Scientific Name:Gaultheria procumbens
About this Herb:Native to North America, Wintergreen is an evergreen shrub that rarely grows to heights of more than six inches. Used as a ground cover for acidic soils, it provides beautiful color throughout the winter months. In the summer months, small white and pink five pedal flowers bloom, bell shaped red berries will replace these flowers. In spring, Wintergreen leaves are bronze-colored, tender, and edible. They toughen in summer, turning a dark green, and emit the familiar wintergreen aroma when broken. Wintergreen is a nice autumn ornamental, as its leaves become red or purple in colder regions. However, both the leaves and berries are edible. The berries are more flavorful, but should be eaten fresh for best flavor.
Common Names:Aromatic Wintergreen, Boxberry, Canada Tea, Checkerberry, Chink, Deerberry, Ground Berry, Grouse Berry, Hillberry, Ivory Plum, Moutain Tea, Partrige Berry, Red Berry Tea, Red Pollom, Spice Berry, Spicy Wintergreen, Spring Wintergreen, Teaberry, Wax Cluster
Uses:Native Americans brewed a tea from the leaves to alleviate rheumatic symptoms, headache, fever, sore throat and various aches and pains. During the American Revolution, wintergreen leaves were used as a substitute for tea, which was scarce. It is used to flavor chewing gum, mints and candies to smokeless tobacco such as dipping tobacco and snuff. It is also a common flavoring for dental hygiene products such as mouthwash and toothpaste. Wintergreen essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves of the plant following steeping in warm water. The oil is used topically (diluted) or as aromatherapy for muscle and joint discomfort, arthritis, cellulite, obesity, edema, poor circulation, headache, heart disease, hypertension, rheumatism, tendinitis, cramps, inflammation, eczema, hair care, psoriasis, gout, ulcers, broken or bruised bones. 30 mL (about 1 fl. Oz.) of oil of wintergreen is equivalent to 55.7 g of aspirin, or about 171 adult aspirin tablets (US). This conversion illustrates the potency and potential toxicity of oil of wintergreen even in small quantities. It is said, that once the leaves of this plant are hit by a hard frost and turn purplish, they have a sweeter, stronger flavor. Although it has not been confirmed scientifically, this may indicate higher essential oil content. Leaves should be collected in the fall at their peak of potency.
Applications:Infusion: Steep 1 tsp. leaves in 1 cup of boiling water. Take 1 Tbsp. my mouth as needed, not to exceed 1 cup in a 24 hour period.
Tincture: One dose would be 5 to 15 drops in a 12 hour period.
Tea: Steep 2 leaves in 3 cups of boiling water for 3 minutes. Drink when temperature permits. Not to exceed 3 cups in a 24 hour period.
Warnings:Oil of wintergreen can be toxic and should not be ingested in large amounts. Pure oil of wintergreen can cause irritation and must be used cautiously. It is poisonous except in very small amounts. Essential oil is highly toxic; absorbed through skin, harms liver and kidneys.
Wintergreen should never be used during pregnancy.