Go Ad-Free
logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

Should You Pay Less for Vicks VapoRub®?

An irate reader discovered that a favorite rub now contains a synthetic ingredient instead of natural essential oil. Should we pay less for Vicks VapoRub?

Vicks VapoRub® is a familiar household product with a venerable history. It has been around since the turn of the 20th century, and for much of that time, it contained natural essential oils. In the 21st century, however, the manufacturer substituted a synthetic compound for one of the ingredients. Does that mean you should pay less for Vicks VapoRub?

With Synthetic Camphor, Reader Wants to Pay Less for Vicks VapoRub:

Q. I recently spent $4.50 for a 1.75-ounce tub of Vicks VapoRub® (brand name). When I read the ingredients, I noticed that after camphor it says (synthetic). I wrote to the company and the response was: “We have used synthetic camphor since 2004/2005.”

I have found house-brand chest rub for just $0.99, and the ingredients don’t list anything synthetic. I don’t see why we should pay so much more for synthetic.
I was recently in Germany and had a nasty cough. It responded immediately to Klosterfrau chest rub, which contains camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil. Nothing synthetic in it!

A. The manufacturer of Vicks VapoRub® stated in response to your query,

“VapoRub’s formulation has natural ingredients as well as synthetic ingredients to more reliably ensure our ability to source our raw materials. The synthetic camphor was tested and proven to deliver the same product benefits as the natural camphor for VapoRub®.”

The active ingredients in Vicks are camphor, eucalyptus oil and menthol. They have been staples in this product for over 100 years. Other “inactive” ingredients include cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, petrolatum, thymol and turpentine oil.

To learn more about unusual ways people have used Vicks VapoRub®, you may wish to download our free Guide to Unique Uses for Vicks. Tell us how you use it, and whether you have found a way to pay less for Vicks VapoRub®.

Rate this article
4.5- 41 ratings
About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.