Help > Pain Information > Active Ingredient Information > Menthol


Menthol is an ingredient known for its cooling and antibacterial properties. It is used in topical preparations to assist their permeation through the surface of the skin. Menthol replaces the pain message with a cooling sensation in order to provide temporary relief from localised pain.Peppermint (Mentha Piperita) was used as a herbal medicine by the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. It was also believed that peppermint cleared the mind, reanimated the spirit, and stirred the passions. Menthol is obtained from peppermint oil, or the other various members of the mint family, and looks like a rock crystal when isolated. In 1774, Dutch scientist Hieronym David Gaubius separated colourless crystals known as menthol from peppermint oil.When applied to an affected area in gel form, menthol rapidly cools tendons and muscles. It causes dilation in the blood vessels that carry blood to the joints, increasing blood flow and reducing swelling. The more blood that reaches an injured area, then the more nutrients and oxygen are made available to assist the healing process.The reason that menthol creates a cool sensation is that it reacts with thermoreceptors in the skin. It has been estimated that humans have several times more thermoreceptors that are attuned to feel cold than they do those that are sensitised to detect warm. Menthol contains chemicals that trigger the nerve cells in the area to sense cold, even though they do not actually change the temperature. This is why you experience a cool sensation when menthol is rubbed onto the surface of the skin. It is the same process by which peppers and capsaicin produce a hot sensation in the mouth.Menthol helps to provide relief from backache, muscular aches, strains, and sprains. It has local anaesthetic and counterirritant properties. Menthol works as a local anaesthetic to suppress the sensation of mild pain. Menthol also provides relief from itching by engendering a thermal sensation that replaces the irritation. The external application of menthol can help relieve neuralgia or control a superficial inflammation that may have resulted in a boil or furuncle.Menthol is the active ingredient in Mentholatum Ice Gel and Metsal Cream.