Thursday, January 21, 2016
Wintergreen: Gaultheria Procumbens, Gaultheria Shallon
Also known as: partridge berry, boxberry, checkerberry, deer berry, red pollom, ivory plum, canada tea, ground berry, etc.
Parts Used: leaves, berries
Meridians/Organs affected: liver, lungs, muscles
Properties: stimulant, astringent, aromatic, diuretic, antiseptic, emmenogogue, anti-rheumatic, anodyne, analgesic, expectorant, rubefacient, anti-inflammatory
Wintergreen is a member of the Heath family. It is native to Canada and the united states. It is a perennial plant that grows low to the ground and can get up to 12 inches tall. It has ovate shaped leaves that are toothed and get up to 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. The entire plant is very aromatic. The leaves are glossy and dark green on top and much paler and dull underneath. It is mainly found in mountain regions amongst the trees although it can be found in the desert as well. It has pink or white bell shaped flowers that are drooping and are replaced by red berries when the time is right. It blooms from June to September and the berries generally appear in October. The berries are a well loved treat for many wild animals and humans alike. They have a strong wintergreen flavor. Leaves of this plant should be gathered when the plant is in bloom and dried OUT of sunlight.
Wintergreen has been used by native american tribes for a very long time. They would chew the leaves for fevers and for pain or to freshen one's breath. They also used the leaves to make refreshing drinks. They would use the berries to feed their food animals and would use a liniment of sorts to ease aching muscles from the leaves. They also used it to improve their breathing when carrying heavy loads. Early colonists used the leaves to make tea for colds and illness and to help alkalize the stomach.
Wintergreen contains (the real stuff) around 98% methyl salicylate (aspirin anyone) which was distilled in Pennsylvania for distribution (back in the day they had some 60 distilleries dedicated just to this). Most practitioners say that wintergreen oil is poisonous and should never be ingested (however, I have found minute amounts ingested at times to be quite beneficial). Most wintergreen oil is now synthetically produced because it is much cheaper, but you can still get real wintergreen it is just harder to find. Most of your mouthwash, chewing gum, toothpaste, etc., have real wintergreen oil in them instead of the synthetic. Some products used to assist the respiratory system such as Olbas oil, still contain real wintergreen oil as well.
Wintergreen is well known as an anti-inflammatory. It increases the blood flow to the area improving the healing process. It has been used in salves for rheumatism, neuralgia, sprains, arthritis, myalgia, sciatica and more to great success. The leaves were also pulped and used topically as a poultice in much the same fashion-although they were also used for gout and boils. It has also been employed successfully for cellulite. Internal use has shown it effective for headaches, mild bladder issues, and minor aches and pains. The oil has been applied to painful teeth and gums with some relief (diluted of course) and as a gargle for sore throats. Jethro Kloss said it was useful for diabetes, skin diseases and scrofula. A douche of the leaf tea was said to benefit leucorrhea.
Don't use if pregnant as it can stimulate uterine contractions and ALWAYS dilute the oil before using either externally or internally. As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal. Enjoy and stay healthy!