Menthol is either derived naturally from peppermint or other mint oils or synthetically manufactured. When used as an active ingredient in over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, menthol has a number of different uses. Depending on the dose and form, menthol can be used to relieve coughs; help control plaque or kill bacteria that can contribute to the development of gingivitis; relieve oral discomfort associated with canker sores, injury of the mouth and gums, sore throat, fever blisters, or cold sores; relieve minor aches and pains of muscles and joints; and relieve irritated lips and skin.
When taken orally or used topically in or around the mouth, menthol can be the only ingredient in topical cough suppressant medicines (such as lozenges or sprays) or it can be combined with other ingredients in oral multi-symptom cough and cold medicines, anti-gingivitis and anti-plaque products, or oral discomfort products.
Products used externally for topical pain relief may contain either menthol alone or menthol in combination with other active ingredients. Menthol can also be combined with other active ingredients in cough suppressant medicines (such as chest rubs and steam vaporizers) and skin protectants.
Menthol is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is safe and effective when used according to the Drug Facts label directions. Because menthol can be found in a number of different medicines that contain more than one active ingredient, you should always read the Drug Facts label carefully for a complete listing of ingredients.