Wintergreen or Fragrant Wintergreen is an evergreen robust shrub reaching up to 2m in height. Leaves are evergreen, aromatic, ovate to lanceolate, smooth above and gland dotted, and with bases of bristles beneath. Plants have numerous axillary spikes like clusters of small fragrant white or pink flowers. Fruits are violet or blue. This plant is endemic to the Himalaya and found naturally in upper tropical and temperate regions of Nepal, within the altitude of 1500m to 2700m. It favours rocky dry slopes. Leaves and aerial twigs are sustainably harvested from the natural forest.
Wintergreen oil is extracted from the steam distillation of leaves and aerial twigs of Gaultheria fragrantissima. Yield percentage of Wintergreen oil ranged from 0.3% to 1.0% on fresh weight basis. The amount of Wintegreen oil varies depending upon the age of the plant, habitat and processing technique.
Leaves are boiled in water and are used for massage and unripe fruits are chewed or made into a juice to treat stomach troubles. Leaf juice is used as a massage to cure body and joint pains. Warm leaf juice is applied externally to treat inflammation and swellings.
Wintergreen oil is used as a flavouring agent in the confectionery industry and to manufacture soft drinks. It is also used in cosmetics (especially to manufacture hair oils), perfumery and pharmaceutical companies. Wintergreen oil is antiseptic, aromatic, carminative and stimulant. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism, gout, stiffness due to old age, scabies and neuralgia. It also revitalizes and gives energy following muscular pains, particularly good for athletes for instance. An over dose may cause degenerative changes in the liver and kidneys. The oil also has several aroma-therapeutic uses. Wintergreen oil is also taken internally in the treatment of hook worms. Leaves and wintergreen oil are anti-inflammatory, analgesic, vermicide and antiseptic.
- Appearance:A fluid liquid
- Aroma:Strongly aromatic, sweet characteristic odour displaying a peculiar creamyfruity top note and a sweet- woody dry out.
- Colour:Pale Yellow, Yellowish or reddish colour (The colour varies according the medium that it has been extracted. Oil extracted from mild steel distillation unit furnished dark reddish colour whereas the oil extracted from stainless steel furnished pale yellow or yellowish colour).
- Specific gravity:1.1735 to 1. 1 855 at 25° C
- Optical rotation:[-] 0.3° to [-] 10.5° at 25° C
- Refractive index:1.537 to 1.5405 at 25° C
- Acid number:10 to 25
- Ester number:335 to 365
- Ester number after acetylation:88.8 to 98% (calculated as Methyl Salicylate)
- Solubility:Soluble in 2.0 to 3.5 volumes of 80% alcohol
Wintergreen oil contains Methyl Salicylate (96-99% of total volume). Other constituents are δ-pinene, myrcene, δ -3-carene, limonene and sesquiterpenes as δ-cardinene and 3.7- guaiadiene. It also contains β-sitosterol, quercetin-3-galactoside, ursolic acid and triacontane.