Menthol is an organic compound, with formula C10H20O, made synthetically or obtained from peppermint or mint oils with flavoring and local anesthetic properties.
When added to pharmaceuticals and foods, menthol functions as a fortifier for peppermint flavors. It also has a counter irritant effect on skin and mucous membranes, thereby producing a local analgesic or anesthetic effect.
Applications of Menthol
Menthol has been used to help treat a wide variety of gastrointestinal ailments. For example, menthol can prevent or treat gas and bloating, making it a potential assistive treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and colic, says the University of Michigan Health System. Menthol can also be applied topically to help to relieve itching and inflammation due to contact dermatitis and hives. Topical menthol also helps to relieve headaches, states the University of Maryland Medical Center. Additionally, people have taken menthol orally to treat asthma, bronchitis, colds, flu and other respiratory ailments. No widely-accepted, conclusive scientific evidence supports the use of menthol in treating any medical condition, however.
Menthol acts as a carminative, meaning that it prevents and treats gas in the intestines. Menthol also relaxes the intestinal muscles and prevents spasms. Additionally, menthol has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory actions, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Menthol’s potential use in treating respiratory conditions stems from its ability to dilate the bronchioles, says the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Menthol’s use in treating colds, flu and bronchitis is also related to its expectorant actions, which involves thinning and loosening mucous congestion.