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Wintergreen

Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018

What is Wintergreen?

Wintergreen is a perennial evergreen shrub that is native to eastern North America, and usually is found in woodland and exposed mountainous areas. Its small, waxy, white or pale pink flowers bloom in late summer, developing a red fruit. The leaves and fruits are edible.

Scientific Name(s)

Gaultheria procumbens

Common Name(s)

Wintergreen is also known as teaberry, checkerberry, gaultheria oil, boxberry, deerberry, mountain tea, Canada tea, and partridgeberry.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

American Indians reportedly used wintergreen for treating back pain, rheumatism, fever, headaches, and sore throats. The plant and its oil have been used in traditional medicine as a pain releiver, for indigesion, and to protect the skin and reduce bleeding from minor cuts.

Steam processing of the warmed, water-treated leaves produces wintergreen oil. It is used with sweet birch oil or a chemical compound (typically no more than 0.04%) for flavoring foods and candy.

Wintergreen berries have been used to make pies. A tea made from the leaves was used as a substitute for black tea during the Revolutionary War. The tea has been used to relieve cold symptoms and muscle aches.

General uses

In addition to being used as a flavoring, wintergreen and its oil have been used on the skin in preparations for the treatment of muscular and rheumatic pain. Clinical data do not support the use of wintergreen for any condition.

What is the recommended dosage?

Dosing recommendations for oral or topical administration of wintergreen oil are not available. Even small doses of oral wintergreen oil may cause toxicity. One teaspoon (5 mL) of wintergreen oil is equivalent to approximately aspirin 7 g or 21.5 (325 mg) adult aspirin tablets.

Contraindications

Avoid use in children. Avoid use in patients with known allergy to any parts of wintergreen oil and in patients with known allergy to pain relievers like aspirin, or with GI problems.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when used as food. Avoid dosages above those found in food because safety and efficacy are unproven.

Interactions

Monitor for increased blood-thinning in patients using warfarin.

Side Effects

Wintergreen may cause allergic reactions. Topical administration may cause redness and irritation; second- and third-degree burns have been reported rarely with some formulations.

Toxicology

When taken internally, highly concentrated wintergreen oil, as with other volatile oils, may induce vomiting and cause severe, often fatal, poisonings.

References

1. Wintergreen. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons eAnswers. St. Louis, MO: Clinical Drug Information LLC; October 2015. http://online.factsandcomparisons.com. Accessed October 2015.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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