Wintergreen Oil

Useful as an Analgesic, Especially with Acute Pain


Wintergreen oil is probably the most recognized scent in pain relief balms and for good reason. Originally, wintergreen oil was used by native North Americans for its medicinal properties to treat the symptoms of rheumatism, sore throats, tooth decay, and other problems such as insect bites, snakebites, and bee stings. Today, however, it is mostly used for topical pain relief.

Wintergreen Oil for Natural Pain Relief

Wintergreen not only contains methyl salicylate (the natural form of aspirin), which means that it is effective in its own right in relieving arthritis pain, joint stiffness, muscle spasms, and inflammation, but it is also a powerful solvent that can help carry other pain-relieving ingredients deep into the source of the pain. The oil is made by steam processing warmed, water-soaked wintergreen leaves.

How Wintergreen Oil Works as a Pain Reliever

This is largely due to the predominant active ingredient in wintergreen oil, methyl salicylate. In fact, the birch and the wintergreen are the only two plants in the world that contain methyl salicylate naturally.  Nowadays, most methyl salicylate used as an integral ingredient in nearly every anti-arthritic and analgesic balm for muscle and joint pain that is currently available on the market is synthesized by esterifying salicylic acid with methanol. You have to hunt for formulas that use only the natural methyl salicylate; these include formulas such as Jon Barron’s Essential Relief formula.

One reason for wintergreen oil’s analgesic effect is because the methyl salicylate is similar to aspirin. Did you know that one teaspoon (5 mL) of wintergreen oil (either natural or synthetic) is equivalent to approximately 7000 mg of salicylate or 21.5 adult aspirin tablets? That just might explain why it is used in high concentrations in deep liniments such as Bengay to help treat joint and muscular pain. Studies have shown, however, that it is more effective for acute rather than chronic pain.

Wintergreen Oil as a Natural Mood Booster

In addition to being a pain reliever, wintergreen oil is also used effectively as an aromatherapy treatment. Its scent can help you relax and uplift your mood. It can help you increase your attentiveness and also elevate the awareness of your senses. The smell can also be used as to help reduce food cravings.

Wintergreen Oil for Natural Arthritis Relief

Wintergreen oil has also been credited with helping bring relief for rheumatism and arthritis. The oil works to stimulate blood circulation around affected tissues and muscles, which can help clear blood obstructions as well as help drain excess fluids from inflamed tissue, easing pain for those suffering from these two conditions.

More Natural Health Benefits of Wintergreen Oil

Other interesting, lesser-known facts about the uses of oil of wintergreen include:

  • A tea made from the leaves was used as a substitute for black tea during the Revolutionary War.
  • Synthetically made wintergreen is widely used as a flavoring agent for root beer, gum, and toothpaste.
  • Early American settlers had their children chew wintergreen leaves each spring to prevent tooth decay.
  • On the beauty front, a very diluted form of the oil is said to help tone the skin and prevent acne, as well as prevent dandruff.

How to Take Wintergreen Oil

While there are considerable benefits to this oil, you do not want to take any significant amounts of wintergreen oil internally. This is especially true for children whose small bodies have less ability to cope with excessive levels of methyl salicylate in the bloodstream. Also, in that regard, you don’t want to use excessive amounts topically. If you slather large amounts of concentrated wintergreen oil (or creams containing the oil) over large areas of your body, day after day, as opposed to using more moderate amounts of topical balms that contain wintergreen as only one of several ingredients, it will absorb through the skin and enter the bloodstream – which again, may be problematic.

Bottom line with wintergreen oil – it’s great for pain relief – but moderation is recommended. Jon Barron incorporates natural oil of wintergreen in his Essential Relief formula with other oils so it is not so concentrated while at the same time promoting the other herbal ingredients’ effectiveness, which means very, very little is needed to be effective.

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