People who live with pain, whether the pain is chronic or temporary, often seek natural alternatives or supplementary treatments that provide relief.
Menthol is a very popular natural pain relief ingredient, often incorporated into topical balms and gels meant to be applied directly to the source of the pain.
People turn to menthol because it works well. It’s safe, effective, and can be used as often as needed to provide quick relief to nagging aches and pains.
Evidence for the efficacy of menthol is backed by clinical research, with most people reporting the severity of their pain-reducing within minutes after applying topicals formulated with menthol.
Why Use Menthol Instead of Other Treatments?
Many people dealing with pain that lasts longer than a few days are hesitant to use strong prescription pain medications.
These pain medications can be sedating and habit forming, even when used over a short period of time. They aren’t intended to be used for the management of chronic pain and should be discontinued after the acute phase of pain has passed.
There are also over-the-counter pain medications, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. These pain medications are recognized as safe in limited amounts, but long-term or frequent use can cause serious side effects. Ibuprofen can cause damage to the stomach, and acetaminophen can cause damage to the liver.
While these medications may be valuable for occasional breakthrough pain, daily reliance on these medications is unwise. Swapping relief for side effects that can cause additional pain isn’t sustainable. Always follow the directions on the packaging before using over-the-counter pain relievers.
This is where menthol becomes a perfect solution. It doesn’t have any addictive potential, it won’t damage the inside of your body when applied topically, and it can safely be used as often as needed. Its effects can last several hours.
Once the menthol has completely worn away, more menthol can be applied if desired.
How Does Menthol Work?
There are receptors all over your skin that are sensitive to the sensation of cold. When they’re activated, they make the surrounding area feel colder than it actually is.
Menthol is known as a counter-irritant. The pain creates an irritating sensation, and so does the menthol. In response, the irritation from the menthol counterbalances the irritation from the discomfort. The two meet in the middle, and the sensation of the menthol becomes the dominant feeling.
As the menthol wears off, many people notice that their pain has naturally reduced.
Is Menthol Effective?
Menthol has been studied for its potential relief benefits for several types of pain.
One small study testing the effects of menthol against the effects of placebo on the hands of working men with carpal tunnel syndrome found that participants experienced greater relief with menthol.
The workers were divided into two groups. Half of the participants received a gel prepared with real menthol, while the other half received a gel made with menthol fragrance. At the halfway point, the groups switched. The group receiving the menthol-based treatment reported.
A sports medicine study compared the effects of ice and menthol on pain and soreness relating to workouts that targeted the elbow flexor. Participants were evaluated for pain 20 minutes after receiving ice or menthol gel. The participants who received menthol gel reported more significant relief.
Patients who used menthol had more than double the amount of tetanic force when using their elbow flexor than the patients who used ice. Tetanic force refers to the ability to sustain a purposeful muscle contraction. In short, the ability to use the affected muscle was greater among the group who received menthol.
This doesn’t necessarily indicate that the menthol resolved the source of the pain, but that the menthol removed some of the inhibitions naturally caused by the pain. Participants felt enough relief to flex their muscles without excessive discomfort.
While these studies provide a solid foundation for menthol research, larger-scale projects are in the works. Sloan Kettering is currently conducting ongoing research on menthol as a pain reliever and the channels by which it works.
Is Menthol Safe?
Menthol is an oil that naturally occurs in mint plants. It’s often used to flavor toothpaste and gum. Most people encounter some form of menthol or mint extracts in their daily lives, and the general verdict is that menthol is suitable for most people.
Menthol is safe and unlikely to cause side effects when used as directed. Menthol should only be applied externally at appropriate concentrations. It shouldn’t be applied to mucous membranes, on broken skin, or anywhere near the eyes. It should only be applied at the approximated source of the pain.
Take note that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Menthol is very potent and produces significant effects, even in small concentrations. Don’t use pure menthol on your skin. The menthol in pain relief products has been properly diluted for safety.
Pure menthol is exceedingly strong and may act as an irritant. Keep that in mind when the label of a product lists the menthol concentration as a single-digit number. That’s exactly what you want to see, and it means the product will be gentler on the skin.
Menthol products shouldn’t be applied to skin that is hot to the touch. If you’ve just taken a hot bath or used a heating pad, wait for your skin to dry and rest at room temperature.
The cooling sensation of the menthol may be too intense when your skin perceives real heat, and the heat opens your pores. This can cause rapid absorption of menthol, making the sensation overwhelming.
Side effects are very rare and minimal when they do occur. People with an allergy to menthol obviously should not use products formulated with menthol. Most doctors will promote the use of similar topicals to their patients.
Hempvana Arthritis Pain Relief Gel is Formulated with Menthol
Hempvana Arthritis Pain Relief Gel utilizes the cooling power of menthol to provide targeted relief to achy joints. Each jar contains 8% menthol to promote maximum cool relief.
Hempvana pain relief gel smells minty. It doesn’t have the same potent and unfortunate medicine smell that many topical products have. You’ll find that Hempvana is more agreeable than similar products that stink up the room.
Massage the gel into the aching joint for relief that takes effect within minutes. The hemp seed oil in the gel makes it easy to massage the area while helping the ingredients penetrate and moisturizing the skin.
Acute Effect of Topical Menthol on Chronic Pain in Slaughterhouse Workers with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Triple-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial | Hindawi
Mechanistic studies of the menthol receptor TRPM8: a novel target for analgesic drugs | National Institutes of Health