Essential Oil Profile: Wintergreen


Ingrid Petres


Never use wintergreen oil internally!!!

If using wintergreen externally properly dilute (1-2 drops per ounce of carrier)!

Avoid use on children, pets, pregnant women, or broken skin


Common name:  Wintergreen

Latin Binomial: Gaultheria procumbens

Family: Ericaceae

Other common names: Teaberry, Checkerberry, Mountain Tea

Part used: leaves

Production method: Wintergreen essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves of the plant following maceration in warm water. Methyl salicylate, the main chemical constituent of the oil, is not present in the plant until formed by enzymatic action from a glycoside within the leaves as they are macerated in warm water. 

Country of Origin: Native to North America, mainly Northeast USA and Canada.

Typical Constituents: The essential oil is nearly 98% methyl salicylate, but may also contain triacontane, formaldehyde, gaultheriline and varies other aldehydes, ketones, and alcohols. Birch essential oil’s chemical makeup is nearly identical to wintergreen’s and can therefore be used interchangeably. Most wintergreen and birch oil on the market today is actually synthetically produced methyl salicylate, preferred by the food industry as a cheap flavoring but not by aromatherapists who look for the best available natural product with all its constituents intact.

Description of oil: Wintergreen essential oil is pale yellow or pinkish yellow in color. The smell is sweet, and fresh like mint.  

Description of plant:Wintergreen is an evergreen shrub with white bell-shaped flowers and leathery, oval, slightly toothed leaves. Both its leaves and red, berry-like fruit are edible.  

History, Folklore and Myth: Wintergreen has been used ritually for hex breaking, protection and healing. 

Properties and uses:Methyl salicylate is formed when salicylic acid reacts with methanol. You might already know that aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is formed from salicylic acid and acetic acid. The chemical is beneficial to the body’s ability to manage pain and inflammation. The oil’s high concentration of methyl salicylate make it extremely analgesic, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory. It is mainly used for headache, arthritis, sore muscles, sciatica, and cramps. The oil should only be used topically and in very low dilution, if at all. Avoid use on pregnant women, children, or broken skin. 

 * Antitussive

* Antiseptic

* Astringent

 * Carminative

 * Emmenagogue

 * Hepatostimulant

 * Galactagogue


The oil is also used as a flavoring for candies, sodas, toothpaste and gum in a dilution of no more than .04%. 

Precautions and contraindications:

Never use wintergreen oil internally!!!

If using wintergreen externally properly dilute (1-2 drops per ounce of carrier)!

Avoid use on children, pets, pregnant women, or broken skin.

Numerous cases of methyl salicylate poisoning have been reported, with a 50-60% mortality rate. Ingesting as little as 4 ml has been known to be fatal.

Other interesting information:  It is believed that the wintergreen plant produces a pheromone to help it protect itself and its colony when attacked by pathogens such as the tobacco mosaic virus. The pheromone released by the plant may attract helpful insects as well as warn other members in the colony of potential danger.This organic ester known as methyl salicylate is also produced by enzymatic reaction when the plants leaves are macerated in warm water.

Wintergreen oil is also commonly used in printmaking as a solvent.  




Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin.  Carol Stream, Illinios: Allured Publishing Corporation. 1994.

Battaglia, Salvatore.  The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. Virginia, Queensland, Australia: The Perfect Potion. 1995.

Cunningham, Scott. Magical Aromatherapy. St. Paul, MN: Lewellyn Publications, 1990.

Grieves, Maud, A Modern Herbal. Jonathan Cape, London, 1979.

Lawless, Julia. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, HarperCollinsPublishers, London, 1995.

Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 1992.

Shepperd-Hanger, Sylla.  The Aromatherapy Practitioner Reference Manual, The Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy, 1995

Tisserand, Robert. The Essential Oil Safety Data Manual, The Association of Tisserand Aromatherapists, Sussex, UK, 1995.



In the time Ingrid has worked for Cheryl's Herbs she has made herself invaluable assisting Maria in production and running the store on Fridays and Saturdays.. Like all of us here at Cheryl's Herbs she continues to study and learn about herbs and recently earned her certification in aromatherapy through The East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies.

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