It can be easy to pick up the first thing you see on the shelf, but to be a true advocate for your own health you should be educated on the items that you utilize on and in your body. This article will go into detail about menthol, its uses, where it comes from, the history of menthol, as well as alternatives. Being more informed about menthol can allow you to utilize it to its maximum therapeutic benefit.
What is Menthol?
Menthol is a compound that provides a cooling and soothing sensation on the surface of the skin. The compound is derived from peppermint oils and is the ingredient that makes mint flavoring has a cooling sensation in the mouth.
Menthol is able to be refined from the oils of mint and concentrated to provide a longer-lasting and stronger effect. In its pure form menthol is a white soluble crystalline solid. Since it is soluble it can readily be added to different products easily.
Below is a list of common everyday products that contain menthol:
- Topical Pain Relief Products – One of the best utilization of menthol is as a topical pain reliever. Menthol as a topical is able to simulate the cooling sensation of icing an area. Hempvana’s Cold as Ice Gel can provide a fast-acting cooling relief to temporarily alleviate occasional aches and pains.
- Mouthwash – Menthol in mouthwash is utilized for its cooling analgesic effect. Many popular types of mouthwash utilize menthol also to help flavor the mouthwash naturally.
- Cough Drops – Many cough drops contain a percentage of menthol to help alleviate irritation in the throat. Menthol is dissolved into the lozenge and as the lozenge dissolves in the mouth, the menthol is released over time.
- Lip Moisturizer – Cracked and dry lips can be irritating and painful. Menthol can be added to lip moisturizers to provide a cooling sensation. Menthol in lip balms can be too much for some people to handle on the sensitive skin of the lips. Hempvana’s Intensive Therapy Lip Balm contains vitamin E, wheat germ oil, PABA, and aloe vera that is able to provide a more subdued cooling sensation that is able to soothe and nourish even the driest of lips.
How is Menthol Used for Pain?
- Gel: Menthol-containing gel is a good way of applying menthol because the gel is able to effectively deliver the menthol to the surface of the skin. The gel itself will also provide a physically cool application of the menthol which can amplify the cooling sensation. The gel can be applied generously for more severe pains or more sparingly for slight relief.
One of the downsides to a gel is that it needs to be applied with the hands. This can be potentially dangerous as the transfer of menthol from the hands to the eyes can occur. Menthol can be an irritant to the eyes and can be painful. Being cautious and washing your hands after applying a menthol gel can reduce the chances of this occurring.
- Roll-On: The roll-on applicator is a great mess-free option for getting menthol’s cooling relief. Hempvana Cold as Ice Roll-On utilizes a ball applicator to effectively apply a thin layer of menthol-enriched rub to the skin’s surface. This allows for a zero mess application that doesn’t require getting menthol on the hands.
- Patch: A gel patch is able to get the best of both worlds. With the gel prepared on an adhesive patch, you just need to open the packaging, apply it to the site, and feel the sweet relief of menthol. The patch allows the menthol to continuously make contact with the skin and optimize temporary pain relief. It also allows for a mess-free application of quick pain relief.
An added bonus of the patch is that it can be used on the go. The Hempvana Cold As Ice Pain Relief Gel Patch can provide 8 hours of pain relief with a single patch. The long-lasting relief of a patch means that you can go about your day with minimal pain.
Where Does Menthol Come From?
Menthol can be synthetically derived through the hydrogenation of thymol or the extraction of menthol from peppermint oil.
Thymol is an oil that is extracted from herb thyme. Thyme does not contain menthol but the thymol within the thyme is able to be chemically altered to form menthol. There are many chemical procedures to convert thymol to menthol, but the basic science is the same.
The chemical composition of menthol and thymol are actually quite similar. Thymol is essentially dehydrogenated menthol. In this form, the molecule lacks hydrogens around the central hexane ring structure. The synthesis involves chemically adding hydrogens to this ring through the use of enzymes, heat, and other manipulations.
The synthesis of menthol from thymol is one of the most common ways to produce menthol. It has a relatively high yield and is not a very expensive method.
The extraction of menthol from peppermint oil is another method of getting isolated menthol for the utilization in products. The procedure utilizes the manipulation of the peppermint oil to get the menthol out of the mixture.
Separation chemistry is the science of extracting the components of a mixture and refining them to a pure form. For the extraction of menthol fractional distillation is utilized. This method takes advantage of the different boiling points of the molecules in the mixture. Menthol has a different boiling point than the rest of the mixture. This allows the menthol to be evaporated, the vapor to be caught, and the vapor to be condensed.
Extraction is a less common way to obtain menthol because it tends to be more expensive. Peppermint oil from peppermint plants typically only contains a percent of menthol. This means that more peppermint oil is needed to obtain the same amount of menthol as the synthesis method. With a lower yield, menthol extraction is a less common way of getting menthol.
Both methods are able to get menthol but it should be noted that the menthol is slightly different. The differences between the menthol molecules are subtle but enough to cause some differences. One of the most present differences is the scent of the molecules. The naturally occurring separation method yields menthol that has a stronger fresh scent. These differences are small yet it is the main driving factor for why the separation method is still utilized despite being less efficient.
Alternatives to Menthol
- Trolamine Salicylate – Trolamine salicylate is an analgesic that provides pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. There are topicals that utilize trolamine salicylate to provide topical relief. The added anti-inflammatory qualities allow for targeted pain relief much like that provided by menthol but with the added bonus of reducing inflammation. You can find 10% trolamine salicylate in Hempvana’s Pain Relief Cream!
- Ice – Ice is another way to achieve regional pain relief. Ice provides pain relief by numbing the area and reducing inflammation. Ice is a great option to treat an injury immediately following the accident.