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The Benefits of Menthol             3

       Menthol is natural cyclic terpene alcohol from plant
       origin and has been used since antiquity for medicinal
       purposes. Today Menthol can be found in both prescription
       and OTC medications for a range of different conditions. It
       is also used in Dermatology where it is frequently
       prescribed for its antipruritic properties.
       Despite its widespread use the mechanism by which
       Menthol is able to impart a cooling sensation when applied
       topically to the skin remained a mystery until early 2002.
       Two independent studies by McKemy et al and Peier et al
       identified a 1104 amino acid cation channel receptor -   Furthermore, the authors
       TRPM8. This receptor, cloned and characterized, could be   suggested that this effect provided a molecular basis for
       activated by both Menthol and a thermal stimuli in the cool   the antinociceptive and local anaesthetic properties of
       to cold range 8 - 28C. This proves that Menthol acts as an   this compound.
       agonist for a thermally sensitive receptor. Psychophysical   CONCLUSION
       studies have also shown that menthol evokes a cool
       sensation to the skin or mucous membrane.   Menthol is widely used in the UK, especially dermatology,
                                            where it is frequently part of topical antipruritic, analgesic,
       ANTIPRURITIC BENEFITS OF             antiseptic, and cooling preparations, such as Menthol in a
       TOPICAL MENTHOL                      topical cream base. It has an excellent safety and toxicity
       The precise mechanism by which menthol alleviates   profile. As highlighted by Patel et al the recent discovery
       pruritus is unknown and the optimal concentration of   of the TRPM8 receptor finally provides the answer to how
       menthol for the relief of pruritus has yet to be fully   menthol can elicit the same cool sensation as low
       established. Different opioid receptors have contrasting   temperatures.
       effects upon pruritus. Menthol has been shown to
       selectively activate k-opioid receptors, and Patel et al    UNDECYLENIC ACID
       postulated that this mechanism may also possibly explain   Is an organic compound often derived from Castor Oil
       the antipruritic properties of this compound. He also noted   (ricinoleic acid). It is produced by “cracking” Castor oil
       that patients who suffer from chronic pruritic conditions,   under pressure and, in higher strengths can be used as a
       such as atopic dermatitis, uremic pruritus and psoriasis   powerful antifungal agent for a variety of pathogenic fungi.
       report an apparent itch reduction by taking a cold shower.   Primarily undecylenic acid is the active ingredient in many
       Therefore, it is possible that the cooling sensation menthol   medications for skin infections, which relieves itching,
       imparts to the skin serves as a possible mechanism to   burning, and irritation. For example, it is used against
       reduce itch perception in certain patients.   fungal skin infections, such as athlete’s foot, ringworm.
       TOPICAL MENTHOL                      Relatively small doses of undecylenic acid and its salts
       In a recent study, Haeseler et al concluded that menthol   have been shown to have powerful antifungal properties,
       blocks voltage-gated neuronal and skeletal muscle   and the dosages necessary to achieve therapeutic benefit
       sodium channels in a concentration-dependent manner in   appear to be safe.
       resting and inactivated states.

       1. British National Formulary (BNF), LEVOMENTHOL,, (last accessed 15th January 2024)
       2.  National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Topical local antipruritics, (last accessed 15th January
       3.  National Health Service (NHS), Itching and intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy,
        cholestasis/ (last accessed 15th January 2024)
       4. Patel et al., ‘Menthol: A refreshing look at this ancient compound’ Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, vol. 57, no 5, 2007, pp. 873-878.
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