The Ache: About 14 percent of Americans reported experiencing a migraine or severe headache in the previous three months, according to a 2012 government survey.
The Claim: Products made from peppermint—including mint oil dabbed on the forehead and a new menthol gel applied to the back of the neck—can help ease severe headaches, say companies that sell the products.
The Verdict: One rigorously designed study found peppermint oil applied to the forehead and temples was effective for tension headaches. A study published earlier this year found a menthol gel helped ease migraines, but the work is preliminary and some scientists warn that migraine patients may be highly sensitive to smell during an attack, making a minty aroma potentially unpleasant.
The research on menthol for migraines, including a 2015 Thomas Jefferson University study on a new menthol gel called Stopain Migraine, “isn’t knock-your-socks off convincing,” but “it’s a benign treatment and some people may benefit,” says Joel Saper, director of the Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor. The product sells for a suggested retail price of $14.99 from Troy HealthCare LLC of Hazleton, Pa.
Headache sufferers have long tried home remedies, such as peppermint oil or Tiger Balm on the forehead or back of the neck, scientists and clinicians say. A potential advantage, they add, is that mint doesn’t appear to cause “rebound” headaches, which can result from too-frequent use of aspirin or acetaminophen, sold under such brand names as Tylenol.