We’ve previously explored capsaicin, the most potent element in chili peppers. We’ve observed its role in creating a fiery sensation in the mouth by attaching to receptors typically sensitive to heat. Menthol functions in a similar manner, albeit by binding to oral receptors responsible for sensing cold. Its action doesn’t genuinely reduce the temperature; it cleverly deceives nerve cells into perceiving the mouth as cooler than its actual state. Subsequently, these nerve cells transmit this modified information to the brain.
However, the invigorating impact of menthol is not its sole influence on the body. Scientific investigations have validated its pain-relieving properties, which explain its inclusion in numerous creams, gels, and patches intended to alleviate different discomforts, ranging from muscle soreness to headaches. The spectrum of items incorporating menthol is extensive, spanning aftershave lotions, decongestants, mouthwashes, and more. Chances are, you utilize menthol on a daily basis, often without recognizing it.
Evidently, the quantity of naturally occurring menthol available falls far short of demand. Experts estimate the annual requirement to be 35,000 tons. To meet this demand, manufacturers have been synthesizing menthol in increasingly larger quantities since 1973.
It is observable that menthol exhibits optical isomerism; it naturally exists in the form of a single optical isomer, the one possessing the refreshing property (in theory, two mirror-image forms of the molecule could exist, but only one of these forms is found in nature).
The other isomer that chemists are capable of synthesizing in the laboratory does not provide any refreshing effect, undoubtedly because the minute difference between the two isomers is enough for one of them to fail in activating the receptors that detect cold.