15 Wintergreen Essential Oil Uses and Benefits (Plus 7 Recipes, Tips & FAQ)

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The minty, fresh scent of wintergreen essential oil often brings to mind soothing relief and refreshing coolness. Its medicinally-active components and wide range of benefits make it a must-have for any medicine cabinet. Though mainly used for its painkilling properties for sore muscles and joints, wintergreen essential oil can offer so much more!

In this article, you’ll learn more about wintergreen oil, its source and history, and its incredible benefits for health. Read on to find out more about this invigorating oil along with some easy recipes to m at home!

Origins and history of wintergreen oil

Very aptly named, wintergreen’s cool scent often reminds us of frosty landscapes and winter wonderlands. The plant source, which is native to certain areas of North America, is also known under a variety of names such as checkerberry, partridge berry or teaberry.

Records have shown that Native Americans used the plant for a variety of purposes. They fed the red berries to deer and poultry, and used the leaves to prepare cooling drinks. Medicinally, the leaves were chewed whenever they had a fever, infection or pain. The leaves were also used a poultice applied to swollen muscles and joints to relieve pain and inflammation. Amazingly, such applications were very effective, and thus, wintergreen oil’s reputation as a pain remedy began.

Because of its effectiveness for aches and pains, the Colonial Americans soon caught on to this practice. They began to wrap up arthritic joints and sore muscles in wintergreen poultices, too! As word spread about this remarkable plant, doctors began to recognize its effectiveness and soon prescribed it to patients for all sorts of aches and pains.

Later on, advancements in technology allowed the plant to be studied. The oil was found to be responsible for the plant’s wide range of therapeutic effects, and applying the oil instead of the leaves made its medicinal property even more potent! Thus, wintergreen oil became an official analgesic remedy.

The American Pharmacopeia, a listing of various medicinal agents, once included wintergreen leaves in its section on analgesics and rheumatism remedies. Today, the essential oil is still mentioned in certain pharmacopeias and official drug formularies.

Various pain remedies all over the world then came to utilized wintergreen for its analgesic property. A popular formulation in the early nineteenth century called the Swaim’s Panacea contained wintergreen as one of its main ingredients. Such a formulation was touted to cure a wide range of health problems. In France, a very wealthy pharmacist made his fortune by commercializing wintergreen as a treatment for all forms of muscle and joint pains.

The sweet, minty scent of wintergreen oil has made it a commercial favorite for flavoring candies and food products, and for perfuming household and beauty products. Along with peppermint and menthol, it is one of the main ingredients in mints, gums, breath fresheners, toothpastes, and other oral hygiene products. At one time, it was used as a flavoring component for root beer. Its numerous properties, however, make it go beyond its simple role as a mint-like flavor and scent.

Today, wintergreen oil is hugely sought after as a necessity in formulating salves, ointments and liniments for inflammation and pain relief. This is mainly because the wintergreen plant is one among only two natural sources of methyl salicylate, a compound related to aspirin. Another plant source of natural methyl salicylate is sweet birch, a plant species totally unrelated to wintergreen but also yielding a high percentage of this painkilling substance

If you read labels of pain liniments and muscle rubs, you’ll notice that methyl salicylate is often mentioned as an ingredient. Most of these commercial products, however, contain methyl salicylate that is synthetically produced, not the natural kind found in wintergreen oil.

Though this synthetic version is much cheaper to produce, it lacks certain qualities that natural wintergreen oil has. For one, synthetic methyl salicylate is more toxic when taken internally due to a slight variation in its chemical structure. Another difference is that the natural version is more sweet-smelling than synthetic methyl salicylate. This is because the combination of methyl salicylate with the other compounds in wintergreen oil makes it more pleasantly stimulating to the senses.

With its refreshing aroma and invigorating effect, wintergreen oil was and still is one of the most sought-after essential oils to alleviate a wide variety of painful ailments, as well as a go-to for stress and tension relief.

Source and composition of wintergreen oil

Wintergreen oil is obtained via steam distillation from the leaves of a plant called Gaultheria procumbens, from the plant family Ericaceae. This plant is a shrubby, low-growing evergreen that prefers cool, shady areas. It is native to the United States and Canada.

The wintergreen plant has glossy green leaves and produces red berries edible to animals. The leaves are odorless, with a tart, spicy taste. To obtain the essential oil, the leaves first have to be soaked in water for a day to develop the oil. During this time, a substance called gaultherin (also found in the leaves) helps convert the leaf compounds into the essential oil containing about 85-99 % methyl salicylate.

