Wintergreen (Gaultheria Fragrantissima) Information, Uses and Side effects

Wintergreen cherry information like botanical information, medicinal properties. Know it’s health benefits, side effects and medicinal uses in Ayurveda. This herb should be used with precaution.

Gaultheria Fragrantissima is known by many common names such as Gandhupura (Hindi), Fragrant Wintergreen, and Indian Wintergreen (English). It is a fragrant small tree native to India, and found in Central, and Eastern Himalayas, Khasi Hills, Western Ghats, the Nilgiris, and Travancore at the height of 5000 to 6000 meter. Wintergreen is an evergreen tree, and bears white- purplish flowers.

winter green medicinal uses

The leaves of the tree are aromatic due to the presence of essential oil which is extracted by steam distillation. The oil is available as Gandhpura Taila (Ayurveda) or Wintergreen oil. It is aromatic, carminative, and stimulant oil.

The principle ingredient present in Wintergreen oil is Methyl salicylate (about 97 to 99 %). Methyl salicylate, an organic ester, is a topical analgesic, and applied on sprain, backache, arthritis, joint, and knee pain. It is aspirin-type, and used in preparation of many topical creams which are applied topically to get relief from pain.

General Information

Gaultheria is an evergreen Shrub growing up to one meter. It prefers moist, sandy, and loamy soils. It bears hermaphrodite (have both male, and female organs) flowers which are pollinated by Insects. The fruits are purplish-blue, about 8mm in diameter. Its leaves, and fruits are edible, and used as condiment, and tea.

Scientific Classification

The botanical name of Gandhapura, Gandhapurna is Gaultheria fragrantissima. It belongs to plant family Ericaceae. Below is given taxonomical classification of the plant.

  1. Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
  2. Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
  3. Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
  4. Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
  5. Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
  6. Subclass: Dilleniidae
  7. Order: Ericales
  8. Family: Ericaceae – Heath family
  9. Genus: Gaultheria
  10. Species: Gaultheria Fragrantissima

Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: leaves, Mainly the Volatile oil distilled from the leaves is used medicinally.

Plant type: Evergreen shrub

Distribution: Central, and Eastern Himalayas, Khasi Hills, Western Ghats, the Nilgiris, and Travancore,

Habitat: On dry slope, forests, and shrubberies,

Vernacular names/Synonyms

  1. Latin name: Gaultheria Fragrantissima
  2. Ayurvedic: Gandhapura, Gandhapurna, Gandapuro, Gandapura
  3. Siddha: Kolakkai
  4. English: Fragrant Wintergreen, Indian Wintergreen

Constituents of Gaultheria Fragrantissima

Leaves contain hyperoside (quercetin-3-galactoside), ursolic acid, betasitosterol, and essential oil (containing methyl salicylate as a major constituent).

Wintergreen Oil

Wintergreen oil (known as Gandhapura taila in Hindi) approximately 98% to 99.5% of the methyl ester, methyl salicylate. This oil is aromatic, stimulant, antiseptic, and pain relieving.

Other names: Oil of Gaultheria, Oil of Wintergreen, Gandhapura Taila, Gandhapura Oil

Composition of Wintergreen oil

  1. Methyl salicylate 99.5 percent
  2. Paraffin
  3. Aldehyde or ketone Ester
  4. Secondary alcohol

Important medicinal properties of Wintergreen Oil

Antispasmodic: Used to relieve spasm of involuntary muscle.

Antiinflammatory: Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms.

Analgesic: Gives relief in pain.

Antiseptic: Capable of preventing infection by inhibiting the growth of infectious agents.

Aromatic: Pleasant, and distinctive smell.

Carminative: Preventing the formation or causing the expulsion of flatulence.

Stimulant: Induce temporary improvements

Vermifuge: Destroys or expels parasitic worms.

It is massaged on following conditions

  1. Joint-knee swelling, and stiffness
  2. Local inflammatory swellings
  3. Rheumatism, arthritis
  4. Muscles pain-stiffness
  5. Backache, sprain
  6. Neuralgic pain
  7. Sciatica
  8. Tendonitis, cramps
  9. Pain, and ache

Wintergreen oil is also used as an ingredient in chewing gums, toothpastes, and mouthwashes.

Ayurvedic Properties, and Action

Gandhapura is bitter, sweet, and pungent in taste (Ras), and sharp, unctuous in action (Guna). Its post-digestive effect (Vipak) is pungent.

  1. Rasa (taste on the tongue): Madhura (Sweet), Katu (Pungent), Tikta (Bitter)
  2. Guna (Pharmacological Action): Tikshna (Sharp), Snigdha (Unctuous)
  3. Virya (Action): Ushna (Heating)
  4. Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Katu (Pungent)

It is an Ushna Virya herb. Ushna Virya or hot potency herb, subdues Vata (Wind), and Kapha (Mucus), and increases Pitta (Bile). It has the property of digestion, vomiting, and purging, and gives a feeling of lightness. It is considered bad for sperms, and fetus.

Action: Gandhapura is Svedana (promote the secretion of perspiration), Sangrahi (assimilating), Putihara (removing pus), stimulant, Vatahara (), balances Vata, Vedana-Sthapana (pain relieving), and vatanulomaka (normalizes flow within the body).

Important Formulations

Gandhpura Oil / Wintergreen Oil / Methyl salicylate is present in approximately all the proprietary creams, oil, balms, and ointments which are applied on painful body area. Some of them are given below.

  1. Himalaya Rumalaya gel
  2. Himalaya Rumalaya liniment
  3. Amrutanjan
  4. Dabur Rheumatil Oil
  5. Joint care Gel (DRDO)
  6. Tooth pastes, Mouthwashes

The Dosage of Wintergreen oil

  • This oil is taken internally in very – very small doses. The maximum adult daily dosage is 175 mg.
  • It is better to avoid its internal use.
  • Generally it is applied topically on inflammatory, and painful conditions.

Caution / Warning for Using Wintergreen

  1. Wintergreen oil is high in methyl salicylate.
  2. People sensitive to aspirin should not take wintergreen.
  3. It prevents platelet aggregation.
  4. It inhibits blood clotting, and should not be taken by a person taking anticoagulant medicines.
  5. It must not be taken by children.
  6. Do not use in pregnancy, and breastfeeding.
  7. It causes birth defects when taken in pregnancy.
  8. It is contraindicated in surgery, bleeding disorders, and GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease).
  9. Topically it should not be applied on cuts, burns, etc.
  10. Keep away from the reach of the children.
  11. The poisoning of wintergreen oil is lethal. It affects heart, the liver, and kidney.
  12. The symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, drowsiness, rapid breathing, craving for water, central nervous system excitation, high temperature, high blood pressure, convulsions, and dehydration.

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