Gaultheria procumbens L.

Last updated: 13 May 2015

Scientific Name

Gaultheria procumbens L.

Synonyms

Brossaea procumbens (L.) Kuntze, Gaultheria humilis Salisb, Gaultheria repens Raf. [Illegitimate], Gautiera procumbens (L.) Torr. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Wintergreen, eastern teaberry, checkerberry [2], teaberry, creeping wintergreen [3], box berry, alpine wintergreen, mountain tea [4]
France Gaultherie du Canada, the de bois [4]
German Niedere rebhuhnbeere, niederliegende scheinbeeree [4]
Italy Uva di monte [4].

Geographical Distributions

Gaultheria procumbens is grown in North America (mostly in the Eastern United States), Europe and Nepal. [5]

Botanical Description

G. procumbens is an evergreen shrub growing to 0.2 m (0 ft 8 in) by 1 m (3 ft 3 in) at a medium rate. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects. [2]

Cultivation

G. procumbens is a low-growing, creeping ground cover, is found in forest areas and has a very pleasant wintergreen aroma and taste.[6]

Chemical Constituent

The main chemical constituent of G. procumbens essential oil is methyl salicylate. [7][8][9]

The essential oil is steam-distilled or water-distilled and is very thin in consistency. It is very pale yellow to light pink in colour with a sweet, antiseptic aroma. [5]

Plant Part Used

leaves [4][3][10]

Traditional Use

This used commonly in topical analgesic products used to treat sore muscles or arthritis. It is also found in foods and beverages and oral care products as a flavouring agent. In therapeutic aromatherapy it is used with caution and typically in combination with other oils in a carrier solution. G. procumbens leaves were widely used by the native North American Indians in the treatment of aches and pains and to help breathing whilst hunting or carrying heavy loads. An essential oil (known as 'oil of wintergreen') obtained from the leaves contains methyl salicylate, which is closely related to aspirin and is an effective anti-inflammatory. This species was at one time a major source of methyl salicylate, though this is now mainly synthesized. The leaves, and the oil, are analgesic, anti-inflammatory, aromatic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, stimulant and tonic]. An infusion of the leaves is used to relieve flatulence and colic]. The plant, especially in the form of the essential oil, is most useful when applied externally in the treatment of acute cases of rheumatism, sciatica, myalgia, sprains, neuralgia and catarrh. The oil is sometimes used in the treatment of cellulitis, a bacterial infection that causes the skin to become inflamed. [3][10]

Preclinical Data

Pharmacology

No documentation

Toxicity

No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Platelet aggregation inhibitor

A study investigated the topical application of methyl salicylate from the essential oil of G. procumbens and aspirin intake on platelet aggregation in healthy individuals. The results showed that both aspirin and topical oil of G. procumbens inhibited platelet aggregation. [6]

Precautions

Some caution is advised, especially if the oil is used internally, since essential oil is toxic in excess, causing liver and kidney damage. [3][10]

Side effects

No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

Interaction with drug

It should not be prescribed for patients who are hypersensitive to salicylates (aspirin). [6]

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Contraindications

G. procumbens oil is considered extremely toxic due to its methyl salicylate content. [11] Because of its analgesic properties, many topical solutions such as salves, lotions, and ointments contain methyl salicylate and can cause irritation or allergic contact dermatitis. [12]

Severe salicylate poisoning can occur after ingestion of these topical medications. [13]

G. procumbens oil should be kept away from children due to severe potential toxicity and death. [14]

Case Report

No documentation

Dosage

No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation

References

  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Gaultheria procumbens L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 May 12]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2817983
  2. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Gaultheria procumbens L. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [updated 2012 Nov 26; cited 2016 May 12]. Available from: http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=GAPR2
  3. Plant For A Future. Gaultheria procumbens L. [homepage on the Internet]. c1996-2012 [cited 2016 May 12]. Available from: http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Gaultheria+procumbens
  4. Seidemann J. World spice plants: Economic usage, botany, taxonomy. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2005; p. 163
  5. Lis-Balchan M. Aromatherapy science: A guide for healthcare professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2006.
  6. Choukas-Bradley M, Brown TT.  An illustrated guide to Eastern Woodland wildflowers and trees.     Virginia: University of Virginia Press; 2004.
  7. Youngken HW. Pharmaceutical Botany. 3rd Edition.Philadelphia:P. Blakison’s son & co; 1921.
  8. Wilson CL, Solar JM, El Ghaouth A, Wisniewski ME. Rapid evaluation of plant extracts and essential oils for antifungal activity against botrytis cinerea. Plant Dis. 1997;81(2):204-210.
  9. Ribnicky DM, Poulev a A, Raskin I. The determination of salicylates in Gaultheria procumbens for use as a natural aspirin. Journal of Nutraceuticals, Functional & Medical Foods. 2003;4(1):39-52.
  10. Tanen DA, Danish DC, Reardon JM, Chisholm CB, Matteucci MJ, Riffenburgh RH. Comparison of oral aspirin versus topical applied methyl salicylate for platelet inhibition. Ann Pharmacother. 2008;42(10):1396-1401.
  11. Chan TY, Lee KK, Chan AY, Critchley JA. Poisoning due to Chinese proprietary medicines. Hum Exp Toxicol. 1995;14(5):434-436
  12. Chan TY. Potential dangers from topical preparations containing methyl salicylate. Hum Exp Toxicol. 1996;15(9):747-750.
  13. Chan TY. The risk of severe salicylate poisoning following the ingestion of topical medicaments or aspirin. Postgrad Med J. 1996;72(844):109-112.
  14. Davis JE. Are one or two dangerous? Methyl salicylate exposure in toddlers. J Emerg Med. 2007;32(1):63-69.