Menthol: a refreshing look at this ancient compound

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007 Nov;57(5):873-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2007.04.008. Epub 2007 May 10.


Menthol is a naturally occurring cyclic terpene alcohol of plant origin, which has been used since antiquity for medicinal purposes. Its use in dermatology is ubiquitous, where it is frequently part of topical antipruritic, antiseptic, analgesic, and cooling formulations. Despite its widespread use, it was only recently that the mechanism by which menthol elicits the same cool sensation as low temperature was elucidated upon, with the discovery of the TRPM8 receptor. Although almost 5 years have passed since the discovery of this receptor, many dermatologists are still unaware of menthol's underlying target. The purpose of this review is to highlight the recent advances in the mechanism of action of menthol and to provide an overview of its dermatologic applications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Anesthetics, Local / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antifungal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antipruritics / therapeutic use
  • Dermatology / methods
  • Humans
  • Menthol* / administration & dosage
  • Menthol* / pharmacology
  • Menthol* / therapeutic use
  • Olfactory Pathways / drug effects
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • Psychophysics
  • TRPM Cation Channels / drug effects


  • Analgesics
  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antifungal Agents
  • Antipruritics
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • TRPM Cation Channels
  • Menthol