• Erica @ HALE

How This Home Remedy Helps Your Stuffy Nose

Love fall weather. Don't love fall stuffiness.

We’ve all struggled through a cold that seems to never end, leaving us willing to try anything to get some relief. And everyone has some advice about how to make it better: hot water, cold water, and every kind of sleeping position. Another classic home remedy is menthol, which opens up your airways with its minty, tingly scent. But as it turns out, this is actually kind of a myth.

Does Menthol Really Work for Congestion?

Menthol has been commonly used in rubs, inhalants, and candies to alleviate the symptoms nasal congestion. There's a misconception about how it works, though. You see, menthol doesn’t actually clear your blocked passages. But it does make you feel like you're breathing better. How does it do this?

An artist's rendering of what it feels like to use menthol.

Applied topically as an ingredient in products like Vicks Vaporub, menthol works by creating a cooling and numbing sensation. It's kind of like those 5 Gum commercials where people are overcome with minty freshness. But the feeling kind of evades description - not quite wintergreen or spearmint, it's more like the general smell of cold. But why is this sensation perceived as a smell? Last time I checked, my nose was part of my face to detect scents - not temperature.

Basically, it’s your mind playing tricks on you.

What Science Says About Menthol

Usually, cold temperatures trigger a signal that you detect as cold. This is done through a specific protein channel. (So that iced matcha condensating in your hand doesn't just feel cold, it "smells" cold through the straw.) With me so far?

Somehow, menthol is also able to activate this channel. Because this channel indicates something's cold, using menthol tricks your brain into thinking it is detecting...something cold.

How To Use Menthol for Natural Sinus and Pain Relief

So Grandma was right, to an extent. Menthol does provide relief, just not the way you expected. You can take advantage of this effect during cold season and after injuries, both from athletics and clumsiness (you know which you are). Rubbing some menthol on your chest may provide some relief from stubborn cold congestion and sinus pain through its cooling and numbing properties.

Waiting for this cold to be over!

Menthol can also be used for pain relief for injuries. By stimulating a cold sensation where applied, menthol numbs the area and essentially blocks pain. It has also been shown to increase blood flow to injured areas and reduce inflammation. This allows injuries to heal faster by delivering more nutrients and removing toxins from the area.

Maximize Your Congestion Relief

You might choose to reach for the menthol if you've already tried other cures or want to optimize what you're already doing. The better able you are to breathe through your nose, the greater the effect will be. Next time a cold seems to be ruining your day, check out HALE to maximize the menthol you can breathe in. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @wear_hale, and sign up to our mailing list at to follow our progress to launch!​
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