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Topical application of isolated menthol and combined menthol-capsaicin creams: Exercise tolerance, thermal perception, pain, attentional focus and thermoregulation in the heat

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Owen JeffriesORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


We determined the effects of topically applied (i) isolated menthol cream, (ii) menthol and capsaicin co-application or (iii) placebo cream on exercise tolerance, thermal perception, pain, attentional focus and thermoregulation during exercise in the heat. Ten participants cycled at 70% maximal power output until exhaustion in 35°C and 20% relative humidity after application of (i) 5% isolated menthol, (ii) 5% menthol and 0.025% capsaicin co-application or (iii) placebo cream. Thermo-physiological responses were measured during exercise, with attentional focus and pain determined post-exercise on a 0-to-10 scale. Across the three conditions, time to exhaustion was 13.4 ± 4.8 min, mean ± SD infrared tympanic and skin temperature was 37.2 ± 0.6°C and 35.1 ± 1.2°C, respectively, and heart rate was 152 ± 47 bpm, with no changes between conditions (p > 0.05). Perceived exertion was lower in the isolated menthol vs. all other conditions (p < 0.05, ηp2 = 0.44). Thermal sensation was higher in menthol-capsaicin co-application vs. isolated menthol (p < 0.05, d = 1.1), while sweat rate was higher for capsaicin and menthol co-application compared to menthol (p < 0.05, d = 0.85). The median and interquartile range scores for pain were lower (p < 0.05) in the menthol condition (8, 7-8) compared to both menthol and capsaicin (10, 9-10) and placebo (9, 9-10), which was coupled with a greater distraction (p < 0.05) in the menthol condition (9, 7-10) compared to placebo (6, 5-7). Despite no performance effects for any topical cream application condition, these data reiterate the advantageous perceptual and analgesic role of menthol application and demonstrate no advantage of co-application with capsaicin.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Peel J, John K, Page J, Jeffries O, Heffernan SH, Tallent J, Waldron M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Journal of Sport Science

Year: 2023

Volume: 23

Issue: 10

Pages: 2038-2048

Print publication date: 01/10/2023

Online publication date: 02/06/2023

Acceptance date: 05/05/2023

Date deposited: 20/05/2024

ISSN (print): 1746-1391

ISSN (electronic): 1536-7290

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2023.2211966

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/cg3f-7b13

PubMed id: 37161852


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