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Gaultheria procumbens

Gaultheria procumbens

[span class=alert]In regards to the Traditional Use and Therapeutic Action sections of Essential Oils, the oils are rated as is standard practice in the French school of aromatherapy and others. The ratings ranked from one (+) to four (++++) with four indicating the highest value, indicate the oil’s therapeutic value from a practicing clinician’s point of view. The French rating system mentioned are obtained from this book reference entitle ‘Les Cahiers Pratiques D'Aromatherapie Selon L'Ecole Francaise’ (Authors: Francine Baudry, Pascal Debauche & Dominique Baudoux). However, further clarification might be required and will be updated once additional information of the rating system is obtained.[/span]

Family Name


Genus Name


Vernacular Name

Wintergreen, gaultheria, teaberry, checkerberry

Original Habitat

This plant is grown in North America (mostly in the Eastern United States), Europe and Nepal.[1] This plant is a low-growing, creeping ground cover, is found in forest areas and has a very pleasant wintergreen aroma and taste.[2]

Plant Part Used



The main chemical constituent of wintergreen essential oil is methyl salicylate.[3] This used commonly in topical analgesic products used to treat sore muscles or arthritis. It is also found in foods and beverages and oral care products as a flavouring agent. In therapeutic aromatherapy it is used with caution and typically in combination with other oils in a carrier solution.


The essential oil is steam-distilled or water-distilled and is very thin in consistency. It is very pale yellow to light pink in colour with a sweet, antiseptic aroma.[1]

Chemical Constituents

Terpenic esters: Methyl salicylate (95%) [4][5]

Medicinal Uses

Anti-inflammatory, analgesic +++
Antispasmodic +++
Hepatic regenerator +++

Platelet aggregation inhibitor: A study investigated the topical application of methyl salicylate from the essential oil of G. procumbens and aspirin intake on platelet aggregation in healthy individuals. The results showed that both aspirin and topical oil of wintergreen inhibited platelet aggregation.[6]

Traditional Use

Muscular rheumatism, tendinitis, cramps, myositis +++
Epicondylitis, polyarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis +++
Coronaritis +++
Hypertension ++
Nephritic colitis +++

Anti-inflammatory: When combined with a carrier into a topical application, the oil of wintergreen has anti-inflammatory activity when used on muscles.[6]

Antifungal: There is some limited research to indicate that the essential oil of G. procumbens may have antifungal activity.[4]

Contraindications and Precautions

Wintergreen oil is considered extremely toxic due to its methyl salicylate content.[7] Because of its analgesic properties, many topical solutions such as salves, lotions, and ointments contain methyl salicylate and can cause irritation or allergic contact dermatitis.[8]

Severe salicylate poisoning can occur after ingestion of these topical medications.[9]

Wintergreen oil should be kept away from children due to severe potential toxicity and death.[10]

Those allergic to aspirin should stay away from wintergreen due to its salicylate content.

Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women.

 Based on pharmacology, G. procumbens is not to be used with blood-thinning/anti-coagulant medications.



[span class=alert]Keep out of reach of children as oils are highly concentrated.Essential oils are irritating to the eyes.  Avoid contact with eye area.Always dilute essential oils with carrier oil, lotion, cream or gel even when using in diffuser or bath.Essential oils are sometimes prescribed to be used internally, but should only be used internally under professional supervision.[/span]


1.     Lis-Balchan M. Aromatherapy science: a guide for healthcare professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2006.

2.     Choukas-Bradley M, Brown TT.  An illustrated guide to Eastern Woodland wildflowers and trees. UVA Press; 2004.

3.     Youngken HW. Pharmaceutical Botany. 3rd Edition. P Blakison’s & Son; 1921.

4.     Wilson CL, Solar JM, El Ghaouth A, Wisniewski ME. Rapid Evaluation of Plant Extracts and Essential Oils for Antifungal Activity Against Botrytis cinerea. Plant Dis. 1997;81(2):204-210.

5.     Ribnicky DM, Poulev a A, Raskin I. The determination of Salicylates in Gaultheria procumbens for use as a natural aspirin.  Alternative Journal of Nutraceuticals, Functional & Medical Foods. 2003;4(1):39-52.

6.     Tanen DA. Comparison of oral aspirin versus topical applied methyl salicylate for platelet inhibition. Ann Pharmacother. Oct2008;42(10):1396-1401.

7.     Chan TY. Poisoning due to Chinese proprietary medicines. Hum Exp Toxicol. May1995;14(5):434-436

8.     Chan TY. Potential dangers from topical preparations containing methyl salicylate. Hum Exp Toxicol. Sep1996;15(9):747-750.

9.     Chan TY. The risk of severe salicylate poisoning following the ingestion of topical medicaments or aspirin. Postgrad Med J. Feb1996;72(844):109-112.

10. Davis JE. Are one or two dangerous? Methyl salicylate exposure in toddlers. J Emerg Med. Jan2007;32(1):63-69. 

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