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Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

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Wintergreen essential oil is best known for its ability to reduce pain and inflammation, however it must be used sparingly and with extreme caution due to the its content of 96-99% methyl salicylate, an ester that can be toxic when not used with great care.

Salicylates are known to be pain relievers and blood thinners; the chemical name of Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid, a synthetic derivative of salicylic acid. Though both aspirin and wintergreen come from salicylates, wintergreen is much stronger/potent. 

The methyl salicylate in wintergreen essential oil directly or indirectly affects most organ systems. The potential toxic effects are :

  • the central nervous system with tinnitus, hearing loss, tremors, and seizures
  • the cardiovascular system with rapid heart rate and hypotension
  • the respiratory system with rapid respirations
  • the liver with hepatitis
  • the GI tract with nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain 

Botanical Family, Origin & Extraction: Ericaceae (heather); China; Steam distillation from leaves

Properties: Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, disinfectant, diuretic, stimulant (bone) and warming

Body Systems Affected: Muscles and bones

Aromatic Influence: It influences, opens and increases awareness in sensory system (senses or sensations)

Other Possible Uses: This oil may be beneficial for acne, bladder infection, cystitis, dropsy, eczema, edema, reducing fever, gallstones, gout, infection, reducing discomfort in joints, kidney stones, draining and cleansing the lymphatic system, obesity, osteoporosis, skin diseases, ulcers and urinary tract disorders. It is known for its ability to alleviate bone pain. It has a cortisone-like action due to the high content of methyl salicylate. 

Historical Uses: Wintergreen oil has a strong, penetrating aroma. Wintergreen essential oil is almost identical in chemical constituents to birch essential oil (betula alleghaniensis). The American Indians and early European settlers enjoyed a tea that was flavored with birch bark or wintergreen. According to Julia Lawless, "this has been translated into a preference for 'root beer' flavorings."

A synthetic methyl salicylate is now widely used as a flavoring agent, especially in root beer, chewing gum, toothpaste, etc. In fact, the true essential oil is produced in such small quantities (compared to the very extensive uses of the synthetic methyl salicylate) that those desiring to use wintergreen essential oil for therapeutic uses should verify the source of their oil to make sure they have a true oil and not a synthetic one. 

French Medicinal Uses: Rheumatism, muscular pain, cramps, arthritis, tendonitis, hypertension, inflammation

Blends With: Basil, bergamot, chamomile, cypress, geranium, juniper, lavender, lemongrass, marjoram, peppermint and rosewood

Directions for Use: 

  • Diffuse 2-3 drops in a diffuser of your choice
  • A dermal maximum of 2.4% and advise to use with caution with skin that is sensitive or damaged 
    Safety Considerations
    • Do not use essential oils internally
    • Do not apply to eyes, sensitive areas or mucous membranes
    • Do not apply undiluted to skin (refer to an aromatherapy text)
    • Avoid use of Wintergreen with children, during pregnancy and breastfeeding and by those taking anticoagulant medication
    • You should not use this information for treating a health problem or disease or to make a self-diagnosis
    • Wintergreen essential oil has numerous reports of poisoning; Tisserand and Young warn that Wintergreen Essential Oil poses a hazard for toxicity, drug interaction, it can inhibit blood clotting, and high doses are teratogenic (harmful to fetuses and embryos)
    • Caution is advised in use of commercial products containing Wintergreen essential oils; breathing this day after day could become internally toxic, especially someone taking a blood thinner
      • Many toilet bowl cleaners contain Wintergreen in small amounts usually 0.5 – 4.0%.
      • Listerine MouthWash contains 0.6% and is probably safe to use.
      • Many of the Nilador Air Fresheners contain as much as 13%.
    • Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you suspect that you have a medical problem
    • Stop using this product immediately if you suspect an allergic reaction

    GC/MS Report: The analysis of our Wintergreen batch sample meets the expected chemical profile for authentic essential oil of Gaultheria procumbens. No contamination or adulteration was detected. The results provided in the GC/MS quality analysis reflect the chemical composition of the oil and lot referenced on the date of analysis.

    *Mockingbird Apothecary does not recommend ingestion of essential oils