Menthol-Based Pain Relievers For Arthritis: Icy Hot® v. BioFreeze®
by Cassandra Willis
Author of Articles on Topical Liniments
How Does Icy Hot® Work for Arthritis Pain?
Icy Hot® combines two pain-relieving therapies: ice and heat. The ice comes from menthol, which stimulates blood flow and cools the area to reduce inflammation. The heat comes from the methyl salicylate, a form of aspirin that heats up after application.
Treating arthritis pain with this kind of topical aspirin is better than taking it orally, in terms of healing arthritis, because aspirin damages the stomach. With food sensitivities being the underlying cause of arthritis, it is important to maintain a healthy stomach and digestion. Taking aspirin and other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) orally increases stomach permeability, letting partially digested food out into the blood stream where it is attacked as a foreign invader. Using Icy Hot® avoids this potential pain-relief pitfall.
Inflammation from these food sensitivity attacks is the cause of pain and joint damage in arthritis. Because the active ingredients in Icy Hot® reduce inflammation, they both soothe pain and deter future joint damage. Though menthol is one way to stimulate blood flow and reduce inflammation, simply moving the painful joint achieves the same goal and is very beneficial for your arthritis as well.
What Are the Disadvantages of Icy Hot®
In my experience, Icy Hot® can wear off fairly quickly and need to be reapplied. If you have sensitive skin, this product also may not work for you. Both active ingredients can be skin irritants, especially methyl salicylate.
In addition, methyl salicylate is also toxic when consumed and or absorbed through the skin in excessive amounts. It is a good idea to alternate the use of Icy Hot® with one or more other products to avoid overdose. You can look up the toxicity of any product you’re considering on the EWG cosmetics database
What Other Menthol-Based Products Are Available?
If your arthritis doesn’t respond well to heat, or you’d prefer a more natural product, BioFreeze® is another great menthol-based topical pain reliever. After being introduced to it by a masseuse, I’ve found that it lasts a lot longer than Icy Hot®, for both cooling and pain relief. Along with natural menthol, BioFreeze® also contains natural camphor and ILEX paraguariensis to alleviate pain after the initial “freeze” is over.
Camphor acts similar to menthol, but also acts as a numbing agent and provides the product with a pleasant smell. ILEX, an herbal extract of the yerba mate plant, is a natural pain reliever that has been used in South America for centuries. You may also experience an energy boost from the ILEX. However, if you are sensitive to caffeine, you should avoid pain relievers and other medicines that contain ILEX. Together, these natural substances form a powerful pain reliever made specifically for arthritis, muscle, and joint pain.
Unfortunately, if you have sensitive skin, BioFreeze® still may not work for you as it does contain menthol, but, because it does not contain methly salicylate, it is less irritating than Icy Hot®.
Food Sensitivity Considerations
Food and chemical sensitivities are the number one underlying cause of arthritis. Sensitivities can be triggered when the body is exposed to substances through consumption, inhalation, and skin absorption. If you find that you feel fatigued, foggy, or in more pain after using any product, you may be reacting to one or more of its ingredients. If you already know what your sensitivities are, it is important to check the ingredients and their sources before using a product.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, if you’re having trouble located a menthol-based pain reliever that is safe for you, simply moving your joint can have the same effect as using these type of pain relievers. The menthol reduces pain because it stimulates blood flow, which has the same effect of mechanically moving the joint. For more information about food and chemical sensitivities and how to identify them, read about the ALCAT Test
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