Methyl salicylate is the main component of wintergreen oil and is responsible for almost all of its therapeutic benefits. It is closely related to acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin, which explains its potent

analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Other components of the oil include alpha-pinene, limonene, 3,7-guaiadiene, and myrcene.

What are some benefits of wintergreen oil?

Wintergreen oil’s renowned painkilling properties make it a staple for athletes and those who frequently suffer from muscle and joint pain. Its anti-inflammatory activity along with its cool, refreshing scent, make it an excellent oil for soothing many aches and pains.

Wintergreen’s sweet, frosty scent isn’t only great for flavoring candies and mints. In aromatherapy, it has been found to help release certain emotional blocks, particularly in letting go and trusting more. Plus, the cool, fresh scent promotes relief from tension and stress.

Specific benefits of wintergreen oil

  • It’s excellent for pain relief – Wintergreen oil is best known for its potent painkilling action. When rubbed on the skin, it produces a warming effect that reduces the pain felt in the underlying tissues, such as in sore muscles. Wintergreen oil is useful in alleviating muscle cramps, headaches, migraine, bone pain, and other similar conditions. For relieving pain, studies have found that wintergreen oil is best used in combination with peppermint oil. These two oils when used together, offer a more potent analgesic action because each seems to amplify the effects of the other. Try diluting a few drops of each oil in a suitable carrier oil and apply to the affected areas.
  • It eases inflammation and swelling – Thanks to its methyl salicylate content, wintergreen oil also helps relieve inflammatory conditions. This is one of the reasons why it’s so effective for joint and muscle pain, as inflammation commonly accompanies various sorts of painful conditions. Massaging the oil onto swollen joints and tissues can help promote healing of superficial inflammation, while inhaling the oil through an inhaler can help support the immune system fight internal inflammatory conditions.
  • It helps clear up acne and other bacterial skin irritations – Due to its potent antibacterial activity, wintergreen essential oil is an effective component for any anti-acne regimen. It helps kill bacteria on the skin, thus preventing growth in the skin pores where they cause inflammation that leads to acne. Its anti-inflammatory action is also a plus, as it helps treat existing inflammation in infected pores. You can add a few drops to your facial cleanser or toner to enjoy its skin-clearing benefits. You can also check out the recipes below to see how you can easily whip up a facial toner containing wintergreen oil.
  • It promotes healthy hair – Wintergreen essential oil helps tone the hair roots, which in turns gives you healthier hair and prevents hair fall. It can also relieve the itching from dandruff and can prevent its recurrence. To enjoy these benefits, add a few drops of this oil into your favorite shampoo. You can also make a hair rinse by adding a few drops in your hair rinsing water. Just make sure that it doesn’t get into your eyes as it may cause stinging.
  • It eases rheumatism and arthritis – Wintergreen oil’s ability to relieve pain is most useful in patients suffering from rheumatism, arthritis, gout and stiff joints. These conditions usually involve a certain degree of inflammation, which is where wintergreen’s anti-inflammatory action can help remarkably well. It also promotes circulation, which also helps make these conditions more manageable.
  • It helps treat colds, cough and flu – The powerful compounds found in wintergreen essential oil can help relieve the respiratory congestion that comes with colds and flu. Its soothing scent can ease an itchy throat, lessen sneezing and help clear a stuffy nose. Wintergreen’s antiseptic and antimicrobial action also helps support healing from these infections. For immediate relief, massage a few drops of the oil diluted with your carrier oil of choice onto your chest and neck and inhale deeply. For more effective decongestant action, you can do a steam inhalation session with a few drops of wintergreen oil mixed into a cup or two of boiling water. Be sure to keep your eyes closed because the oil may cause stinging.
  • It can ease digestive problems – The leaves of the wintergreen plant have been used in various cultures to help cure stomach problems. Wintergreen oil’s ability to produce a warm sensation can help alleviate the cramping and bloating seen in certain digestive disorders like stomachaches, flatulence, and indigestion. Mix a few drops with a carrier oil and massage onto the abdomen in a circular motion.
  • It’s great for home cleaning – Stay away from harsh chemical cleaners and use natural oils instead! The potent antiseptic action of wintergreen oil makes for a great addition to your home-cleaning routine. Add a few drops of wintergreen oil into your laundry soaks and dishwasher to fight off molds and bacteria. You can also use it to put together an antiseptic cleaning spray along with other essential oils. Use this spray on tabletops, windows, and any other surface that needs disinfecting. Aside from being an all-around cleaner, it makes your home smell great too!
  • It supports healing from fever and infection – Wintergreen essential oil’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties can help your body fight off infections and ease the fever associated with such conditions. Because it contains a compound similar to aspirin, this oil can offer relief in various illnesses. Rubbing the oil on the chest area and deeply inhaling the scent can help promote healing from infections. Diffusing the oil around your home can also encourage a more soothing environment for sickness relief.
  • It helps soothe chronic nerve pain – There are a number of conditions that often have chronic nerve pain as a symptom. Diabetes, injuries, and even viral infections can sometimes cause nerve pain, which is usually persistent and long-lasting. Wintergreen oil is a great alternative to pain medications that may have harmful side effects when taken for an extended period of time. Massage the affected area with wintergreen oil diluted in a carrier oil whenever the onset of pain is felt. You can also add it to your warm bathwater to soothe painful areas.
  • It relieves painful PMS cramps – Wintergreen’s warming effect along with its analgesic action can be quite useful in relieving painful cramps associated with the menstrual cycle. A great tip is to combine the oil with other antispasmodic or pain-relieving oils, dilute them with a carrier oil, and massage the oil onto the lower abdomen. You can also add the oils to a soothing hot bath or use as a warm compress to further potentiate the pain-relieving effects.
  • It fights fatigue and boosts mental focus – If you’re bogged down by brain fog on a sleepy afternoon at work, try inhaling wintergreen oil. Its fresh, minty scent helps send signals to the brain to stay alert and focused. Try dabbing a drop or two of wintergreen oil diluted in a carrier along your wrist or neck to help keep you from getting drowsy, especially if you’re expecting to work long hours.
  • It helps optimize exercise – Inhaling wintergreen oil before any physical activity can help boost stamina and endurance. Its ability to aid in respiratory capacity along with its fatigue-fighting action makes it an ideal rub to accompany any workout session. It can also be helpful post-exercise since it promotes circulation and eases any muscle or joint pains. Inhale some of the oil through a personal inhaler before a workout session, or rub some on your neck and upper back. After intense physical activity, use it as a massage to wind down and ease any cramping or soreness.
  • It can relieve stress and tension – After an exhausting day, wintergreen oil can be your go-to for clearing out mental tension. In aromatherapy, wintergreen oil is said to assist in letting go and surrendering control, which may come in handy when all you want to do is forget about any work-related stress. Dab some diluted wintergreen oil on your temples and massage in a circular or upward motion.
  • It helps promote oral hygiene – Because of its ability to kill odor-causing bacteria, wintergreen oil can be used in oral hygiene products like mouthwashes or toothpastes. You can add a few drops to homemade or commercial toothpastes and mouthwashes. Its minty scent also makes for a great breath freshener! To make a DIY gargle, simply add two drops of wintergreen oil to a glass of water and mix. Gargle and swish around in your mouth for about 30 seconds.

