Wintergreen: Gaultheria Procumbens, Eastern Teaberry, Checkerberry, Mountain Tea, Partridgeberry, Spiceberry

Botany: 

Wintergreen is a low growing shrub that only reaches about 6” high. It has dark green leathery leaves. In summer, blooms with pinkish white flowers which form into small bright red fruits that when crushed release a very strong scent.2    Its range extends through most of the Eastern and Middle-Eastern US and Canada.1

Chemistry:

The active chemicals found in wintergreen consist mainly of methyl salicylate, which makes up a majority of the essential oil. 6 Wintergreen oil also contains tannins and a substance called mucilage. 7

Fun Fact:

Wintergreen oil, in small quantities, can be used to flavor foods such as candies and gums.3 However, modernly, wintergreen flavor is made instead from sweet birch bark.5

History:

Wintergreen has long been used for its ability to relieve the pain and inflammation associated with rheumatism.4 Wintergreen leaves were used traditionally by the Native Americans and early American pioneers to make a tea used to treat “dysentery, fever, headaches, rheumatism, sore throats, and toothaches.”3 Both the Mohawk and Iroquois used wintergreen for its pain relieving qualities. Also, the berries of the wintergreen were eaten raw or cooked in pies by the Native Americans.5

Uses/Pharmacology:

Wintergreen is most often used for its essential oil which is a very effective pain reliever. This is due mainly to the presence of methyl salicylate which acts both as a mild counterirritant and as a pain reducer. Wintergreen also contains mucilage and tannins which cause it to be useable as a softening agent and astringent respectively. These ingredients explain why a gargle of wintergreen relieves throat irritation and why the tea can be used to relieve an upset stomach. 7 Also, taken internally, the wintergreen has both a diuretic and emmenagogic action. 4

Dosing/Recipes:

Wintergreen infusions can be prepared for internalization by pouring one cup of boiling water onto one teaspoon of leaves and allowing it to steep for 10-15 minutes.4 Substances containing between 10 to 60 percent of the methyl salicylate obtained from wintergreen should be applied four times daily. 7

Achy Muscle Rub-Adapted from Rosemary Staris’ recipe

15 ml grape seed oil, add:

            5 drops eucalyptus oil

            5 drops peppermint oil

            5 drops wintergreen oil

            2 drops rosemary oil

            3 drops clove oil. 

Contraindications/Interactions/Adverse Reactions:

Wintergreen oil is toxic if consumed in concentrated form. 6

References Cited:

1.USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 21 October    2009). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

2. Leopold, Donald J. Native Plants of the Northeast. Portland, OR: Timber P, 2005. Print.

3. Sayre, James K. Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs: A Comprehensive Reference Guide to Medicinal Herbs, Human Ailments and Possible Herbal Remedies. Sac Carlos, CA: Bottlebrush P, 2001. Print.

4. Hoffman, David. Holistic Herbal. London, UK: Thorsons, 2002. Print.

5. Nuffer, Barbara "Wintergreen." New York State Conservationist 63.4 (2009): 16. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 21 Oct. 2009.

6. Tyler, Varro E., Lynn R. Brady, and James E. Robbers. Pharmacognosy. Philadelphia, PA: Lea & Febiger, 1988. Print.

7. Peirce, Andrea. The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, 1999. Print.