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.
The leaves of tree are aromatic due to 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.
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.
The botanical name of Gandhapura, Gandhapurna is Gaultheria fragrantissima. It belongs to plant family Ericaceae. Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.
- Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
- Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
- Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
- Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
- Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
- Subclass: Dilleniidae
- Order: Ericales
- Family: Ericaceae – Heath family
- Genus: Gaultheria
- 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,
- Latin name: Gaultheria Fragrantissima
- Ayurvedic: Gandhapura, Gandhapurna, Gandapuro, Gandapura
- Siddha: Kolakkai
- 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 (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
- Methyl salicylate 99.5 percent
- Aldehyde or ketone Ester
- Secondary alcohol
Important medicinal properties of Wintergreen Oil
Antispasmodic: Used to relieve spasm of involuntary muscle.
Anti–inflammatory: 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
- Joint-knee swelling and stiffness
- Local inflammatory swellings
- Rheumatism, arthritis
- Muscles pain-stiffness
- Backache, sprain
- Neuralgic pain
- Tendonitis, cramps
- 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.
- Rasa (taste on tongue): Madhura (Sweet), Katu (Pungent), Tikta (Bitter)
- Guna (Pharmacological Action): Tikshna (Sharp), Snigdha (Unctuous)
- Virya (Action): Ushna (Heating)
- 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 property of digestion, vomiting and purging, and gives 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).
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.
- Himalaya Rumalaya gel
- Himalaya Rumalaya liniment
- Dabur Rheumatil Oil
- Joint care Gel (DRDO)
- Tooth pastes, Mouthwashes
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
- Wintergreen oil is high in methyl salicylate.
- People sensitive to aspirin should not take wintergreen.
- It prevents platelet aggregation.
- It inhibits blood clotting and should not be taken by a person taking anticoagulant medicines.
- It must not be taken by children.
- Do not use in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- It causes birth defects when taken in pregnancy.
- It is contraindicated in surgery, bleeding disorders, and GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease).
- Topically it should not be applied on cuts, burns etc.
- Keep away from the reach of the children.
- The poisoning of wintergreen oil is lethal. It affects heart, liver and kidney.
- The symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, drowsiness, rapid breathing, craving for water, central nervous system excitation, high temperature, high blood pressure, convulsions, and dehydration.