Menthol is a type of organic compound that can be found in nature, specifically in plants from the mint family. Menthol can also be manufactured artificially. This compound is used in many types of products especially since it is supposed to have therapeutic effects. Menthol was first isolated in 1771 from peppermint oil in the West. But there is speculation that Japan may have been using it already for a far longer time.
A majority of the uses for menthol are closely related to its quality of being able to stimulate the skin's cold receptors. What this means is that menthol gives off a cooling effect when it is applied on the skin or when it is inhaled. In much the same way that capsaicin affects the heat receptors, menthol does the same to cold receptors without affecting or changing the skin's temperature. The substance only produces the sensation of a change in temperature.
Menthol's cooling properties has made it an essential ingredient in products whose purpose is to relieve soreness or skin irritation, or to relieve sore throat or nasal congestion. It is also used for the treatment of fever, sunburn and to ease muscle aches. Asian medical practitioners also recommend menthol to relieve diarrhea, indigestion, nausea and colds. When menthol is used as a supplement the form in which it is taken is usually as peppermint oil. Some of the products in the market that contain menthol include toothpaste, lip balm, mouthwash, cigarettes, gum, and cough drops.