Things to keep in mind when using wintergreen oil

As we mentioned above, wintergreen oil is much preferable to synthetically-made methyl salicylate because it is less toxic. There are still some precautions to be taken, however, because its methyl salicylate content is still toxic in certain doses, especially because its action is very similar to aspirin.

One thing to remember is that wintergreen oil should not be taken undiluted via any route. Its high methyl salicylate content can irritate both external and internal tissues. It may cause blisters, stings, and rashes when applied to the skin undiluted.

Large amounts of wintergreen leaf or even small amounts of the undiluted oil taken by mouth can cause adverse effects like tinnitus or ringing in the ears, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and confusion. Orally ingested amounts of the oil in more than 2 ml can cause severe harm. This may include serious damage to the kidneys and liver. Just 4-5 ml (a teaspoon) is equivalent to about 21 adult aspirin tablets, and can be fatal to a child when ingested. About 30 ml (2 tablespoons) can be fatal to adults.

Always do a skin patch test to check for allergies before using this oil. Do not apply onto or near the eyes, nose and ears. Avoid application to children under two, even in dilute form. Make sure that this essential oil is stored safely out of children’s reach, as its pleasant smell is easy to mistake for food or candy.

People who have a history of seizures or are allergic to aspirin should avoid using the oil. The same goes for those with asthma and nasal polyps, as these people may be more sensitive to its scent. Pregnant women should also avoid using this oil, along with any other products containing methyl salicylate, salicylic acid, or aspirin, since all salicylates can harm the developing fetus when used in certain amounts. Also, people who are on blood-thinning medications should avoid using this oil. Like aspirin, methyl salicylate has a certain degree of blood-thinning activity, and when used with similar medications, may cause internal bruising and hemorrhage.

