A recent tweet from Twitter user @RipTideAC_ states (after editing):

I just found out that, scientifically speaking, minty is just cold spicy.

The chemical in minty things raises your tongue's perceived freezing point while the chemical in spicy things lowers your tongue's perceived boiling point.

It has 10s of thousands of likes and retweets.

I don't believe the claim about mint and perceived freezing points. Is it true?

  • 5
    Freezing point and boiling point have nothing to do with perception. – OrangeDog Mar 20 at 21:38
  • @Oddthinking, is it possible to "perceive freezing points?" – Barry Harrison Mar 21 at 1:33
  • @BarryHarrison: Was that meant to be directed to me? – Oddthinking Mar 21 at 6:34
  • To evaluate this, we'd need to know what it means to speak of the freezing point and boiling point of a tongue, which is as far as I can tell nonsense. More nonsensical still is the idea of the perception of either of the aforementioned points. – phoog Mar 21 at 21:01

Menthol is an organic compound found in the oils of mints (source). One of its effects is triggering the TRPM8 receptor (source and source). This has been widely studied and is well-accepted. The TRPM8 receptor is also activated by cold temperatures (source). Thus, the same receptor that senses cold can perceive mint as well.

The section of the tweet about "spicy things" refers to Capsaicin and the TRPV1 receptor. The TRPV1 receptor senses both temperatures above 43 °C and the compound capsaicin commonly found in "spicy things" (source).

I am unsure what exactly "perceived freezing point" means, but if it means "perceived temperature," then mint lowers the perceived temperature and capsaicin elevates it.

  • Adding "Welcome" to every answer is about as useful as adding "Thanks" to the questions. The latter is removed, and the former should as well. The vast majority of Stack Exchange's users don't even have an account because it's designed for being picked up by search engines, and the answer is not written to OP but to the general public. You've already welcomed the user by writing an excellent answer. – pipe Mar 21 at 16:14
  • @pipe I will revise the answer accordingly. – Barry Harrison Mar 21 at 21:18

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