A Beautiful Story of Cao Sao Vang (Golden Star Balm)

One of the most rewarding parts of conducting historical tours for travelers globally is the opportunity to share unique stories with our guests. We’ve recently introduced a special gift for our guests – Golden Star Balm, also known as Cao Sao Vang in Vietnamese. This gift represents a significant period in Vietnam’s history.

>>> Read more: Vietnam’s pharmaceutical industry: a lesson from Golden Star balm.

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Cao Sao Vang, a popular Vietnamese balm, is known for its warming effect and is used to treat ailments such as headaches, runny nose, flu, dizziness, and motion sickness.

During the resistance war against the French and in the years after 1954, a product known as Cumin oil became popular in Vietnam, with the Tiger Balm brand being the most recognized.

>>> Join us the Stories from the Vietnam War experience.

After 1954, North Vietnam rebuilt its health system, encouraging and promoting the production of medicines using domestically available resources.

Olive oil, an originally popular product, was one of the products researched and mass-produced. Despite the difficulties of research and production at the time, by around 1968-1969, after a period of testing, the product was considered to be of stable quality, durable in various weather conditions, had a smooth surface, and was light yellow in color. It was marketed under the name Cao Sao Vang.

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Since its production, Sao Vang extract has been widely used in Northern Vietnam. Due to its warming properties, it was often taken by Vietnamese people traveling to Eastern European countries for business or study. Its compact size and anti-cold effects also made it a popular gift. As a result, people in some Eastern European countries came to know about Sao Vang extract.

After 1975, Vietnam and the Soviet Union promoted commodity exchange, and Cao Sao Vang was one of the products exported to the Soviet Union. It was produced in five pharmaceutical factories, with the Da Nang factory having an average annual production target of 10 to 15 million boxes. The peak year was 1983, with 20 million boxes produced, while the lowest was in 1986, with a target of 4 million boxes.

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Photo was taken by Cong.

When exports to the Soviet Union ended, consumption of Sao Vang extract decreased. Although many units registered to produce Sao Vang extract, few could maintain stable output. Businesses sought to sell products in both domestic and foreign markets, such as Russia and Germany.

After a period of relative obscurity due to competition from similar products like palm oil and eucalyptus oil, Sao Vang extract regained popularity between 2013-2014 when it became a bestseller on the international market. On major online sales platforms like eBay or Amazon, its price was dozens of times higher than its original price in Vietnam. Currently, Russia is the largest importer of Golden Stars.

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Golden Star Balm in New Zealand

Recently, Golden Star boxes have been sold widely on e-commerce platforms in Japan, Korea, and China at extremely high prices.

The ingredients of Sao Vang extract include camphor, beeswax (as a binder), and precious essential oils like mint, cinnamon, cajuput, tulsi, camphor, and menthol.

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>>> Read more: People whom we met on the tour

We have numerous stories to share about Vietnam’s history during the war. If you’re curious, join us.

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