Menthol is found in the oil of mints. It can be used as a local anaesthetic and has counter-irritant properties. Its cooling properties when inhaled, eaten or applied to the skin result from chemical stimulation of cold-sensitive receptors in the skin. This is similar to the action of capsaicin, which, in contrast, stimulates the heat sensors.
The cooling action of menthol has led to its use in treatments for sunburn and itching, while it is also commonly used for short-term relief of minor throat infections. It is one of the ingredients of decongestants such as Vicks Vaporub and is commonly used in oral hygiene products.
Mints are members of the extensive Labiatae family and have conspicuously square stems revealed by gently twiddling them between the fingers. They are indispensible in a kitchen garden since flavours range from spearmint to choclolate to lemon!
Although the smell and taste of mints are pleasant to humans, they deter ants and some moths, leading to their use for natural pest control.
The mints are grown in the Labiatae beds on Systematics, alongside key other herbs in the family including thymes, rosemarys and lavenders.