If you’ve experienced congestion, and we all have, you know it’s not only a miserable feeling but it also, mechanically, can be difficult to breathe. Regular lung cleansing may just be the answer to many respiratory ailments. We’re always breathing so, unlike some conditions, which may be easy to temporarily ignore, clogged sinuses and lung congestion are a constant and literal in-your-face malady that can make every second miserable. When congestion or upper respiratory irritation happens, most of us long for days prior when easy breathing wasn’t even a thought. Fortunately, menthol crystals can help provide that relief as studies have demonstrated that menthol reduces bronchoconstriction and airway hyperresponsiveness.
Often found in mouthwashes, toothpaste, balms, and a host of other products, menthol is the primary active ingredient in essential oil of peppermint that provides the familiar cooling sensation and minty odor and taste. Menthol crystals are produced by rapidly cooling the essential oil of peppermint. Menthol crystals are very concentrated and beneficial if added to a lung cleansing formula in small amounts.
Menthol Crystals for Cough and Congestion Support
Lung cleansing products that contain menthol crystals can provide tremendous relief for symptoms of congestion, upper respiratory problems, sore throat and coughs. In fact, most lozenges, cough drops, and respiratory balms will list menthol as the chief ingredient. It’s no surprise, if you’re congested and start inhaling the scent of menthol crystals, you can almost feel the menthol vapors attacking and breaking up lung congestion. The cooling and soothing sensation can be very relieving.
Although many ready-to-use lung cleansing products such as Allertrex® contain menthol crystals, they’re also easy to use in several at-home remedies. Adding menthol crystals to hot water and inhaling the vapors can begin to soothe congestion and irritated nasal or throat passages. Before getting in the shower, try dissolving some menthol crystals in a little water and add a few drops to the shower walls. The steam will release the menthol and provide you with an invigorating shower that provides aromatherapeutic benefits.
Research Supports the Efficacy of Menthol
An article in Professional Care of Mother and Child noted that menthol can be extremely effective for blocked nasal passages. Furthermore, when used to relieve cough symptoms, menthol, unlike other cough suppressant formulas, does not contain antihistamines, which often result in drowsiness. A separate article in the same publication cited menthol as an effective remedy for nasal congestion.
A study by the Department of Respiratory Medicine at the Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan found that menthol was very beneficial for respiratory symptoms because of its ability to inhibit airway smooth muscle contraction.
In a related vein, research conducted by the Monell Chemical Senses Center and published in Pulmonary Pharmacology & Therapeutics found that inhaling menthol vapors significantly decreases coughing. The tendency of menthol to reduce the cough reflex explains why menthol alone is an active ingredient in many respiratory therapeutic products and may be almost as effective as pharmaceutical products with drugs added. Unfortunately, the reduction in airway sensitivity may also explain the questionable practice of some cigarette manufacturers to add menthol to their products.
The Common Cold and Nasal Research Centre in the United Kingdom published an article in the May, 2003 edition of Current Allergy and Asthma Reports that said, “With the recent discovery of a menthol receptor on the sensory nerves that modulate the cool sensation, menthol has graduated from the realms of herbal medicine into the field of molecular pharmacology.”
Health Benefits of Peppermint Oil
Essential oils are an excellent way to concentrate the benefits of therapeutic herbs and essential oils for nearly all herbs are available. One of the most beneficial is peppermint oil, which is extracted by steam distillation from the peppermint, or mentha piperita, plant. The primary component of peppermint oil is menthol which provides the familiar flavor and cooling sensation, but peppermint oil also contains various minerals, vitamin A, vitamin C, and fatty acids.
Peppermint oil can be used to address a wide range of health ailments, both internally and externally. It’s an ingredient in many lotions and ointments. Topical application can relieve aches and pains, benefit the skin, and a few drops on the wrist is even a common recommendation to relieve a headache. Peppermint oil is commonly used in aromatherapy, many people will inhale the vapors to sooth their respiratory tract and lungs. Peppermint oil also has internal use to combat indigestion and harmful organisms.
Peppermint Oil and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
It’s no secret that peppermint oil can relax the smooth muscles of the respiratory tract, but did you know it can do the same to the smooth muscles in your GI tract? There are many OTC remedies for symptoms of IBS and many of them contain peppermint oil, with good reason. The Department of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter in the UK examined over a dozen studies that collectively indicated peppermint oil was effective in relieving IBS symptoms. Much evidence suggests that, when compared to available drugs for IBS, peppermint oil may be the best choice to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life for IBS patients.
Peppermint Oil and Harmful Organisms
Many essential oils are known to be resistant to most harmful organisms. Peppermint oil is no exception and its menthol content has even been found to be effective against mosquitos and head lice.
Peppermint Oil and Bacteria
Peppermint oil is toxic to bacteria by way of chemicals which have antioxidant potential. When evaluated for resistance to bacteria, peppermint oil and its components: camphor, menthol, and carvacrol have been found to be effective; notably, carvacrol has the highest activity. Other studies have evaluated and confirmed the antioxidant and potential of peppermint oil and a Syrian study even found peppermint oil to be effective against a strain of microbes known to target livestock.
Peppermint Oil and Fungus
The general resistance of essential oils to fungus is well documented and peppermint oil is no exception. Indian and Iranian researchers have shown that peppermint oil holds potential for managing fungal infections, including candida. Their assertion was backed up by the Institute for Biological Research in Serbia where researchers observed fungicide behavior from peppermint oil. The Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran also, after a comprehensive review, concluded that menthol is resistant to fungus, including candida. Similarly, Brazil’s State University of Campinas found essential oils of three different peppermint varieties to be anti-candida.
One of the most positive discoveries about peppermint oil was found by the US Air Force 375th Medical Group Family Medicine Residency Program who conducted a study of 18 participants suffering from fungal nail infection. During the 48 week study, the participants applied a vapor rub that contained menthol to their nails. All 18 reported positive changes in their nail appearance by the end of the study.