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menthol opening your congested nasal airway?

It’s that time of the year again when the dry air irritates your nose and sinuses causing you to feel stuffy.  In all reality, isn’t it always that time of the year?  Allergies, dry air, colds–does it ever end?  I get stuffy a lot so I’m always interested in learning more about how to get some relief. 

Ever wonder why the smell of menthol can cause an enhanced feeling of air moving through your nose?  In another post on the use of nasal irrigation for allergies and sinus problems, I mentioned that nasal rinses with menthol may help with the symptoms of nasal congestion.  Why is that? 

The epithelial cells that comprise your nasal mucosa (the lining on the inside of your nose) have special temperature sensors on them, which belong to a family of proteins called TRP channels.  When you take a deep breath in, cooler air (than the warm air in your nose) whooshes over those receptors which sense “cold”.  This positive “cold” signal is relayed to your brain, which interprets it as “air is moving through my nose”.  Menthol is chemical that activates these receptors without requiring the cold air to move through your nose.  This is why when you are congested (i.e. not moving a lot of air through your nose), but you (for example) use either a nasal rinse with menthol or Vick’s vaporub, your nose feels as though it is opening up.  For more information, check out these studies by Lindemann et al (more clinical) and Bautista et al (more basic science).

Pretty neat, huh?  Now if I can only find something to relieve the sleep deprivation associated with residency.


One Response to “menthol opening your congested nasal airway?”

  1. 1

    Dear Mudphudder, where hast thou gone?

    Faithful Reader

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