
Medicated oils were in demand among Chinese immigrants during the early 20th century as they were used to treat sprains, rheumatic pains and other skin-related ailments. Manufacturers of medicated oils in Singapore gradually incorporated formulas used by other ethnic groups, such as the Malays whose medicated oils contained Citronella oil, and created their own blends.
One of the oldest medicated oil making businesses in Singapore, Chop Wah On, was the first to introduce crocodile oil to Singapore. Its owner, Tong Kok Kong, believes his business is still thriving today because it is willing to innovate and adapt with the times. For instance, Mr Tong shared that his blends are not strong-smelling as his younger customers do not like strong smells.
Axe Brand is another well-known local brand of medicated oil which was founded by Leung Yun Chee in the 1920s. It manufactures products such as the Axe Brand Universal Oil to provide relief for ailments including headache, blocked nose, insect bites or muscular pain. The company has since expanded to become a well-known brand throughout Asia.