Wintergreen Essential Oil: Uses, Benefits, and Blends
Scientific Name: Gaultheria procumbens L
Plant Part: Leaves
Scent: Minty, cooling, fresh, mountain airy
Perfumery Note: Middle to top
Initial Aroma Strength: Strong and pervasive
Extraction Method: Steam Distilled
Suitable Blending Oils:
Breaking Down the wintergreen Essential Oil’s Chemical Components
Alpha-pinene 0.23 %
Beta-pinene 0.02 %
1,8-Cineole (aka Eucalyptol) 0.06 %
Linalool 0.07 %
Methyl salicylate 98.74 %
Ethyl salicylate 0.04 %
I mean, come on! If that wasn’t a set of chemicals to geek out on, I don’t know what is!
Nearly entirely made up of methyl salicylate and all the other components are pain killing and anti-inflammatory.
Pretty exciting stuff.
Historical Uses of Wintergreen Essential Oil
Interestingly, up until about fifteen years ago, wintergreen essential oil was classed as a hazardous essential oil and was on the aromatherapists no-go lists.
This was based on the fact it is very easy to accidentally overdose on wintergreen essential oil, which can be lethal.
Today aromatherapists are taught to take thorough case histories, especially around other medications, creams and lotions and diet, in order to prevent this.
In this article, we’ll talk about things you need to be cautious of when using wintergreen essential oil. Even though some of this becomes a little science loaded, understanding the way methyl salicate affects us may help you avoid some dangerous mistakes.
What’s So Special About Wintergreen Essential Oil ?
Wintergreen is a Native American traditional remedy. Tribes, including the Seneca and the Mohicans, use wintergreen leaves as a traditional remedy for pain relief. The success of the plant is down to the high levels of a constituent called Methyl salicylate. The chemical compound occurs naturally in various plants, but most notably in wintergreen leaves where it comprises almost the entirety of the chemistry.
Best known for its soothing and analgesic properties, methyl salicylate is a valuable ingredient in numerous pharmaceuticals, topical creams, and even some food products.
Methyl salicylate is an ester. Esters are a very versatile chemical group, important for developing pharmaceuticals. They make medications smell and taste better, possess anti-inflammatory properties and improve how well the body absorbs medicines.
Methyl salicylate is also used in small quantities in some foods and beverages, to imbue its distinctive minty flavor. Its cooling sensation and refreshing taste make it a favorite in products like chewing gum, candy, and even some soft drinks.
The analgesic properties of methyl salicylate have made it a popular choice in the pharmaceutical industry. It is a key component of many over-the-counter pain relief products, particularly topical ointments and creams designed to alleviate muscle and joint pain. When applied to the skin, it produces a warming or cooling sensation, which helps to distract from pain and discomfort.
Methyl salicylate also serves as a precursor for the synthesis of salicylic acid, the compound that forms the basis of aspirin. In fact, aspirin was originally derived from salicylic acid, which can be synthesized from methyl salicylate.
Methyl salicylate also thins the blood.
Herein we see both the benefits of wintergreen essential oil and reasons to avoid using it.
Cautions of Using Wintergreen Essential Oil
Note how wintergreen could be in so many different things. Someone may already be taking blood thinning medications. They might be using a liniment or balm (Tiger Balm is a specific example. Wintergreen essential oil may have been added to a toothpaste (Euthymol, for instance) . It may have been added to rubbing alcohol (usually, but not always, turns it green). It may have been added to pies, jellies, ice cream…
It may have been labeled differently, as Checkerberry, or Tea Berry.
Strictly speaking, these are the berries, rather than the leaves, but the chemistry still adds up.
Next, remember how I said esters change how pharmaceuticals absorb?
So now, things go into the skin really fast. That can be a good thing. But some people will develop rashes, burning sensations and hives.
Since this absorption then affects how things circulate the body, it also changes the way drugs engage in the liver, kidneys and the heart. As such then, any kind of liver, kidney, heart conditions…we are going to leave wintergreen essential oil alone.
People with epilepsy should wintergreen essential oil. It should be approached with extreme caution, if you suffer from asthma.
