Using menthol to help migraine

In March, articles started circulating on social media about the benefits of Johnson’s Vapor Bath for relieving the pain of migraine. It started with someone’s Facebook claim that using this product nightly had “cured” her migraines. Fortunately, some press outlets learned from their poor coverage of daith piercing by actually getting comments from a true headache specialist. The UK’s Daily Mail interviewed Dr. Peter Goadsby and included his take on the issue,

"There's good documentation migraine sufferers will go through good periods and bad periods. The disorder randomly varies. It may be the shower gel or she may be in a period where she's randomly better. And I don't want to be cynical, but it's likely this lady's migraine is controlled but not cured. However, studies show menthol, one of the ingredients in the product, can relieve migraines. This is because it activates the menthol receptor in the skin, which makes us feel cooler. "

He went on to explain that any product containing menthol may help improve migraine management because it activates receptors that produce a cooling sensation. Many migraine patients report that applying ice packs reduces the pain of a migraine. Goadsby also reminded patients not stop medications and consult with their doctors about any change in treatment. That’s good advice whenever we’re thinking about making a change.


He also pointed out that this particular product isn’t the only one with menthol. Any product containing menthol could produce the same results. I discovered this several years ago and now include several menthol-containing items in my toolkit. Here are some of my favorites:

MigraStick is a small tube filled with essential oils of peppermint and lavender. The applicator tip is a metal roller ball, so it can be discretely and easily applied wherever you feel pain.

Tiger Balm is an ointment that can be applied to relieve pain. It can be very strong and some forumlations tend to stain clothing. There is a non-staining version that I prefer. I use it sparingly because too much can irritate the skin and cause redness.

BioFreeze is gentler than Tiger Balm. It is a gel-based formula that does not cause staining or run the same risk of skin irritation. It feels more like aloe vera gel on application.

SalonPas are medicated pads that stick on the skin, delivering its ingredients over time. I like to use these for neck stiffness and pain brought on during a migraine attack.

What menthol products have you tried? Tell us about your experience and share your favorites.

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