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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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Paul
    3 years ago

    I believe the first item in the toolkit referred to in the article is spelled MygraStick. I also use these as I love the cool feeling of menthol – yet don’t like the smell to be too overwhelming as I sometimes have sensitivity to smell during an attack. The lavender evens the scent off nicely and it’s not too much, even for someone like me with a sensitive sense of smell.

  • Susan L
    3 years ago

    I’ve used a product called Cryoderm for several years now that has 15% menthol & is a roll-on. I have never mentioned it here before because my hubby have an online business where we sell durable medical equipment. I discussed Cryoderm at one of the medical trade shows we attended, and bought a tune for myself. I couldn’t believe how much relief I got from using it by rolling on the menthol on my temples & neck. I also use it on my wrists & knees. But, again, since we sell it, I feel reticent to mention it. Not it is my lifesaver go-to!

  • Jen T
    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing the information on menthol-containing products. I’m always searching for pain-relieving items to add to my migraine “toolkit”. I recently tried SalonPas pads-they work well. These stick better than the migraine gel patches I’ve been using for years.

  • mrst53
    3 years ago

    At least 75 yrs ago, my Grandmother wrapped a scarf tight around her head that was dipped in camphor. The reason, she told my aunt, was to keep her “brains from falling out” She had terrible migraine headaches. Back then, there was nothing to treat them, except whatever homemade cures you had. Funny how things “go around” I haven’t tried the Vicks for migraines, but have used it for sinus headaches. 2 of my uncles by this grandmother had migraines until age 50 and then they left, none of the aunts. It skipped the generation and then a lot of the grandkids got it and boy did we get it.

  • Lisa A
    3 years ago

    This is a good article and again raises awareness of all of the so-called “quick cures” for migraines. Yea, right. So I bought the baby bath formula with the vapor just for kicks really but thought it couldn’t hurt. And yes, I STILL am having migraines but it is another little comfy scent for the shower. Actually, I carry around the simple VICKS vapo rub and apply it when needed. It is inexpensive and helps me. I also use bio freeze as it isn’t sticky.
    I think the menthol ‘helps” in relieving the severity of the symptoms and feels cool and fresh but it isn’t a cure all—not yet,anyway.

  • inquisitivespirit
    3 years ago

    I find menthol containing cough lollies are an awesome distraction. I keep it in my mouth and when I breath or drink water the cold sensation is heightened.

  • Judy
    3 years ago

    I swear by Origins “Peace of Mind” Sensory Therapy (I actually have it spread all over my forehead as I type!) I never go anywhere without a bottle of it in my pocketbook and keep one by my bedside at all times as I usually get nighttime migraines. I also am so keen on this product I keep several spares in my drawer and give them away to fellow migraine sufferers who have never heard of it before. It runs along the same lines as the Tiger Balm although not as strong but it is little and easily portable. I also like Icy Hot Naturals pain relief cream (menthol 7.5%). I use BioFreeze on my back and neck and it is a wonderful product for tight muscles. Am anxious to try some of the others mentioned in the article as well. I’ll take all the help I can get!

  • SamanthaAnn
    3 years ago

    I was introduced to Lavender and Peppermint oils by my sister and now I don’t leave home without them! She worked at a Holistic Healing-type store and had a customer come in with a migraine attack so bad her eyes were swollen shut. After applying the oils, her eyes weren’t puffy anymore within minutes.
    I have Tiger Balm as well, but I learned quickly NOT to apply it to my temples like I can with the oils. The vapors from it are so strong that they burn the eyes.
    Based on my experiences, I would describe the menthol feeling as more distracting my mind from the pain, rather than truly relieving it. But, no matter how, it does help and that means I’m all for it!

  • Nonster
    3 years ago

    Do you apply both oils at the same time? Alternate? Where all do you put them? I want to try them. Thank you for your help!

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