Wintergreen essential oil comes from the leaves of the Gaultheria procumbens or evergreen plant. Native to North America, wintergreen is actually not a specific plant but a group of aromatic plants whose leaves remain green even in the chilly months. For this reason, they are known as wintergreen or evergreen plants. Its leaves are steam distilled to extract wintergreen essential oil, which has a minty flavor, similar to that of peppermint oil. This earns the essential oil a place in many foods, beauty products, teas and household items.
Wintergreen essential oil uses are also medicinal in nature. Native American tribes would often use it for muscle and joint pain, fatigue, arthritis, and infections. Its leaves are also brewed in water to get refreshing wintergreen tea. Wintergreen essential oil is chemically quite similar to birch oil, though it is far more expensive. Methyl salicylate is the most dominant compound in wintergreen essential oil,1 which lends it a number of therapeutic and purifying properties. Read on to know more about this revered oil.
1. Shoo Away Your Aches And Pains
One of the most relevant health benefits of wintergreen essential oil is its use as a natural topical painkiller. It possesses analgesic and relaxing properties and that’s why it features in a lot of pain relief ointments. According to a study, a combination of wintergreen oil and peppermint oil is a surefire solution to common aches and pains such as low back pain. This combination is commonly used because it is believed to provide much better pain relief than either of these oils individually. The study also points out that wintergreen oil is absolutely safe for topical use. There are no safety issues with high-quality wintergreen essential oil. Only the use of inferior quality or adulterated wintergreen-like oils leads to safety hazards and adverse effects.2
2. Useful In Infections
One of the several benefits of wintergreen oil is its antimicrobial action. According to a study, 21 plant essential oils were tested against six bacterial species. Wintergreen essential oil was successful against four of these six strains, making it an effective antibacterial agent.3
3. Protects And Preserves Food
One of the wintergreen uses is that of a natural food preservative. When wintergreen essential oil was tested against food spoilage and oral microorganisms in a study, it was concluded that it protects food from bacteria and fungi. The study examined the effect of five bacteria and six fungal species and oral microorganisms (8 bacteria and 32 fungal species). Wintergreen essential oil inhibited the growth of all microorganisms tested.4
4. Fights Inflammation
Oil of wintergreen is regarded to have an action very similar to NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug). It is used in several anti-inflammatory ointments and concoctions. If you suffer from inflammation, it can help reduce it along with swelling and irritation. Methyl salicylate, a compound in wintergreen essential oil, contributes to these anti-inflammatory effects.5
5. Get Relief From Rheumatism And Arthritis
Wintergreen benefits include help for those suffering from rheumatism and arthritis. Wintergreen works wonders as a topical agent as it easily absorbs into the skin, reaching deep into the muscles and tissues. A natural analgesic, it provides a warming effect and enhances blood circulation, which is especially important to deal with these conditions. Its anti-inflammatory action also helps in relieving these conditions.6
6. Help For Certain Cancers
According to an animal study, the true or natural oil of wintergreen, when administered in the diet, ended up slowing the growth of spontaneous mammary gland tumors in mice and enhancing certain retrogressive changes in the tumors. The wintergreen oil consumed by the mice was further distilled for the research.7
However, it must also be noted that wintergreen essential oil is not always safe for oral consumption as it is highly concentrated. There are many studies that warn of the toxicity of methyl salicylate, an important compound of wintergreen oil. As little as 4 ml can be fatal, according to a study. So it’s important to always consult a medical practitioner to figure out how much wintergreen is safe to consume, if required.8
7. A Natural Insecticide And Fumigant
When wintergreen oil was tested on Paederus fuscipes (a type of beetle insects) it emerged as an effective insecticide and fumigant. The study concluded that wintergreen oil has a low-dose yet rapid action. This is one of the surprising uses for wintergreen oil and a neat way of keeping your gardens and homes free of insects naturally.9
8. Acts As Emmenagogue
Regulating your monthly periods is also among the many benefits of wintergreen. It boasts of emmenagogue properties10 and can be applied on pelvic and abdominal areas to fix menstrual woes like a sudden irregular period and abdominal cramps. Menstrual obstruction, which can lead to other serious disorders, can also be fixed with a massage with wintergreen essential oil blended with a carrier oil.
9. Clears Your Nasal Passage
If you’re frequently bugged by a stuffy nose, colds, choked throat, sniffles and what have you, wintergreen oil needs to be by your bedside. While we don’t have studies to prove that, anecdotal evidence point to the fact that wintergreen oil is, in fact, a great companion when you have a cold. Simply add a few drops of wintergreen to any carrier oil such as coconut or sesame and apply on your chest. You can also diffuse the oil and inhale the vapors for relief.
10. Bid Farewell To Fatigue
Another use of wintergreen oil is to instantly up your energy. Yes, coffee can take a hike if you have a tiny bottle of wintergreen essential oil. Wintergreen essential oil is a stimulant.11 Blend some drops of wintergreen in water or carrier oils such as olive or sesame and apply it on your pulse points to experience instant energy.
|↑1, ↑2||Hebert, Patricia R., E. Joan Barice, and Charles H. Hennekens. “Treatment of Low Back Pain: The Potential Clinical and Public Health Benefits of Topical Herbal Remedies.” (2014): 219-220.|
|↑3||Prabuseenivasan, Seenivasan, Manickkam Jayakumar, and Savarimuthu Ignacimuthu. “In vitro antibacterial activity of some plant essential oils.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine 6, no. 1 (2006): 39.|
|↑4||Nikolić, Miloš, Tatjana Marković, Miloš Mojović, Boris Pejin, Aleksandar Savić, Tamara Perić, Dejan Marković, Tatjana Stević, and Marina Soković. “Chemical composition and biological activity of Gaultheria procumbens L. essential oil.” Industrial crops and products 49 (2013): 561-567.|
|↑5, ↑6||Wong, R. W. K., and A. B. M. Rabie. “Local massage with topical analgesic, a novel treatment modality for temporomandibular muscular pain, a case study report of 5 consecutive cases.” The open orthopaedics journal 2 (2008): 97.|
|↑7||Strong, Leonell C. “Effect of Oil of Wintergreen on Spontaneous Tumors of the Mammary Gland in Mice: VI. The Different Effect of Two Fractions Obtained by the Distillation of the True Oil.” The American Journal of Cancer 32, no. 2 (1938): 227-239.|
|↑8||Botma, Marissa, William Colquhoun-Flannery, and Susanna Leighton. “Laryngeal oedema caused by accidental ingestion of Oil of Wintergreen.” International journal of pediatric otorhinolaryngology 58, no. 3 (2001): 229-232.|
|↑9||Zhang, Qiang, Xuan Wu, and Zhiping Liu. “Primary Screening of Plant Essential Oils as Insecticides, Fumigants, and Repellents Against the Health Pest Paederus fuscipes (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae).” Journal of economic entomology (2016): tow232.|
|↑10, ↑11||Fite, Vannoy Gentles, Michele Gentles McDaniel, and Vannoy Lin Reynolds. Essential Oils for Healing: Over 400 All-Natural Recipes for Everyday Ailments. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016.|