The wintergreen plant has been used by Native Americans, since ancient times. It is popularly known as wax cluster, spice berry, checkerberry, deerberry, boxberry, and teaberry. This plant grows to a height of about 15 cm and it has slender stems. The leaves are leathery and serrated, and the flowers are white in color. The oil is extracted by crushing the leaves, and has a strong aromatic woody smell. The leaves are first macerated in warm water, and then the oil is extracted by the process of steam distillation. The main component of this oil is methyl salicylate, which is toxic in its pure form. It is used in low concentration (less than 0.04%) in flavoring chewing gum, root beer, and candies.
- It has been used since ages, to relieve sore throat, fever, headache, and other rheumatic symptoms. Also, the leaves were used as a substitute for tea during the American revolution.
- It can be used for alleviating joint pain and muscle pain; however, it needs to be used in the diluted form.
- It has proved beneficial for people with ulcers, gout, psoriasis, hair care, eczema, cramps, tendentious hypertension, heart disease, headache, poor circulation, obesity, and arthritis.
- One of the main benefits is its pain-relieving properties. It is mostly blended with a carrier oil to a 10% concentration, and used as a massage oil. It can be used by people affected by conditions like lumbago, fibromyalgia, neuralgia, and sciatica.
- As it is a stimulant, this oil encourages the production of enzymes, bile, uterine and ovarian discharges, hormones, gastric juices; besides stimulating the lymph nodes, digestive system, and the excretion of urine.
- Menstrual problems can be treated with the use of this oil, as it possesses properties to regularize the menstrual cycle. Moreover, it can also alleviate problems like fatigue and nausea, which are commonly associated with the cycle.
Risks Associated with Ingestion and Overuse
The methyl component present in the oil can easily pass through the skin and enter the tissues. It has the capacity to restrict the growth of prostaglandins, due to which the pain and inflammation is reduced. However, due to the presence of methyl component, people allergic to aspirin cannot use this oil. This component is a precursor to aspirin, and may cause adverse reactions in the body, which can be life-threatening.
Moreover, similar to the other aromatherapy oils, this oil also should not be ingested. The consumption even in very small amounts can cause severe adverse effects. A teaspoon (5 ml) of this oil is equivalent to approx. 7000 mg of salicylate or 21.5 adult aspirin tablets. Excessive oral or topical application of this oil for pain relief, can cause toxicity. Thus, the oil should not be applied on the skin of children who are less than 2 years old. The appropriate use of this oil depends on factors such as age, health, and pre-existing other medical conditions. Thus, ensure that the directions and dosages specified on the labels are strictly followed.
This is an excellent oil with several medicinal properties. However, before using this oil, it is best to check with a herbalist to know if the oil is safe and beneficial for you.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.