Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw’s®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 16 No. 4 • April 2013

Powerful Punch of Evidence-Supported
Aromatherapy: Menthol Protects Against Beta
Amyloid Peptide Induced Cognitive Deficits in Mice

A surprising new paper1 reports that menthol, a constituent of essential oils (e.g., peppermint and other mint oils) that have been used since the time of ancient Egypt and are now considered part of the aromatherapy wing of alternative medicine, provided significant protection in aged and beta-amyloid protein-treated mice against cognitive decline. Sniff, baby, sniff!

One particularly nice thing about menthol is that it is readily available, safe and inexpensive, and easy to use. In fact, menthol (frequently in combination with eucalyptus, camphor, and thymol) is a commonly used and effective bronchodilator that, unlike bronchodilator drugs such as beta-adrenergic agonists, does not cause cardiac arrhythmias or other adverse reactions.

The researchers reported that menthol administered successively for 10 days significantly increased the amount of time spent in the target quadrant of the dreaded Morris water maze in young mice, thus showing improved spatial learning and memory. Moreover, “pre-treatment with menthol reversed the amnesia induced in animals upon treatment with beta-amyloid on 10th day.” Menthol improved working memory in both aged and young mice, with the potentiation of working memory more profound with 100 mg/kg s.c. menthol. Other studies were cited in which menthol exhibited anticholinesterase inhibitory activity and increased intracellular ATP in nerve cells (which the researchers proposed may have an inhibitory effect on ATP gated potassium channels).

Beta-amyloid peptide treatment administered to young mice on day 7 reduced glutathione content (increased oxidative stress).

Pretreatment with menthol showed a significant increase in glutathione content, reversing the increased oxidative stress seen in the animals not pretreated with menthol.

“Higher dose of menthol also improves the brain function through decrease in malondialdehyde level [lipid peroxidation product] in aged and beta-amyloid treated mice. Lower dose of menthol (100 mg/kg s.c.) showed improvement in spatial working memory as compared to higher dose.”1

One easy way to use menthol is to buy it as a spray, spray a couple of spritzes into a Kleenex® tissue, then hold over your nose and breathe deeply a few times.

Whether enough menthol can be obtained by inhalation of its vapor was not determined by this experiment since it was administered by subcutaneous injection. Never­theless, peppermint oil can certainly be taken orally, though we recommend diluting it with a vegetable cooking oil to prevent irritation. Note that menthol delivered by either peppermint hard candy or smoking (though we do not recommend smoking to obtain menthol) is directly absorbed by the oral and nasal mucosa and efficiently transported to the brain.


  1. Bhadania et al. Protective effect of menthol on beta-amyloid peptide induced cognitive deficits in mice. Eur J Pharmacol. 681:50-4 (2012).

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