Photomicrograph of Menthol

Perhaps most familiar in modern times as an ingredient of cigarettes, menthol is a member of the isoprenoid family of compounds that exhibits a strong, mint-like smell. Indeed, the substance is the principal constituent of many mint oils and was chiefly derived throughout much of history from the plant commonly known as Japanese mint. A significant amount of the menthol utilized today, however, is synthetically produced. In addition to its characteristic fragrance, menthol is well known for imparting a cool, tingling sensation to the skin. Sometimes alternatively referred to as peppermint camphor, the substance can be found in a wide variety of commercial products, including cough drops, after-shave lotions, cosmetics, and creams intended to help relive muscle aches and pains.

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