Why does a mint make a drink of water seem colder?

Matt:

Why does water seem colder when you drink it after eating mints?

-- Fern, somewhere unspecified

So you've been spending a lot of time sitting around the family room, sucking Wint-O-Greens with a Sparkletts back, marveling at this little quirk of nature? If you're sure you have another time-wasting activity to take its place, I'll demystify this one for you. Pepper-, spear-, and all the little mints contain a magical crystalline substance known as menthol. It messes in a major way with our body thermometers. Applied to the skin, it tricks our cold receptors into thinking things are cooler than they really are. Basically, it raises the threshold temperature at which the cold receptors in our skin begin to respond. Stick a mint in your hot, gummy mouth, zap a little menthol around in there, and it's like air-conditioning your gums. Slug down some water, and the water feels colder. And this is hard evidence for the old Matthew Alice Rule to Live By-- that in the end, most things seem cooler than they really are.

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