A Little Background on Menthol
In the beginning of the 19th century, menthol arrived on the shores of America and almost instantly gained popularity. Menthol also known as ‘mentha pepperita, occurs naturally within the Mentha Arvensis botanical, which is the main mint variety used to obtain menthol crystals. Menthol is commonly extracted from mint by a freezing process of the essential oil. The crystals are captured during the filtering process. Other herbs such as peppermint, had been used for centuries all over the world with a multitude of applications. So, it was no surprise that the healing properties of menthol crystals were easily accepted by the mainstream.
The Cooling Science Behind Menthol
And scientists now know that menthol actually tricks our brains and skin into the cool sensation because menthol activates the same receptor on nerve endings that’s involved in sensing cold, says David McKemy, a neurobiologist at the University of Southern California.
Menthol doesn’t actually change skin temperature, but it does produce a cooling sensation. In 2001, scientists proved that menthol has the ability to bind to and open up pores or cold- sensitive nerve receptors, a protein called TRPM8. There is an ion channel in human nerve cells called the transient receptor potential melastatin member 8 (TRPM8) which senses both coldness and
menthol, transmitting cooling sensations by releasing calcium.
They believe, by opening up these channels, menthol helps your skin receive more outside air which is typically quite a bit cooler than the air inside your body or on its surface. Your body’s temperature remains the same, but menthol helps it pull in a cooler feeling.
Menthol has also been found to provide local anesthetic, counterirritant and penetration enhancement qualities for the transdermal delivery of additional ingredients that aid in soothing sore muscles.