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The wintergreen plant is a perennial evergreen shrub that is native to the eastern parts of North America. It bears green leaves, white drooping flowers and bright red berries. The oil is extracted from the leaves through steam distillation, and is almost exclusively made up of methyl salicylate, a precursor or "starting material" to aspirin. It stimulates the mind and has analgesic, anti-inflammatory and decongestant properties.
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Pain and Inflammation
Wintergreen has been used medicinally by the Native Americans, and in the early 1800s it was accepted in the United States as a medicine for arthritis. Methyl salicylate is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and can be found in over-the-counter products such as Bengay, Icy Hot and Deep Heating. When wintergreen essential oil is applied topically, the skin absorbs the salicylates, inhibiting prostaglandin formation. Prostaglandins are fatty acid compounds with many bodily functions including inducing pain and inflammation.
When treating arthritis pain, the oil must be diluted with a carrier oil. Common carrier oils include olive, jojoba, grapeseed, sweet almond, coconut and apricot kernel. Once diluted, as directed, test a small amount for sensitivity. If no reaction occurs, massage the oil over the affected joint. This remedy is also used for other conditions, including sciatica, neuralgia, fibromyalgia, sore muscles, sprains and bruises.
Do not use if the skin is broken or damaged. Do not apply to a large area without approval from your health care provider. Do not apply right after a bath or shower. Wash your hands thoroughly after applying to help prevent it from getting in sensitive areas such as the eyes and mouth. If this happens, immediately rinse the area with cool water. Do not place a heating pad over the site after applying, and do not cover the area until after the oil has been absorbed and the site has been washed. Do not apply more than three to four times a day.
Wintergreen can help open clogged sinuses and promote drainage. Add a few drops of the essential oil to a pot of steaming hot water. Lean over the pot, with a towel over your head to trap in the steam, and inhale for five to ten minutes. Steam can be extremely hot so be careful to not burn yourself. Never directly inhale the oil. Do this two to three times a day as needed.
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Wintergreen oil should not be taken internally. One teaspoon is equivalent to approximately 22 adult aspirin tablets. If swallowed, contact your emergency room or poison control center right away.
Keep out of reach from children.
Do not use in children younger than 12 years old, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, are taking medications or have a medical condition without consulting a health care provider.
Wintergreen essential oil uses should be avoided if you have an allergy to aspirin.
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The Ananda Apothecary: http://www.anandaapothecary.com/aromatherapy-essential-oils/wintergreen-essential-oil.html
Photo by Young Living Essential Oils / Flickr