Menthol is used as a constituent of food and drink, tobacco and cosmetics nowadays. This cold receptor agonist has been used as a nasal inhalation solution in the daily life. The effect of menthol on nasal mucosa in vivo is well known; however, the effect of the drug on tracheal smooth muscle has been rarely explored. Therefore, during administration of the drug for nasal symptoms, it might also affect the trachea via oral intake or inhalation. We used our preparation to test the effectiveness of menthol on isolated rat tracheal smooth muscle. A 5 mm long portion of rat trachea was submersed in 30 ml Krebs solution in a muscle bath at 37°C. Changes in tracheal contractility in response to the application of a parasympathetic mimetic agent were measured using a transducer connected to a Pentium III computer equipped with polygraph software. The following assessments of menthol were performed: (1) effect on tracheal smooth muscle resting tension; (2) effect on contraction caused by 10-6 M methacholine as a parasympathetic mimetic; (3) effect of the drug on electrically induced tracheal smooth muscle contractions. Results indicated that addition of a parasympathetic mimetic to the incubation medium caused the trachea to contract in a dose-dependent manner. Addition of menthol at doses of 10-5 M or above elicited a relaxation response to 10-6 M methacholine-induced contraction. Menthol could also inhibit electrical field stimulation (EFS) induced spike contraction. However, it alone had a minimal effect on the basal tension of trachea as the concentration increased. We concluded that the degree of drug-induced tracheal contraction or relaxation was dose-dependent. In addition, this study indicated that high concentrations of menthol might actually inhibit parasympathetic function of the trachea.
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