Leung Kai Fook Medical Company

Singapore Infopedia


Leung Kai Fook Medical Company (Pte) Ltd is the maker of Axe Brand Universal Oil (also known as Axe Brand Medicated Oil), a popular brand of medicated oil recognised by its logo, which features an arm holding an axe.1 Axe Brand Medicated Oil is colourless, and contains a unique blend of eucalyptus, menthol, camphor and other essential oils.2 For more than 80 years, it has been used by adults and children as a treatment for giddiness, headache, travel sickness, stomachache, insect bites and other minor ailments.3

Early history
Leung Kai Fook Medical Company was founded by Leung Yun Chee (b. 1897, Shunde, China
d. 1971, Singapore) who, as a young man in his twenties, travelled from Shunde, China, to Singapore in the 1920s.4 He got to know a German physician, Dr Schmeidler, who gave him the formula for a medicated oil.5

Leung was initially a manager at a Shanghai silk trading company. But after three years, he decided to run his own business, operating from a shop in South Bridge Road, next to a medical hall. In 1928, Leung closed down his silk business and started the Leung Kai Fook Medical Company.6

Leung named the medicated oil after the axe because in the past, the axe was an essential item in every household, used daily to cut wood for cooking. The tagline he came up with, “Therapy in a bottle”, further sums up the brand’s values.7

In its early years, the response to the medicated oil was lukewarm, and faced stiff competition from more established companies from China and Hong Kong. Leung decided to advertise his product in the local papers, which was a bold marketing move in the 1950s. To promote and increase awareness of the company’s products, he started his own Chinese newspaper, New Life Daily, and gave away calendars and gifts. Furthermore, he undertook business trips to Malaysia, looking well-polished and distinguished in his Western suit, impressing buyers with his presentation.8

The business flourished in the 1960s, when Singaporean and Malaysian Muslim pilgrims started using Axe Brand oil on their annual haj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The pilgrims used the oil to relieve headaches, giddiness and other ailments caused by the long sea journey. The oil also became popular among Muslims living in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan and Kenya.9 Its popularity and sales grew to such an extent that the company shifted its production from a small cottage factory in South Bridge Road to a seven-storey factory in Macpherson in 1970.10

Leung passed away in 1971.11 After his death, his son Leung Heng Keng, who had helped manage the company since 1951, took over.12 Another son, Leung Mun Sum, joined the company in 1987 and was appointed managing director.13

In 1992, Leung Kai Fook Medical Company became the first local medical oil producer to obtain ISO-9002 certification.14 It continued to expand its markets beyond Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. New products, such as Axe Brand Red Flower Oil, were also produced.15 The company made other investments too. In Hong Kong, for instance, it invested in property and the travel industry. It also ventured into hospitality in mainland China, with investments in the luxurious US$65-million Hotel Landmark Canto in Guangzhou.16

As at 2016, the company operates five Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)-certified factories in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Vietnam. Axe Brand products are also sold in more than 50 countries.17 Axe Brand Universal Oil is one of the leading brands of medicated oil in Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Middle East, and China.18 The company has successfully expanded the market for its medicated oil into the US, Australia, Romania and Greece.19 The universality of the product has seen its packaging translated into Arabic, Cambodian, French, Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Spanish, Sri Lankan, Swahili, Thai and Vietnamese.20

Following Leung Heng Keng’s death in 2018, Leung Mun Sum continued as managing director of the company.21

Social contributions

The company has actively contributed to the community. It has donated to hospitals, educational institutions, and arts organisations. For instance, through its generous donation to the National University of Singapore, the company supported research on addressing the needs of an aging population, such as treatments for common conditions experienced by the elderly.22

Nureza Ahmad

1. Superbrands (HK) Ltd, Superbrands: An Isight into More Than 100 of Singapore’s Strongest Brands (Singapore: Superbrands, 2002), 23 (Call no. RSING q658.827 SUP); “Our Story” The History of Axe Brand,” Leung Kai Fook Medical Company, accessed 30 August 2019.
2. Superbrands (HK) Ltd, Superbrands, 22.
3. “Axe Brand Universal Oil,” Leung Kai Fook Medical Company, 30 August 2019.
4. Superbrands (HK) Ltd, Superbrands, 22.
5. Leung Kai Fook Medical Company, History of Axe Brand.”
6. Lim Soon Neo, “A Dose of Perseverance,” Business Times, 26 April 1993, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Superbrands (HK) Ltd, Superbrands, 23.
8. Superbrands (HK) Ltd, Superbrands, 23.
9. Superbrands (HK) Ltd, Superbrands, 22.
10. Jaime Koh, J. (2015, August 8). “Singapore’s Most Endearing Brands: Axe Brand Medicated Oil,” Straits Times, 8 August 2105. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
11. Leung Kai Fook Medical Company, History of Axe Brand.”
12. Superbrands (HK) Ltd, Superbrands, 22; C. Wong, “Man Behind the Growth of Axe Brand Empire Dies,” Straits Times, 8 September 2018. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
13. Ashton Kobler, “What a Relief: Leung Mun Sum,” CEO Magazine, 25 July 2019.
14. “2 Local Companies Unveil Overseas Expansion Plans,” Straits Times, 6 November 1992, 44; “Carving a Name, Across the World,” Business Times, 22 July 2016, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Potent Medicine,” Straits Times, 10 December 2002, 20. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Lim, “Dose of Perseverance.” 
17. “LKF in the Region: Manufacturing Facilities,” Leung Kai Fook Medical Company, 30 August 2019; “Carving a Name.”
18. Superbrands (HK) Ltd, Superbrands, 23.
19. “Carving a Name.”
20. Superbrands (HK) Ltd, Superbrands, 23.
21. Kobler, “Leung Mun Sum”; Wong, “Man Behind the Growth of Axe Brand Empire Dies.”
22. Heng Swee Keat, “The SG100 Foundation's 3rd Anniversary Dinner,” speech, Jubilee Garden Restaurant, Safra Toa Payoh, 22 March 2019, transcript, Ministry of Finance; “Business Leader Gives to Advance Research into Ageing,” National University of Singapore, accessed 2 September 2019.

