Peppermint and/or menthol help with itching – even in severe cases!
Currently, there is no treatment for pruritus (itching) that comes with hypertrophic scars caused by severe burns (2nd or 3rd degree). The itching can be so bad that it leads to depression or even suicidal thoughts.
A 2016 prospective, multicenter, controlled trial assessed symptomatic treatment for severe pruritus due to severe burn-induced hypertrophic scars. No other treatment had been successful. Seventy-four patients that had suffered 2nd or 3rd degree burns were treated with a Guar gum hydrogel infused with Peppermint oil, Menthol and Methyl salicylate. The gel was applied to the itch site and covered with gauze for 24 hours.
The maximal response was seen on day two. On the rating scale used, the gauze-only group had an average reduction of 7 points, the gel-only group an average reduction of 18 points, compared to 30 points in the treatment group. The effect was apparent within 30 minutes, and lasted for four days in total. Four patients experienced skin irritation and treatment was discontinued. (In two cases this was due only to the methyl salicylate.) This was considered an acceptable risk compared with potential benefits.
The hydrogel is therefore a promising treatment option for scar itching from burns, and it shows the potential of Peppermint oil or menthol for itching seen in other research. Severe itching in barely distinguishable from pain, and methyl salicylate has an analgesic effect.