A terpene known to share many of the characteristics that are also found in the same plant, menthol is cooling, minty, and often added to items in need of flavoring. It is one of the most in-demand terpenes in the world, with over 30,000 metric tons being used every year.1
The terpene presents as a crystalline solid that both smells and tastes strongly of peppermint.2
Classification within Terpenes: Monoterpene
Menthol might be the terpene for which the most medical research has been conducted. Most of these studies are based on human health and menthol appears in a large number of over the counter products in addition to being used in essential oils.3
Uses in Aromatherapy
The same properties that make menthol burn or cool on contact also help destroy bacteria and inhibit fungi. Application around injured areas of skin or use while sick can help decrease healing time. Menthol is often used in medical institutes because of these healing properties.
The cooling sensation that comes from using this terpene actually has a compound that will often help numb an area. This can be useful when dealing with bug bites, areas of the skin that are irritated by things like carpet burn, and even when recovering from surgery. Be sure to dilute any oil being used with a carrier oil and do not apply directly to wounds. Children with small injuries will often find the oil a bit overwhelming, so do a small test before using with children.
Relieves Joint Pain
This use is often demonstrated via the inclusion of this terpene into things like deep heat, bengay, and other joint pain creams. The cooling and numbing properties work together to sooth away joint pain and make it so that the joints are completely relaxed. While suspension in one of the aforementioned creams is common, the same effects can be garnered by applying oils containing this terpene to the skin directly.
Rubbing the oil on the temples and using it for aromatherapy purposes will generally help relieve a headache. This is both due to the ability to relax the muscles that it comes into contact with the and ability for the fresh scent to help clear out the sinuses. Many people choose to make menthol the base of their headache blend and find the scent soothing even when they have a migraine.
When taken orally, the cooling properties of menthol can help reduce fevers as well. They can also be applied topically, helping to bring down fevers through sweating. Always be careful when using products while you are sick and check with your doctor if you have any questions.
Protects From Cancer Treatment Side Effects
A recent study shows that using menthol while undergoing cancer treatment can both make the treatments more effective and can help protect cells from damage that is known to occur when undergoing chemo or radiation.4 Because of the majority of the treatment options available damage the body heavily, finding anything that can help relieve some of this damage and can help the body heal faster is extremely important. Studies suggest that the damage is being protected down to the DNA level, making it so that each individual cell is not able to be damaged.
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There is also some research that suggests the antibacterial and antifungal properties of the terpene are able to help the healing time decrease and may be responsible for increasing the survival rate of cancer patients, even with the most aggressive forms of cancer.
Acne is hard to treat, but adding menthol or products that contain it to one’s skin care routine can lead to a decrease in the amount of oil that is being produced. This will generally help get rid of the worst of your acne and has been used with some success to treat cystic acne as well. Those who don’t have acne but who do struggle with excess oil production may also find this to be a boon to their skincare routine.
Another way that it helps to treat acne is by removing and keeping away the various bacteria that often cause the infections that lead to acne. Combining this with an astringent action, the pores are both cleaned out and tightened. This can help prevent new blemishes from popping up while also treating older ones as well.
Care should be taken not to use too much on the face as the drying action may strip too much oil if used without care.
Stimulates Hair Growth
For those who are balding or who just want to grow some more hair, applying menthol to the scalp is one of the ways that you can really stimulate the growth of hair. A few drops applied at the roots and massaged in will help increase growth over the next week and will stimulate blood flow to the scalp, ensuring that the hair that does grow is healthy and thick, making it long lasting.
It can also be used to treat a number of hair related issues, such as dandruff, itchy scalp, build-up, and other issues that affect the scalp. Most people who choose to use it to treat these issues apply it to their scalp and massage it in either with their fingers or a shampoo brush before they go about their normal hair care routine. Generally, this is done in the shower, ensuring that there is little to no mess to clean up.
Studies show that using Menthol based essential oils on the skin will help reduce the number of spasms associated with asthma and help reduce the severity of asthma attacks as well as helping to soothe the throat and respiratory system.
Additional Information about Menthol
Molecular Formula: C10H20O
Molecular Weight: 156.269 g/mol 5
Boiling Point: 214.6 °C (421°F at 760 mm Hg)