Analgesic substances reduce pain in a variety of ways: as a local anesthetic or anti-nociceptive, and also via the nervous system. The menthol constituent in peppermint has shown topical anti-nociceptive activity, lavender aromatherapy has shown to calm nerves after surgery to help reduce pain, and comfrey has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory and pain reductive folk remedy. Depending on what type of bodily tissue is experiencing pain, differing pain reducing substances and routes may be more effective.
Essential oil constituents with an analgesic activity are reviewed. Included are p-cymene, carvacrol, linalool, eugenol, menthol, alpha-bisabolol, cinnamaldehyde, citronellal, citronellol, citronellyl acetate, alpha-phelandrene, alpha-terpeneol, vanillin, borneol, myrtenol, pulegone, citral, thymol, limonene, nerol, anethole, nerolidol, carvone, farnesol, and beta-caryphyllene. From: Lima, T., da Nóbrega, F., de Brito, A., & de Sousa, D. (2017). Analgesic-like activity of essential oil constituents: an update. International journal of molecular sciences, 18(12), 2392.
ELDER / ELDERBERRY
LEMONGRASS / MYRCENE
PEPPERMINT / SPEARMINT / MENTHOL
In a review of research, menthol was shown to impart a topical cooling effect, desensitizing nociceptors, to offer analgesic activity. From: Pergolizzi Jr, J. V., Taylor Jr, R., LeQuang, J. A., Raffa, R. B., & NEMA Research Group. (2018). The role and mechanism of action of menthol in topical analgesic products. Journal of clinical pharmacy and therapeutics, 43(3), 313-319.
In 22 patients with chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy, application of 1% menthol twice a day for 6 weeks. Side effects were minimal and most of the patients experienced improved function and reduced pain. From: Storey, D. J., Colvin, L. A., Scott, A. C., Boyle, D., Green, L., Jones, A. P., & Fallon, M. T. (2010). Treatment of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) with topical menthol: A phase I study. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 28(15_suppl), 9129-9129.
In 16 subjects, a 3.5% topical menthol was more effective than ice in reducing exercise related muscle soreness and the menthol treatement also showed improved muscle force. From: Johar, P., Grover, V., Topp, R., & Behm, D. G. (2012). A comparison of topical menthol to ice on pain, evoked tetanic and voluntary force during delayed onset muscle soreness. International journal of sports physical therapy, 7(3), 314.
Menthol applied over a 1-week period showed analgesic activity in 10 participants. From: Mahn, F., Hüllemann, P., Wasner, G., Baron, R., & Binder, A. (2014). Topical high‐concentration menthol: reproducibility of a human surrogate pain model. European Journal of Pain, 18(9), 1248-1258.
In ten healthy men, menthol was applied in varying concentrations to the left thigh (0.5, 4.6, and 10 percent). The 4.6% concentration showed the strongest amount of cooling. From: Lasanen, R., Julkunen, P., Airaksinen, O., & Töyräs, J. (2016). Menthol concentration in topical cold gel does not have significant effect on skin cooling. Skin Research and Technology, 22(1), 40-45.
THYMOL / THYME
Compiled by: Kathy Sadowski
Last updated: 2/16/2020