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Medicinal Herb: Wintergreen

Name of Herb

Biological Name:
(Gaultheria procumbens)

Family:
Ericaceae

Other Names:
Wintergreen, Canada tea, partridge berry, checkerberry, boxberry, wax cluster, spice berry, mountain tea, deerberry, spicy wintergreen, aromatic wintergreen, chink, ground berry, grouse berry, red pollom, redberry tea, hillberry, ivory plum.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Introduction:

A small indigenous shrubby, creeping, evergreen plant, growing about 5 to 6 inches high under trees and shrubs, particularly under evergreens such as Kalmias and Rhododendrons. It is found in large patches on sandy and barren plains, also on mountainous tracts. The stiff branches bear at their summit tufts of leaves which are petiolate, oval, shiny, coriaceous, the upper side bright green, paler underneath. The drooping white flowers are produced singly from the base of the leaves in June and July, followed by fleshy, bright red berries (with a sweetish taste and peculiar flavour), formed by the enlargement of the calyx [1,2].

Generally the oil from the leaves is expressed to optain the essential oil, which is for external use only. However, the dried leaves can be used to make a tea.

Active Compounds:


According to Mrs Grieves [1], a modern herbal, “the volatile oil obtained by distillation and to which all the medicinal qualities are due, contains 99 per cent Methyl Salicylate: other properties are 0.3 of a hydrocarbon, Gaultherilene, and an aldehyde or ketone, a secondary alcohol and an ester. To the alcohol and ester are due the characteristic odour of the oil. The oil does not occur crudely in the plant, but as a nonodorous glucoside, and before distillation, the leaves have to be steeped for twelve to twenty-four hours for the oil to develop by fermentation – a reaction between water and a neutral principle: Gaultherin.”

Traditional Uses in Herbal Medicine:

The applications of Wintergreen include: stimulant, antiseptic, astringent, analgesic (Topical aspirin), diuretic, emmenagogue, aromatic. It is used to treat inflammatory disorders, especially rheumatoid arthritis, swelling pain, chronic tracheitis, cold symptoms, and acute and chronic prostatitis [3] and to protect the skin and reduce bleeding from minor cuts [4].
The analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of these plants are due to its salicylic acid derivatives, especially methyl salicylate (essential oil), acting through several mechanisms including some antioxidant effects.
 
WARNING: The essential oil of Wintergreen should never be taken internally.

References

1. Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Volume II. New York: Dover Publications, 1981.

2. Wintergreen. Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products website. December 6, 1997. Available at: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/med-aro/factsheets/WINTERGREEN.html. Accessed October 6, 2004.

3. Michel, P., Dobrowolska, A., Kicel, A., Owczarek, A., Bazylko, A., Granica, S., Piwowarski, J. P., & Olszewska, M. A. (2014). Polyphenolic Profile, Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Eastern Teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens L.) Leaf Extracts. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 19(12), 20498–20520. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules191220498

4. https://www.drugs.com/npc/wintergreen.html

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Page last updated: 26th June 2020

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