Wintergreen oil can be blended with other essential oils to amplify its healing properties. Oils that blend well with wintergreen include peppermint, geranium, oregano, lavender, marjoram, lemongrass, vanilla, basil, bergamot, thyme, ylang-ylang, and cypress essential oils. Wintergreen oil can also be substituted with similar-scented oils, such as white fir, cypress, spearmint, and peppermint.

Wintergreen oil application tips and tricks

Need quick ways to get the benefits that wintergreen oil has to offer? Here are some quick tips:

Have a small bottle of dilute wintergreen oil with you at all times. When you feel stressed at work or are simply in need of an emotional or mental lift, place a few drops on your palms and rub together. Cup your hands over your nose and deeply inhale the scent. Exhale slowly and repeat with more breathing cycles until you feel that refreshing mental boost.

Rub a few drops of oil on your temples after an exhausting day to ward away tension and any work-related headaches.

Place a few drops into your warm bath and soak in it for about 10-15 minutes to release any body aches and pains. This also gives a positive effect on the mind and uplifts the mood.

Run a few drops through your diffuser to give your home a refreshingly clean, frosty evergreen scent that’s sure to lift everyone’s mood. This is especially great at the end of a workday or when you have some visitors coming around.

Trying to get rid of musty smells in clothes, corners or in a cabinet? Place a few drops of wintergreen oil on a cotton ball and leave this in the offending area or near the smelly item. This helps cover up annoying smells and instead gives off a fresh, minty-sweet scent.

Have crampy muscles or stiff joints? The best way to use wintergreen oil is as a massage oil diluted in the carrier oil of your choice. Simply add five drops per 10 ml of carrier oil and rub directly on the affected area. If possible, wrap up the affected area with a cloth bandage after application to prolong and intensify wintergreen oil’s painkilling and anti-inflammatory action.

Wintergreen oil recipes

Pain-away headache formula

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. In a small glass bottle (preferably dark-colored), mix together all of the essential oils.
  2. Add in the carrier oil in portions, stirring or shaking with each addition.
  3. Store in a cool, dark place. To use, place a few drops of the mixture on your fingertips and massage onto your temples and neck.

Muscle rub for aches and cramps

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. In a small glass bottle (preferably dark-colored) , mix together all of the essential oils, stirring or shaking after adding each.
  2. Add your chosen carrier oil in portions, stirring or shaking with each addition.
  3. Store in a cool, dark place. To use, place a few drops of the mixture on your hands, rub together, and massage onto painful muscle areas, stroking along the direction of the muscle.

Natural menthol chest rub

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Melt and mix together beeswax and olive or coconut oil in a double boiler.
  2. Once melted, remove from heat.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool slightly but still remain liquid.
  4. Add in each of the essential oils, stirring after each addition to make sure each oil is uniformly mixed in.
  5. Transfer to a lidded glass jar or resealable container.
  6. To use, rub onto the chest to relieve cough, colds, and other respiratory symptoms. For children, apply to the bottom of the feet.

Antiseptic and anti-fungal home spray

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Fill half of a 16 oz spray bottle with water.
  2. Add in each of the essential oils, stirring or shaking after each addition.
  3. Mix in the vegetable glycerin and shake well.
  4. Finally, add enough water to fill the spray bottle.
  5. To use, shake well and spray onto surfaces to prevent bacterial and mold growth. You can also spray a small amount over your plants to fight off plant fungal growth!

Pain-away period blend

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • In a glass bottle (preferably dark-colored) , mix together all of the essential oils, stirring or shaking after adding each.
  • Add your chosen carrier oil in portions, stirring or shaking with each addition.
  • Store in a cool, dark place.
  • To use, place a few drops of the mixture on your hands. Rub together to warm the mixture, and massage onto the lower abdomen.

Soothing foot soak

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Fill the basin with warm water.
  2. Add in the oil and swirl the water a bit.
  3. Sit down, relax, and soak your feet in the mix for about 15 minutes.
  4. Pat your feet dry and slather on some coconut oil, massaging for added relief.

Acne-clearing easy facial toner

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. In a clean, dry bowl, mix together all of the ingredients.
  2. To use, dip a cotton ball into the mixture and apply onto face.

Conclusion

With its potent medicinal properties and remarkable health benefits, wintergreen oil is something you shouldn’t go without! Hopefully this article has been useful and informative for you. Do you know any other uses and recipes for wintergreen oil? You can share them with us in the comments below!

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