Shingles, postherpetic neuralgia, peppermint oil

A 76-year-old woman with a 14-month history of postherpetic neuralgia without benefit from any of various treatments was instructed to massage in 2-3 drops of neat peppermint oil to the painful areas three or four times a day. The product she purchased at her health food store contained 10% menthol. She reported almost instant reduction in her pain levels, which persisted for 4-6 hours. A repeat application each time the pain returned always produced pain relief.

The patient reported that with each application she would experience a stinging sensation which persisted for approximately two minutes, but this was followed by great pain relief. After two weeks of treatment she reported a reduction in the intensity of the shooting pains she had previously experienced.

After about a month the patient noticed a slight reddening of the skin of the treated area. She was instructed to use a 1:5 dilution of the peppermint oil with almond oil, which provided an approximately 2% menthol concentration. The diluted oil produced less pain relief than the neat product, but the patient still considered it beneficial. When pain was unusually bad she would again use the neat product.
(The Clinical Journal of Pain 18:200-202, 2002)
Copyright 2009 Phylis A Austin

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