Botanical: Gaultheria procumbens
Family: Ericaceae (heath/blueberry)
Other common names: Teaberry, Boxberry, Mountain Tea, Hillberry, Spiceberry, Wax Cluster,
Wax Berry, Ground Berry, Spring Wintergreen, Aromatic Wintergreen, Spicy Wintergreen, Checkerberry*, Deerberry*, Partridge Berry*
Wintergreen has been traditionally used as an herbal pain reliever. It an old native American remedy for the aches and pains of arthritis, sore joints and rheumatism, as well as an aid to breathing while hunting or carrying heavy loads. Its aspirin-like qualities also help to relieve headaches, muscle inflammation, arthritic pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and colds.
*Important Note: These common names should not be confused with another herb of the madder (rubiaceae) family, Mitchella repens, which is also commonly called Checkerberry, Deerberry, Partridgeberry, Squawberry, Squaw Vine and Mitchella. Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is an entirely different plant of a different genus with different therapeutic applications.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Wintergreen is a perennial herb with a creeping stem that sends up erect branches, finely-toothed, ovate leaves of pale green when young, and then leathery, dark green when mature. The shrubby evergreen also bears bell-shaped white or pink flowers that bloom from May through September, followed by scarlet fruits, and the plant reaches about six inches in height. It is rather ornamental and may be found growing in forests or on mountains, thriving in acid soil in partial shade. Wintergreen is so named because it remains "ever" green in the deepest part of winter and provides important winter nourishment for deer, partridge and other native fauna. Native American tribes brewed a tea of Wintergreen as one of their many herbal treatments for rheumatism, arthritis pain, as well as a pain reliever for headache, sore throat, fever and various other aches and pains. The American writer, Henry David Thoreau, described such a tea that was made by his own Indian guide. Many tribes also employed it as an aid to breathing by increasing lung capacity while hunting or carrying heavy loads, and the Montagnais of Canada drank Wintergreen tea to treat paralysis. Early American patriots used Wintergreen tea as a substitute for tea during the American Revolution and later adopted it as a remedy for headaches, muscle aches and colds. Wintergreen leaves were officially entered into the United States Pharmacopœia from 1820 to 1894, and the oil of Wintergreen is still listed there as a diuretic, astringent and stimulant. Wintergreen is a major source of methyl salicylate (the natural forerunner to synthetic aspirin), which was produced mainly in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. The essential oil, which is distilled from the leaves, is used in perfumery and as a flavoring for candies, teas, cough drops, mouthwashes and toothpastes, and the essential oil and leaves are used in herbal medicines. Some of the constituents included in Wintergreen are volatile oil, caffeic acid, ferulic acid, gallic acid, p-coumaric acid, methyl salicylate, tannins, vanillic acid and gaultherin.
Wintergreen is a pain reliever with similar properties to those of aspirin, and it helps to relieve pain of all description, including headaches and toothaches. The herb contains a compound that is composed of ninety-eight percent methyl salicylate, the natural forerunner of synthetic aspirin, and like aspirin, it stops the hormonal reactions that cause inflammation and chronic pain. As such, Wintergreen not only relieves pain, but it is also an anti-inflammatory and, therefore, helpful in cases of joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, sore muscless, as well as the aches and pains of arthritis and rheumatism. Its mucilage content is soothing and softening and also indirectly helps to alleviate soreness in muscles and joints.
The tannins in Wintergreen act as an astringent, helping to control diarrhea and excess mucous discharges.
Wintergreen in an aromatic, warming herb and a tonic that works to mildly stimulate circulation, as well as the digestive tract. It is considered a "carminative" that is particularly effective for helping to relieve intestinal gas pains and easing gas in the bowels. Wintergreen is also helpful in cases of colic and general stomach trouble.
As an herbal diuretic, Wintergreen promotes the production and flow of urine, and with its added antiseptic qualities, it acts as an antiseptic diuretic that is believed to be good for urinary, prostate and kidney ailments, as well as all bladder complaints. It is interesting to note that in smaller doses, it acts as a diuretic, but in larger doses, the herb acts as an emetic and produces vomiting. Wintergreen is also said to be helpful in relieving scrofula, the swelling of the lymph nodes of the neck.
With regard to women's health, Wintergreen is considered an emmenagogue or agent that works to stimulate suppressed menstruation and regulate its flow. Moreover, it is thought to relieve menstrual pain, as well as the headaches associated with menstruation.
Used externally, Wintergreen is an excellent topical anti-inflammatory that relieves the pain of rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica, myalgia, sprains and neuralgia, but it must be used cautiously, as it is very strong and can cause irritation. Its excellent antiseptic qualities have made it effective in easing sore throat and sore mouth, and it has also been used for gonorrhea and as a douche for leukorrhoea.
Ancient minty painkiller worked, study suggests; Ancient Chinese used mint oil, which has anti-inflammatory properties
- From MSNBC's >Technology & Science > Science Section - 08/25/06
"The doctors of ancient Greece and China had it right when they applied cool and minty salves to soothe aches and pains, a new study suggests. A synthetic treatment with the same properties as mint oil is an effective painkiller when applied directly to the skin. The new cooling compounds could be especially beneficial to millions suffering with the chronic pain of arthritis and diseases affecting nerve endings, scientists say."
Wintergreen Herbal Supplement should not be taken by people who are hypersensitive to salicylates (aspirin). Those who take warfarin (Coumadin) or any prescription blood-thinning medications should not use Wintergreen. The oil should never be ingested (it is meant for external use only), and because the oil is so easily absorbed through the skin when used topically, it can become toxic to the kidneys and liver if used for more than three days a month. Do not use Wintergreen is you suffer from acid reflux (GERD) problems.