Menthol is an organic compound that occurs naturally in mint plants and is the primary component responsible for mint’s flavor, aroma, and medicinal effects. The highest concentrations of it are found in peppermint oil, which can be composed of up to 50% menthol. Although it was not isolated from mint until 1771, it has played an important role in the history of medicine.

In antiquity, mint was highly valued – so highly valued, in fact, that it was often used as a form of currency in Egypt, and wealthy first century Israelites would offer it as a sacrifice to God. Perhaps the earliest medical research on mint was performed by Roman naturalist and philosopher, Pliny the Elder, who found that mint was particularly useful for settling an upset stomach and improving one’s appetite.

As higher concentrations of menthol were extracted from mint plants, it was found to be an effective analgesic, counterirritant, and local anesthetic. A 2012 study found that topical applications of menthol were more effective than ice at reducing muscle soreness produced through exercise, and that athletes who received menthol treatment were able to exert more force in subsequent exercises than those who received ice treatment.

Menthol has a threefold approach to reducing pain. As an analgesic, it stimulates the kappa opioid receptor, producing a numbing effect. It also causes vasodilation – a process in which blood vessels widen, allowing muscle tissue to heal more rapidly. Finally, it creates a cooling effect by chemically triggering cold-sensitive thermoreceptors in the skin, essentially tricking one’s brain into believing that the affected area is cool, and thus reducing the painful sensation of inflammation.

Mint may no longer be a form of currency, but its menthol content makes it just as valuable as ever! At KhaliliTM, we value menthol for its ability to safely relieve the pain of sports injuries and get you back in action!