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Methyl Salicylate, Menthol, and Camphor

    Methyl salicylate, menthol, and camphor are three ingredients found in many over-the-counter (OTC) topical products.

    Methyl salicylate (oil of wintergreen) is a mild analgesic and counterirritant that relieves pain.

    Menthol (peppermint oil) is a flavoring agent when used in oral products. When used externally, menthol relieves congestion, cough, and irritation.

    Camphor is an extract from camphor tree bark or turpentine oil. When applied to the skin, it relieves mild-to-moderate pain and irritation.

    Uses

    What is methyl salicylate, menthol, and camphor used for?

    • Arthritis or joint pain
    • Backaches
    • Toothache
    • Chest pain
    • Chest congestion
    • Cough
    • Abdominal pain
    • Stomachache
    • Muscle stiffness
    • Soreness
    • Insect bites

    How should I take methyl salicylate, menthol, and camphor?

    Read the directions on the packaging for complete information. Check the label and expiration date.

    For topical preparations, apply a thin layer to the affected areas. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling the product. Avoid contact with your eyes, nostrils, and mouth.

    For transdermal patches, apply the patch to clean, dry, and hairless area of skin. Peel the backing off carefully before applying it.

    How do I store methyl salicylate, menthol, and camphor?

    Store this product at room temperature away from direct light and moisture. To prevent drug damage, you should not store it in the bathroom or the freezer.

    There may be different brands of this drug that may have different storage needs. So, it is important to always check the product package for instructions on storage, or ask your pharmacist. For safety, you should keep all medicines away from children and pets.

    You should not flush this product down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. Additionally, it is important to properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist for more details about how to safely discard your product.

    Precautions & Warnings

    What should I know before using methyl salicylate, menthol, and camphor?

    Before using this drug, tell your doctor if you are/have:

    • Pregnant or breastfeeding.
    • Open wounds.
    • Taking any other medicines. This includes any prescription, OTC, and herbal remedies.
    • An allergy to any of the ingredients of this product.
    • Any other illnesses, disorders, or medical conditions.

    Is it safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding?

    Unfortunately, there isn’t enough information about the safety of using this drug during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, it is likely safe to use. Avoid applying the product directly on the nipple area. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling it and cleanse your skin before breastfeeding.

    Please always consult with your doctor to weigh the potential benefits and risks before taking any medication.

    Side Effects

    What are the side effects of methyl salicylate, menthol, and camphor?

    Like all drugs, this product may have side effects. If they occur, side effects are generally mild and resolve once treatment is finished or the dose is lowered. Some reported side effects include:

    • Burning sensation
    • Skin rash
    • Hypersensitivity reaction

    However, not everyone experiences these side effects. In addition, some people may experience other side effects. So, if you have any concerns about a side effect, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

    Interactions

    What drugs may interact with methyl salicylate, menthol, and camphor?

    This medication may interact with other drugs that you are currently taking, which can change how your drug works or increase your risk for serious side effects.

    Drugs with known interactions:

    • Anticoagulants (e.g. warfarin)

    If you experience an adverse drug interaction, inform your doctor immediately to reevaluate your treatment plan. Approaches include dose adjustment, drug substitution, or ending therapy.

    Does food or alcohol interact with methyl salicylate, menthol, and camphor?

    This drug may interact with food or alcohol by altering the way the drug works or increase the risk for serious side effects. Please discuss with your doctor or pharmacist any potential food or alcohol interactions before using this drug.

    What health conditions may interact with methyl salicylate, menthol, and camphor?

    This drug may interact with underlying conditions. This interaction may worsen your health condition or alter the way the drug works. Therefore, it is important to always let your doctor and pharmacist know all the health conditions you currently have.

    Dosage

    The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. Therefore, you should always consult with your doctor or pharmacist before using any medication.

    What is the dose for an adult?

    Place product into your palms and rub gently into the affected area. Apply as needed throughout the day. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling the product.

    If you are using a transdermal patch, apply it to clean, dry, and hairless skin. Remove the patch after 8 to 12 hours, reapply a new patch afterward, if necessary. Do not use more than 3 patches per day or leave longer than directed by the manufacturer. Avoid applying it on open or unhealed wounds.

    What is the dose of methyl salicylate, menthol, and camphor for a child?

    The dosage has not been established in pediatric patients. It may be unsafe for your child. It is always important to fully understand the safety of the drug before using. Please consult with your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

    How is methyl salicylate, menthol, and camphor available?

    Products that contain these ingredients are generally available in the following dosage forms:

    • Aerosol spray
    • Balm
    • Body oil
    • Ointments
    • Creams
    • Gels
    • Lotions
    • Transdermal patches

    What should I do in case of an emergency or overdose?

    Overdose with topical preparations is not likely. In case of accidental ingestion or poisoning, call your local emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room.

    What should I do if I miss a dose?

    If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your regular dose as scheduled. Do not take a double dose.

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    Sources

    Begesic https://www.mims.com/philippines/drug/info/begesic Accessed July 25, 2021

    Methyl Salicylate https://www.knowyourotcs.org/ingredient/methyl-salicylate/ Accessed July 25, 2021

    Menthol https://www.knowyourotcs.org/ingredient/menthol/ Accessed July 25, 2021

    Efficacy and safety profile of a topical methyl salicylate and menthol patch in adult patients with mild to moderate muscle strain: a randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled, multicenter study https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20171409/ Accessed July 25, 2021

    Topical Pain Relief: What Is It + How Does It Work? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/topical-pain-relief-what-is-it-and-how-does-it-work/ Accessed July 25, 2021

    Camphor. Lexi-Drugs. Lexicomp. Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Riverwoods, IL. Accessed July 25, 2021. http://online.lexi.com

    Methyl Salicylate and Menthol. Lexicomp. Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Riverwoods, IL. Accessed July 25, 2021. http://online.lexi.com

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    Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD Updated Jul 27, 2021