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Veterinarian Reviewed on June 19, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
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Menthol is an organic compound that is extracted from peppermint and other mints. It is synthetically made and it has a waxy, crystal like appearance in its natural state. It remains solid in room temperature and melts slightly above room temperature.

There are many uses for menthol and the most common one is its use as a local anesthetic and to relieve minor throat irritation and provide relief in upper respiratory infections.

The special biological property of menthol to trigger a cold feeling on the surface of the skin as well as a cool sensation when inhaled or eaten is one of menthol’s unique capabilities.

History and Origin

Menthol is a well known organic compound and has been used in many industries all around the world. The peppermint essential oil, where menthol is extracted, is where menthol derives its special pungent but refreshing aroma and flavor. It has many health benefits making it widely used everywhere.

Ancient Uses

Menthol was nonexistent during ancient times but the plant where menthol is derived, peppermint, has been used by many ancient cultures in treating symptoms of colds, cough and upper respiratory illnesses. Chewing leaves unlocks the refreshing aroma of peppermint making it an effective treatment for bad breath and sore throat. It was also used as a poultice for wounds, boils, burns and cuts.

Modern Uses

During modern times the benefits of menthol has been used in many therapies. Menthol is known to relieve sore throat and cough. Menthol drops and some cough medicines have menthol ingredients that can effectively stop dry cough and irritating cough. There are also menthol drops and lozenges that can easily relieve sore throat and dry itchy throat.

As a topical analgesic, menthol is very effective in relieving both itchiness and muscle pain, aches and muscle cramps. Menthol is a main ingredient in creams and emollients used for these purposes. Balms made of menthol are also great in relieving tension headaches, as a rub to treat nausea and vomiting and to counter vertigo.
As a decongestant, menthol is a main ingredient of cough preparations to relive nasal congestion. It is also a common ingredient in toothpastes and mouthwashes to treat bad breath; menthol also has astringent and antibacterial properties that inhibit bacterial growth in the oral cavity.

Menthol is also an effective topical analgesic and is a main ingredient in preparations to relieve muscle cramps, lessen pain from sprains and skin irritation and headaches as well. Painful sunburn can also be treated with salves made of menthol.

Side Effects

Menthol has a very low toxicity level when accidentally ingested. It is important though not to use mentholated creams and balms on very young children or infants since it may cause fainting. There are no reported side effects of menthol and it is considered safe by many governing bodies. Menthol can be used even when pregnant and breastfeeding. If you want to use preparations that contain menthol for your illness or ailment, consult your doctor first before using any such medication. Never self medicate especially with herbal remedies before first talking with a herbalist or naturopathic doctor.

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Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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