When I was small, I had a sprain that wouldn’t heal. My relative told me that there was a balm that was extremely painful and extremely effective and he’d recommend it to me if I was up to it. It was a brutal “one-day” solution. I didn’t know what he meant but I said yes all the same. He handed me a yellowish-orange extremely smelly balm and told me to use it sparingly or else face the consequences. I put in on and rubbed it and wondered what the fuss was all about. Then I felt a mild burning sensation. It steadily got hotter and hotter and my relative was looking at me amusingly from the corner of the eye.
Then suddenly my hand caught fire! (Or at least it felt that way) I could hardly bear the pain and I didn’t know how to describe it. It was as if a dozen hot needles had been poked in my hand or simply someone had poured kerosene on it and set it on fire. The hand got hotter and hotter and I simply felt I would faint! My relative calmly told me to hold on. It would eventually go away. Eventually meant a few hours and in that time, nothing else mattered. No house. No relative. No work. No thoughts. It was me and my burning hand. By evening, the burning started receding, just like a fire that had been put out with embers steadily cooling. I felt a tingling even as I slept.
When I got up in the morning, I was totally OK. And despite the pain, I was converted for life. As my relative said, “Use other balms 10 times, use this one only once.” But I can see why it’s unpopular. It smells. It leaves stains on your clothes. And of course, it burns like hell. My wife can’t stand the sight of the bottle and says that I’ve used it so many times, that my body is probably immune. When I have multiple body aches, she calls it a Sloan’s Bath. Though my wife did inform me that her grandmother uses something more potent and rare called Sloan’s Liniment. I was mighty impressed.
I have recommended it to people with adverse reactions. Once when my late sister was limping for days, I gave her a bottle. The next day morning I got a firing.
My leg burnt. I couldn’t sleep all night. I got out of bed at 2am. I put my leg in running cold water. I kept it in a bucket for one hour…
When she finished pacing up and down with her tirade, I pointed to her leg. She was no longer limping. She was cured. “But the pain wasn’t worth it,” she said and stormed off.
Once I gave it to my flat-mate and watched in horror as he took a huge amount and started massaging his leg with it. I warned him of the consequences but he wouldn’t listen. He said something to the effect of “Mard ka bachcha” (Loosely translated to mean “son of a macho man”). My friends and I watched as he sat sure that nothing would happen. Then the tingling started and the pain multiplied. My friend got up started pacing around. He was putting a brave face and having difficulty in controlling his pain. Then he let out a scream and started heaping choicest abuses on Mr Sloan and his extended family.
As all of us watched the comic scene, he suddenly picked up the bottle and threw it out of the window with all his might. I ran to the window fearfully, for it faced the main road. If it hit a passing motorist then broken glass and Sloan’s would combine to unleash such pain, that the motorist would surely file a case of attempted murder. Luckily, it had fallen safely into the ground. I could only hope no man or animal would poke its nose into it. I realized that I couldn’t recommend it again to anyone.
It is also a tough task shopping for it. If I go to 10 medical shops, then 5 shopkeepers are sure to look at me as if I’m speaking some foreign language. When I finally do get a bottle, the shopkeeper opens his notebook and scribbles. (Customer came and bought the entire stock (1 bottle) of Sloan’s Balm) I’m serious, when I ask for a second bottle, I don’t get it.
I read somewhere that Sloan’s has capsaicin, which is an essential component of chili pepper. That explains it. If you eat chili pepper, you’ll feel as if your throat is on fire. If you use a balm which has a chili pepper component, you’ll feel as if your body part is on fire…
Hello, is there anybody out there… anybody using Sloan’s Balm?
More importantly, does anybody want to use Sloan’s?
I posted this piece more than 10 years ago and it is my most viewed and commented upon one by far. I am surprised at how that happenened and the comments still come in. In fact in the first few years, whenever you would Google Search “Sloan’s Balm”, this would be the very first entry! Since then it has been sliding steadily downward. It appears that there is a small but dedicated group of Sloan’s Balm users in this world. Meanwhile they finally changed the design and the logo of the bottles and I also finally managed to lay my hands on Sloan’s Liniment! So now I have options for both the balm and liniment to take care of my various aches and pains as I grow older. Despite its relative obscurity it appears that it is still alive and kicking well into the 2020s!
© Sunil Rajguru