Further resources
Goh Chin Lian, “Keeping Axe Brand Oil Legacy Burning,” Straits Times, 17 May 2014, 4. (From NewspaperSG)  

Leung Kai Fook Medical Company Donates $470,000 for Pharmacy Research and Scholarship,” National University of Singapore, 11 July 2016.

Lim Soon Neo, “Making Medicine for the Masses,” Business Times, 10 December 1988, 20. (From NewspaperSG)

True to Tradition,” Business Times, 19 July 2017. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at September 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Rights Statement

The information on this page and any images that appear here may be used for private research and study purposes only. They may not be copied, altered or amended in any way without first gaining the permission of the copyright holder.

More to Explore

Fong Swee Suan


Fong Swee Suan (Dr) (b. 27 October 1931, Senggarang, Batu Pahat, Johor, Malaya–4 February 2017, Singapore) was a trade unionist who was active in the Singapore labour scene during the 1950s and 1960s. He is often associated with Lim Chin Siong, a fellow trade union activist. Fong was also one...

Lim Kim San


Lim Kim San (b. 30 November 1916, Singapore–d. 20 July 2006, Singapore) was a former politician best known for his contributions to public housing in the 1960s during his term as chairman of the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Throughout his political career, Lim held various ministerial portfolios including finance,...

Singapore Labour Party


The Singapore Labour Party (SLP) was inaugurated on 1 September 1948. It was fronted largely by English-speaking Indians who underwent the British education system, were exposed to publications on British politics and involved in labour unions. The SLP met with some electoral successes such as winning two out of seven...

Overseas Union Bank (OUB)


Overseas Union Bank (OUB), now defunct, was founded in 1947 in Singapore by Lien Ying Chow. It began operations in February 1949, and by the 1970s had grown to become one of Singapore’s “Big Four” local banks. In 2002, OUB was acquired by United Overseas Bank (UOB) for S$10 billion....

Singapore Association of Trade Unions


After the split in the People’s Action Party (PAP) that led to its left wing setting up the Barisan Socialis, the Singapore Trades Union Congress (TUC) also split into two rival factions: the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU). In the years following...

Tan Keong Choon


Tan Keong Choon (b. 29 October 1918, Amoy, Fukien, China–d. 27 October 2015, Singapore ), nephew of the late Tan Kah Kee, was a prominent Chinese businessman who made his wealth from rubber trading between the 1950s and 70s. Among his many contributions to the local rubber industry, he was...

Lee Yock Suan


Lee Yock Suan (b. 30 September 1946, Singapore–) is a former cabinet minister and member of parliament (MP). He served as MP for the Cheng San single-member constituency (SMC) from 1980 to 1988 followed by Cheng San group representation constituency (GRC) from 1988 to 2001 and East Coast GRC from...

Khong Guan Biscuit Company


Khong Guan Biscuit Company is a local biscuit manufacturer that has grown into a multinational group of companies with diversified interests including property, food product distribution and commodities trading. Founded in 1947 by Chew Choo Keng, Khong Guan exports its products to more than 40 countries, and manufactures biscuits and...

Teh Cheang Wan


Teh Cheang Wan (b. 3 March 1928, China–d. 14 December 1986, Singapore) was a trained architect widely known for his contributions to Singapore’s early public housing plans, particularly while he was heading the Housing and Development Board in its early stage and serving as the minister for national development between...

Singapore Glass Factory strike


The Singapore Glass Manufacturers Co Ltd was a leading manufacturer of glassware, plastics and cardboard in Singapore. Its factory, popularly known as the Singapore Glass Factory, stood on Henderson Road, and was a famous landmark in Bukit Merah for many years. Established in 1948 shortly after World War II, the...