American Wintergreen, or Gaultheria procumbens, is a perennial, evergreen shrub native to North America from Alabama to Manitoba. It is also known as teaberry, boxberry, mountain tea, and wintergreen. It is used both in an essential oil and tea form, made from fresh leaves .
American Wintergreen overdose may be fatal!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Do not ingest or otherwise use a herb or oil based on this information. Always do your own research, and speak with a medical professional about the supplements that you are taking. Wild Hemlock takes no responsibility of how you use this information. Herbs on this website may not be approved by the FDA nor may be on the Generally Regarded as Safe list of herbs maintained by the FDA. This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
American Wintergreen contains high quantities of methyl salicylate, a naturally occurring chemical similar to aspirin. Oil of Wintergreen, or wintergreen essential oil, contains up to 98% methyl salicylate. In tea form, the leaves contain only .5 to .8% of oil . Wintergreen essential oil is extremely potent, and only 5 mL of it is equivalent to 21.5 doses of aspirin. Because of this, it should only be used topically . Extremely small amounts are listed as safe by the FDA as a food additive. A safer route is to make a tea from fresh leaves. Fermented leaves have elevated amounts of the oil, and should be avoided as tea .
Methyl salicylate acts like aspirin, a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory, and as such, has the same interactions and warnings. Oral use may result in stomach bleeding and blood thinning, while overdoses have resulted in death . It should not be taken with the medications anisindione, dicumarol, and warfarin . Additonally, other NSAID use should be monitored, and all other NSAID warnings apply to Wintergreen. The Cleveland Clinic has a great write up that you should read before using this herb . Wintergreen oil is not suitable for pregnant or lactating women, but it is safe in the minuscule amounts used as food flavoring . Lastly, some people will be sensitive or allergic to the plant, like any other plant.
Therefore, I recommend using less than or up to only 2.5% wintergreen essential oil in any preparation.
Despite all this, there is evidence that the tea has been used for kidney problems, stomach cramps, menstrual cramps, and asthma . The oil has been used in many over the counter topical pain medications such as ThermaCare, Bengay, and others . In a clinical setting, researchers have determined that a 10ml formula containing 2.5% wintergreen oil contains the salicylate equivalent of one adult dose of 325mg aspirin (one tablet) . Therefore, I recommend using less than or up to only 2.5% wintergreen essential oil in any preparation.
The following uses have traditional or clinical backing:
- Kidney Disorders 
- Headache 
- Asthma 
- Rheumatological Disorders, as poultice 
- Sore Throat 
- Tooth Decay, Plaque, Gingivitis 
Oil Form – Topical
- Rheumatism and Autoimmune Arthritis 
- Analgesic Properties, especially when combined with Peppermint Oil 
- Muscle Strain 
Oil Form – Oral*
Overdose of American Wintergreen can be fatal, similar to aspirin.
- Rheumatism and Autoimmune Arthritis *
- Chronic Endometritis *
- Tooth Decay, Plaque, Gingervitis  **
* These have all been administered in a clinical setting. Oral use of wintergreen oil is not recommended!
** Oil was used in a toothpaste, and was not swallowed.
My favorite way to use Wintergreen is in my DIY Pain Relief Oil, as well as adding 5 drops to the running water of an epsom salt bath!
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- Wikipedia article on Wintergreen, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaultheria_procumbens
- Wintergreen Clinical Overview, Drugs.com https://www.drugs.com/npp/wintergreen.html
- FDA CFR Title 21 175.105 https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfCFR/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=175.105
- Secrets of Native American Herbal Remedies: A Comprehensive Guide to the Native American Tradition of Using Herbs and the Mind/Body/Spirit Connection for Improving Health and Well-being by Anthony J. Cichoke https://books.google.com/books?id=WQuy8Qgib9AC
- Wintergreen Drug Interations, Drugs.com https://www.drugs.com/drug-interactions/methyl-salicylate-topical,wintergreen-oil.html
- Cleveland Clinic’s article on NSAIDs https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/11086-non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-medicines-nsaids
- Treatment of Low Back Pain: the Potential Clinical and Public Health Benefits of Topical Herbal Remedies, PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3995208/
- Methyl Salicylate, Drugs.com https://www.drugs.com/ingredient/methyl-salicylate.html
- The preconceptional preparation of the patients presenting with chronic endometritis: the evaluation of the effectiveness of phyto- and physiotherapy, PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/30168513/
- Healthline article on Wintergreen, https://www.healthline.com/health/wintergreen-oil