WINTERGREEN (Gaultheria procumbens)
Wintergreen comes from the Ericaceae family and is also referred to as teaberry, checkerberry, aromatic wintergreen, and gaultheria oil. It is a small evergreen plant that grows up to 15 centimeters above the ground with slim creeping stems that shoot upright twigs. The herb features saw-like leaves and floppy flowers and bears fleshy scarlet berries.
Wintergreen herb is indigenous to North America, particularly the northeastern region as well as Canada. Oil production mainly occurs in the USA. Other species of Gaultheria variety are used to produce oil and share similar qualities.
Extraction and Characteristics
Essential oil is obtained from the macerated leaf of the wintergreen herb using steam or water distillation. The leaf is soaked in warm water before extraction. The maceration process is responsible for the production of essential oil during decomposition.
The oil has a pastel yellow or pinkish appearance with a rich sweet-woody, virtually fruity scent. The oil pairs well with mints, oregano, thyme, narcissus, ylang ylang, and vanilla. It mainly constitutes up to 98% methyl salicylate with gaultheriline and formaldehyde.
The herb has medicinal value and is used for conditions in the respiratory system like chronic mucous discharge. It is primarily used in the treatment of lumbago, neuralgia, sciatica, myalgia, and more joint and muscular maladies. Dried leaf and stem are in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia for rheumatoid arthritis. Since the essential oil is virtually exclusively made up of methyl salicylate, it is used to substitute sweet birch oil that has the same components.
Industrially, the oil is used as a mild analgesic, antirheumatic, astringent, diuretic, stimulant, and galactagogue, emmenagogue, anti-inflammatory, antitussive, and carminative.
The oil is applied in some pharmaceuticals in preparing Olbas oil and also in some of the perfumery works, particularly in making forest-type fragrances. It is widely used as a flavoring element in toothpaste, root beer, chewing gum, Coca Cola and other soft drinks in the USA.
Wintergreen essential oil is toxic and also irritant and causes sensitization. Because of this, it is discouraged from aromatherapy use both internally and externally. It is also hazardous to the environment and is a marine pollutant. Since it is replaced by synthetic methyl salicylate, the oil is virtually out-of-date.