How Does Menthol Work?

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Created By: Nate Abegglen | Posted: 06-22-21

Beyond the refreshing and invigorating qualities of menthol in health and beauty products, menthol is most commonly known for its soothing properties. 

So how does this work exactly? Menthol is a counterirritant. This means it produces a kind of irritation of the skin to counteract discomfort.  

When applied topically, for example, menthol might make the area feel cool without actually dropping body temperature (You can apply it directly to the affected area for almost immediate results--another added bonus!). This phenomenon occurs because a protein called TRPM8 is activated in your nerve cells to essentially trick your body and mind into feeling cold. Interestingly, one study suggests menthol works more effectively than using ice on an inflamed or painful area. Ice melts and the effects wear off, but menthol perseveres!  

Menthol is also a vasodilator, meaning that it increases blood flow to the area to benefit sore or injured muscles and joints. When blood flow increases, nutrients flood the area to help repair the damage, while waste is removed and carried away. Additionally, menthol enlarges the blood vessels so that other medicines can penetrate the area, magnifying relief and healing.

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