Menthol – the cold fragrance magic

In the past, menthol was used in mixtures with camphor, peppermint, eucalyptus and sage in cold-drops or creams against rhinitis.
In the meantime, it has been incorporated in other areas of application. In sauna and wellness-facilities infusions with menthol addition are now very widespread and have become vital. The cool and icy menthol effect is a fixed component of polar ice infusions, in heroic Terminator infusions it even is the center of the show, rotgut infusions use the cold-unfavorable properties.
The cooling effect in the usage of menthol occurs through the contact with the cold receptors on the skin. Due to the quick evaporation via the receptors a cold stimulus is activated, which causes a seemingly cooling effect. The skin temperature stays constant and the cooling effect is therefore only simulated.
Menthol is a white to colorless, needle-shaped crystal that is mainly pulled out of the essential oils of plants of the menthe family and other labiates.
The winning of the crystalline menthol is performed by freezing out the ultrapure peppermint oil by minus 40 °C. The most plain peppermint odor contains the left-turning menthol, which is extracted from the Mentha piperita plant.
Mostly the japanese peppermint and the chinese Mentha arvansis, which both contain more than 70% menthol, are used for the manufacturing of mint oil. Important cultivation areas exist besides the heartlands also in USA, Brasilia and India. Many other plants, mainly labiates, i.e. rosemary, thyme and sage as well as some nettle species also contain little amounts of menthol. It is soluble in alcohol or essential oils, but not in water. 
Every year about 20.000 tons of menthol are manufactured, whereby around 70% come from natural plant-based mint oil with the rest being produced synthetically.
Menthol is versatile:

  • As disinfecting addititve in spray agents, i.e. against mites in beehives
  • In food products: Candies and liquors (main application field)
  • Fragrance area: perfumes and scented fragrances
  • In spa and wellness: Experience showers, sauna infusions, ice fountains
  • Cosmetics and hygiene: Toiletry, hair tonic, bath products, dental and oral care products
  • Medicine: Ointments and rubs against skin irritations due to insect bites, minor burns and anti itching. In ointments menthol can also have an antispasmodic effect, i.e. for gastrointestinal discomforts.

However, it should always been paid attention: Careful with overdosage! As with many other things, menthol is harmful in too great quantities. Therefore, always read the instructions on the package. And don’t remove the crystals with bare hands.