Medicinal Plant Profile: Wintergreen

By Britt Brown LMT

If you’re like me you might be surprised to find that, despite its delicious minty smell, wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) isn’t a member of the mint family and looks nothing like a mint plant at all! In fact, wintergreen is a low lying perennial evergreen shrub, consisting of small erect branches that sport leathery oval shaped leaves, and beautiful white flowers that bloom in the Spring and give way to bright red berries in the Fall. The plant itself, leaves and berries, all carry that fresh and familiar wintergreen scent – and that scent is everywhere! It’s in our toothpastes, chewing gums, lotions, and more – but why are we so obsessed with it?

As it turns out wintergreen isn’t only a quick cure for stank breath, it’s also great at helping to reduce muscle spasms and pain as well. This is because the biochemical responsible for the minty smell of wintergreen, methyl salicylate, has been shown to have similar medicinal benefits to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). Methyl salicylate – the primary active ingredient in the wintergreen plant is an analgesic, anodyne, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, and emmenagogue. What all of that means is that wintergreen is pretty darn good at helping to reduce aches, pains and minor digestive issues. So if you’re into brewing up your own teas and topicals, you might consider adding wintergreen essential oil or dried leaves to your next blend for a fresh boost to your recipe! 

The use of wintergreen as a supplement can come with some side effects however, and it can interfere with the efficacy of some medications, so it’s important to speak with your healthcare professional before adding it to your self-care routine. Before using any topical products your body is unfamiliar with, be sure to perform a “spot test” by applying a small amount of product to a 1in x 1in square on the inside of your non-dominant forearm. Wait 24hrs to see if a reaction occurs, if no reaction is present the product is likely safe to use. If a severe allergic reaction occurs, be sure to contact your healthcare provider right away, or otherwise seek medical attention. For most minor reactions washing with a gentle soap and cold water helps to relieve symptoms.

Purchase Wintergreen and other amazing herbs and spices from our friends Mountain Rose Herbs!

Cited Sources:

  1. American Botanical Council, “Wintergreen”, Healthy Ingredients. (2021).
    WEB. 12 November, 2021.
    www.herbalgram.org/resources/healthy-ingredients/wintergreen/
  1. Encyclopedia Britannica, “Wintergreen plant”, n. (1998). WEB. 1 November, 2021.
    https://www.britannica.com/plant/wintergreen-plant
  2. Medicinalherbalinfo.org, “Wintergreen”, Medicinal Herbal Info. Copyright
    1996-2021. WEB. 2 November, 2021.
    http://medicinalherbinfo.org/000Herbs2016/1herbs/wintergreen/
  1. Patricia R. Hebert, PhD,1 E. Joan Barice, MD,1,,2 and Charles H. Hennekens, MD, DrPH,
    “Treatment of Low Back Pain: The Potential Clinical and Public Health Benefits of
    Topical Herbal Remedies”, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
    (2014). WEB. 2 November, 2021.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3995208/
  1. PFAF.org, “Gaultheria procumbens – L.”, Plants for a Future. Copyright 2010-2021
    WEB. 12 November, 2021.
    https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Gaultheria+procumbens
  2. Purdue University, “Wintergreen”, Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index. (1997). WEB.
    12 November, 2021.
    https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/med-aro/factsheets/WINTERGREEN.html

Published by Well-Go tiny spa

Hey there! My name is Britt, I've been working in the lovely state of Oregon as a Licensed Massage Therapist since 2008, and I want to share my knowledge and experience with you! Follow my blog to find awesome self-care tips and learn how you can bring spa-level luxe into your daily routine. Do you have questions about massage therapy, self-care, or about how to book Well-Go tiny spa services for your next event? Be sure to write me an email or leave a comment!

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