Why does the mint flavore make your mouth feel cold?
I thought it might be chemistry.
It is chemistry namely an endothermic reaction.The mint dissolving in the water in your mouth takes in energy giving a slight cooling effect.
That is not entirely correct. It is in fact a biological process.
The menthol in mint attaches to and sensitizes the TRP-M8 neuron endings in your mouth. TRP-M8 is required for cold sensation, by sensitizing the receptor it more easily sends a signal to the brain. The brain then perceives that as cold sensation.
In fact, capsaicin works in a similar manner. Instead it sensitizes the TRP-V1 nerve endings, which are required for heat sensation. The neuron is more easily triggered, sends a signal to the brain, which then thinks there is something hot in the mouth.
Thank you Monique,we live and learn .Is there no temperature change at all with mints or is it a sort of taste illusion?
Basically the effect is an illusion.
From ScienceDaily, Detecting Cold, Feeling Pain: Study Reveals Why Menthol Feels Fresh:
Taken from a review in Annual Review of Neuroscience, published in 2006 (doi:10.1146/annurev.neuro.29.051605.112958) TRP Ion Channels and Temperature Sensation
Here is a link to the original research published in 2007 in Nature that really established that menthol is able to activate the neurons: The menthol receptor TRPM8 is the principal detector of environmental cold.
Interestingly, oil of Wintergreen (Methyl Salicylate) and Capsaicin (plus camphor) are the basic ingredients of "Heet" brand pain-reliever, stimulating nerves responsible for sensation of both cold and heat. When the weather turns cranky and my arthritic knees start hurting, this old remedy helps.
That old remedy probably drowns-out the noxious signal by stimulating multiple neurons, thereby desensitizing you to the pain? (like how menthol relieves an itch)
An interesting statement in the ScienceDaily link:
That is probably the case. There are other formulations on the market that are similar, such as "Icy-Hot". They do offer some relief, not by addressing the cause of the pain, nor by providing physical heating or cooling, but by chemically stimulating nerves in the skin to perceive both heating and cooling, which seems to drown out the perception of pain to some extent.
Interesting stuff and I wonder what advantage it is to the plants in synthesising these compounds.I have just checked on the net and apparently oils extracted from mints,chillis and certain other plants make good insecticides.Perhaps there is the answer.
Tell that to the Tomato Horntails!! Those creeps ate holes in so many of my chili peppers last year. This one was bigger than my middle finger (I know, because I showed it to him before he accidentally got under my boot.)
Your Tomato Horntail looks like a green cutie and I am sad to hear of his accidental demise.Perhaps you should try planting mints amongst your chillis.
Mints propagate through rhizomes, and they will never be welcome in the vegetable garden for that reason. Herb gardens, OK.
At least, I bothered to take an obituary photo before his "accidental" demise.
Its because they propogate through rhizomes that I keep my mints in pots and it works pretty well provided that you check them every so often.I have never tried chillis but I might have a crack at them this summer.Dont send any of little green friends over-they are not that cute.
I use to sink pots of mint in my up north garden, until the deer found them. Then we had a year of deer with minty fresh breath.
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