While methyl salicylate is generally safe for use in its intended applications, it is essential to exercise caution, especially when using concentrated forms or applying it to the skin. Overuse or misuse can lead to salicylate toxicity, which can result in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and even more severe health issues in extreme cases. (Davis, 2007) Methyl salicylate can also cause contact dermatitis and anaphylaxis (Chan, 1996)
We do not advise using wintergreen essential oil during pregnancy, during breastfeeding or on children. The fine protective oils on their skins are not well enough developed to cope with wintergreen essential oil.
Methyl Salicylate and GABAA
Scientific evidence reveals that methyl salicylate has a strong binding affinity for the GABAA receptor sites. (Brosnan 2022)
GABAA receptors control most of how the central nervous system calms itself. Importantly, they are what anesthetics use to sedate people: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8985026/
Spread right across the nervous system, they play a role in virtually all brain functions. However GABAA receptors are also found on immune cells, liver, bone growth plates, leydig cells (which secrete hormones in the testes) and several other endocrine tissues including placenta.
Ligands that activate the GABAA receptor typically have anticonvulsant properties as well as anxiolytic, amnesic, sedative, hypnotic, euphoric and muscle relaxant abilities.
Now we have an understanding of why wintergreen essential oil soothes pain…it effectively anesthetizes it - we should ask ourselves which of these other actions might it have.
So far we don’t really know. However, at this point, general wisdom is to avoid wintergreen essential oil if you suffer from seizures or epilepsy.
A Jolt to The Nervous System
Methyl salicylate interacts with the sodium ion channels, Nav1. 2. These voltage gated channels direct signaling through the nervous system.
They generate and propagate action potentials. Action potentials are how neurons and muscle cells signal. They are caused by rapid rises and falls in voltage through the cell. Changes in the current depolarize the cell, which means it moves sodium in and out of cells to make them work.
To work correctly, a cell requires enough current to initiate a voltage response in its cell membranes. If the current is too weak to depolarize the membrane, an action potential will not fire.
This particular sodium channel is encoded by a gene SCN2A .
Mutations in this gene are associated with epilepsies, intellectual disability, and autism.
People with ADD and ADHD can sometimes be intolerant of salicylates, and indeed removing them from their diets can often have dramatic effects.
As such then, these groups should also approach wintergreen essential oil with care.
Uses For Wintergreen Essential Oil
Applied topically, wintergreen essential oil soothes sore muscles and joints, making it a popular choice for massage oils and liniments. Athletes and individuals suffering from conditions like arthritis often use wintergreen essential oil.
Wintergreen essential oil has a strange effect on the skin, cooling it, making it feel almost numb. This may be explained by some interesting research that scientists have uncovered about how methyl salicylate engages with the nervous system.
Wintergreen Essential Oil and The Respiratory System
Inhaling the invigorating scent of wintergreen essential oil can help clear congested airways and provide relief from respiratory conditions like bronchitis and sinusitis. Its aroma is both soothing and refreshing, making it a valuable addition to vaporizers and diffusers during cold and flu season.
However, salicylate sensitivity is a common adverse reaction to the methyl salicylate in wintergreen essential oils. Salicylate sensitivity exhibits allergy-like symptoms and can trigger asthma.
Wintergreen Essential Oil as A Digestive Aid
Some aromatherapists use wintergreen essential oil for the discomfort associated with indigestion, gas, and bloating.. One drop of wintergreen essential oil in a tablespoon of carrier oil can be lovely.
Wintergreen Essential Oil for Sinus Headaches
Dilute wintergreen essential oil really well and place one drop onto the very top of the head.
Use your finger to palpate the skull and find where it is most sensitive. This is the spot to apply it.
It’s like someone has exploded a hole in the congestion. Do not do it many times, because it can irritate the skin, but if you have a time when it’s important to push through the sinus congestion, this is the perfect way.
Similarly, you can use this for cooling headaches, or you can apply to the temples.
Wintergreen Essential Oil for Circulation
Some practitioners believe to use wintergreen essential oil to support healthy circulation. In massage, it may promote better circulation, potentially aiding in the relief of conditions like Raynaud's disease.
