First it’s cool … then it’s full body relief.
Most people recognize menthol as the main ingredient in their favorite topical relief creams and gels, but what exactly is the infamous pain-relieving ingredient? And where does it come from?
What is it?
Menthol is a compound found naturally in peppermint and other mint plants. However, it can also be made synthetically in a lab. So always make sure to check the labels on your favorite products if you want the real (all natural) deal.
A little bit of history
Interestingly, menthol was added to tobacco in the 1920s and 1930s because it seemed to reduce the harshness of cigarette smoke and irritation from nicotine. In fact, almost all cigarettes contain at least some menthol, most likely because of its cooling properties.
While we do not need to focus on menthol in cigarettes, it is important to note that it was only added to these products for its cooling sensation. Menthol indeed has a cooling and even anesthetic effect that ultimately decreases the cough reflex.
Now, while menthol is known for its use in tobacco products, it is more commonly known for its cooling properties in topical applications. Using the ingredient topically can treat minor aches and pains of muscles and joints.
How does it work?
So the adage goes: ice then heat! Menthol works by creating a cool feeling on the skin. How? Menthol triggers cold-sensitive receptors in the skin, tricking your body into thinking the skin is cold, resulting in a refreshing, cool sensation.
This feeling can also be described as a mild numbness. This is because menthol is activating cold-sensing nerves so you ultimately can no longer feel the pain underneath. However, most people only feel a cooling sensation and pain relief, with no intense numbness.
Gradually, this coolness dissipates into a warmth on the skin.
Some say that these temperature sensations on the skin simply distract you from the aches and pains underneath – and if that works for you, great! – however, the cool then warm sensation from menthol actually applies the same concept to the muscles underneath. Similar to putting ice directly on skin to reduce swelling and inflammation of muscles or joints underneath, so too does menthol work.
Instead of switching back and forth between ice and heat, menthol mimics the age-old health recommendation and does all the hard work for you!
Other great aspects of menthol
Being that it is extracted from peppermint oil, menthol has a lovely natural minty smell. So if you’re into aromatherapy, peppermint is promoted as an awesome sinus reliever. Decongestants work by shrinking swollen membranes and tissues in the nose that cause congestion, therefore making it easier to breathe.
Furthermore, peppermint is used in aromatherapy to provide a lift in mental function and clarity. The minty, cool, and refreshing scent is known to awaken the senses and even give you an energy boost – some say that even the thought of the minty smell makes their nose tingle!
Menthol does not have any known negative interactions with other topical ingredients. In contrast, menthol can actually be combined with other natural ingredients for increased pain relief.
So what other ingredients can enhance that icy-hot feeling? Combining menthol with other botanicals like Camphor Bark oil, Eucalyptus Leaf Oil, Aloe Vera, Arnica, Shea Butter, Wintergreen Oil, and even CBD, can add a whole new level of healing!
For example, Wintergreen Oil, Camphor Bark Oil, and Eucalyptus Leaf Oil have similar cooling effects as menthol. So, when combined together into one super topical cream, you have a cooling effect like never before. Furthermore, when these ingredients are combined with other nourishing ingredients like Shea Butter and Aloe Vera, you get that cooling effect while simultaneously leaving your skin moisturized and silky smooth.
So, how does CBD fit into the equation? CBD can have anti-inflammatory properties when taken orally as well as when applied topically. So, when combined with other plant-based ingredients with their own powerful effects, CBD can add another layer of soothing to your muscles and provide you utmost relaxation.
Do not apply menthol to any open cuts or wounds on the skin that could be easily irritated. Also, remember to wash your hands after using topical menthol. As great as it is for achy muscles, menthol can burn if it gets in the eyes or open cuts!
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