Menthol is an organic compound with a characteristically minty smell. It can be derived from natural sources, such as peppermint and eucalyptus plants, or produced synthetically. It has a range of invigorating and soothing properties that make it a versatile ingredient in health and beauty products.
How does menthol work?
When applied topically to the skin, ingested, or inhaled, menthol produces a cooling sensation. Menthol does not lower the temperature of the body or skin. Instead, it produces a cooling effect by blocking the calcium current along the nerves responsible for detecting temperature. The message that the individual receives via the nerve endings is that the skin or body is cooling.
How can menthol be used on the body?
Menthol's ability to produce a cooling sensation on the skin makes it an extremely useful ingredient in after sun creams and lotions, which are designed to be applied to the skin after exposure to the sun. Menthol alleviates the hot, painful sensation that overexposure to the sun can trigger and can also found in products that can be applied topically to the forehead to ease the pain associated with headaches, such as cooling patches. Many people find menthol's cooling sensation to be uplifting and invigorating. As a result it is used as an ingredient in toiletries and skin care products that are designed to refresh, revitalize, and enliven the skin.
Does menthol reduce pain?
Menthol also has pain-relieving properties when applied topically. It is particularly beneficial in alleviating the pain associated with minor musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis, sprains, or muscle cramps. Menthol can be combined with ibuprofen in pain relieving gels and creams that are designed to be applied topically.
Can menthol improve blood flow?
Menthol increases the effectiveness of certain topically applied medicines by enlarging the blood vessels in a process known as vasodilation. This allows the medicines to penetrate deep in to the affected area.
When applied to the thin skin on the lips, menthol also improves the flow of blood to the area, causing a temporary plumping effect. As a result, menthol is often included as an ingredient in lip products that aim to produce fuller lips without surgical intervention. These include balms and lip glosses that color the lips while producing a well-defined pout.
Can menthol be consumed?
Yes, but only in measured amounts and usually in over the counter products. When taken orally, menthol can improve digestion, leading to the prevention or treatment of intestinal gas and bloating. Menthol helps to relax the muscles in the intestine, preventing spasms and lessening the likelihood of cramping. As a result, menthol can be useful for individuals experiencing irritable bowel syndrome.
Manufacturers of cough drops, cough syrup, and throat sprays include menthol in their products because it has anesthetic and cough suppressant qualities. It can help sooth the throat irritation that can lead to persistent, painful coughing. Small traces of menthol are also found in chewing gum to improve freshness and flavor.
How can I use menthol at home?
Menthol has an expectorant action, which enables it to thin and loosen the mucus that builds up in the respiratory tract. Accordingly, inhalations of menthol can improve congestion in the nose and throat linked to colds. By placing hot water in a bowl at home you can recreate the effects of a steam room using the vapor from the water to do inhalations of the menthol or apply a few drops into your bath instead, Menthol cannot be applied directly to the skin without being diluted as it can sensitize the skin. Alternatively, menthol rubs can be applied to the chest and back.
Products containing menthol should be used in accordance with the manufacturers' guidance. The low levels of menthol found in over-the-counter products are generally well tolerated by most people.
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