Clearly, with its blood thinning skills, it is very good for thrombosis. But always talk to your medical practitioner about this, and be careful of drug interactions with anticoagulant medications, especially warfarin.
Many people use wintergreen essential oil for gout.
Wintergreen Essential Oil as Insect Repellent
Beyond its use in human healthcare, methyl salicylate also finds application as an insect repellent. Some natural insect repellents incorporate this compound to ward off mosquitoes and other pesky insects. Plants make it naturally to deter pests, in particular aphids. The scent of methyl salicylate is a natural deterrent for many insects, making it a safer and more environmentally friendly alternative to chemical-based repellents.
How Does Wintergreen Essential Oil Make You Feel?
It makes me think of those images of the temples in Nepal, far away from anywhere. Large expanses of space surrounded by the beautiful prayer flags fluttering in the breeze.
Open, airy, quiet and focused.
energetically, this is more of an old person’s oil than one for the young.
Spiritual Uses for Wintergreen Essential Oil
Some cultures add wintergreen leaves to incense to be used when reciting prayers and chanting. It has the effect of making you loosen the grip of this reality and helping you to drift on the breeze
Application Methods for Wintergreen Essential Oil
Wintergreen essential oil can be used in various ways to harness its medicinal benefits:
Dilute a few drops of wintergreen essential oil with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil and massage it onto the affected area for pain relief. Ensure proper dilution to prevent skin irritation.
Add a few drops of wintergreen essential oil to a diffuser or vaporizer to inhale its soothing aroma and enjoy its respiratory benefits. Its minty scent can help create a calming atmosphere.
Hot or Cold Compress
For localized pain or inflammation, add a few drops of wintergreen essential oil to a bowl of hot or cold water. Soak a cloth in the mixture, wring it out, and apply it to the affected area.
For respiratory relief, add a few drops of wintergreen essential oil to a bowl of hot water. Lean over the bowl with a towel over your head and inhale the steam for several minutes.
Safety Considerations of Wintergreen Essential Oil
Dilution: Always dilute wintergreen essential oil with a suitable carrier oil before applying it to the skin. Failure to do so can result in skin irritation or sensitization.
According to Tisserand and Young, maximum dilution for topical use of Wintergreen essential oil is 2.4%
Avoid Ingestion: While wintergreen essential oil is used in trace amounts in some food products, it should never be ingested in its concentrated form. Ingesting even a small amount can lead to salicylate poisoning, which can be life-threatening.
Patch Test: Perform a patch test on a small area of skin to check for any adverse reactions before using wintergreen essential oil more extensively.
In conclusion, methyl salicylate is a natural compound with a diverse range of applications, from pain relief and insect repellent to flavoring agent in food products. Its origins in nature, along with its pleasant aroma and therapeutic properties, have made it a valuable and versatile substance in various industries. However, it should always be used with care and in accordance with product instructions to ensure its safety and effectiveness. As a bridge between the natural world and modern science, methyl salicylate continues to prove its worth in enhancing our lives and well-being.
Wintergreen Essential Oil Blends: DIY Recipes
Why Choose VINEVIDA
At VINEVIDA, we love botanicals and the planet they come from. We believe in stocking the best at affordable prices and supplying to the discerning, which is why we are also members of both the Alliance of International Aromatherapists and the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. In recognition of our excellent standard of product, we are proud to hold a 2021 Certificate of Registration as a Cosmetic Products Establishment with the U.S. Drugs and Food Administration.
Our joy at seeing people make beautiful things means we stock from the smallest amounts to the largest. Our bulk essential oils’ prices begin with our smallest essential oil of 10ml to our largest of 396lb, meaning any manufacturing company can afford to stock as many or as few oils their business can accommodate without running the risk of spoilage of some of nature’s most precious commodities. So why not see if you can save money by buying your wintergreen essential oil in bulk? Remember how stable it is proven to be, so as long as you store it carefully, it should last and last.
Don’t forget too; we like to look after our customers with reasonable prices and excellent customer service and reward the loyal ones with money off discounts over the year.
So, why not check out if you qualify for our loyalty scheme and start saving today with an environmentally friendly choice of oil for skin, hair, massage oils, and soapmaking? Add VINEVIDA wintergreen essential oil to your cart today.