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What are the benefits of menthol?

Updated April 17, 2017

Menthol is an organic, minty substance in clear or white crystal form that's extracted synthetically from peppermint essential oil. Its pungent, refreshing aroma has various health and wellness benefits.

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Sore Throat and Cough Remedy

Menthol is commonly added to cough drops and cough medicines to help relieve sore throats, coughs, and mouth and throat irritations.

Topical Analgesic

Many menthol creams exist that are intended for rubbing directly on the skin to help relieve muscle aches and cramps, sprains, skin irritations, and headaches. Menthol creams are popular among athletes.

Decongestant

Menthol helps relieve nasal and chest congestion for people who have colds. Vicks VapoRub, a popular drugstore product, is a salve containing menthol that's rubbed directly onto the chest. Menthol can also be found in some brands of facial tissues.

Cooling Agent

Some products intended to help relieve sunburn contain menthol, because it helps cool and refresh the skin.

Oral Hygiene

Many dental-related products, such as toothpastes, floss picks, and mouthwashes, contain menthol to help cleanse and freshen the mouth and prevent bad breath.

Warnings and Considerations

Do not apply any product containing menthol to sensitive areas of the skin; the product's cooling effect will become intensified and uncomfortable. Also, when choosing cough drops to aid in cough suppression, be wary of large amounts of added sugars that can negatively affect your health. Do not swallow pure menthol, as a dangerous overdose can occur.

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About the Author

Originally from Indiana but now based in upstate New York, Lisanne Jensen has written professionally since 1988. Her journalism career includes government and features reporting for several Indiana newspapers, book editing, and marketing/graphic design. She holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in journalism and French from Indiana University.

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