The Safety Issues of Wintergreen Essential Oil

Gaultheria or Wintergreen

Gaultheria or Wintergreen

The essential oil of Wintergreen (Gaultheria fragrantissima) or (G. procumbens) often comes with safety warnings, but sometimes not, making it confusing for the aromatherapy enthusiast. Should you stay away from Wintergreen or is it safe to use? And, if it is safe, is it only safe under certain circumstances? The School for Aromatic Studies looked at this essential oil in-depth to give you the answers.

“Wintergreen essential oil often gets a bad rap … (but it) is a powerful analgesic (relieves pain), anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation) and antispasmodic (relieves spasms). … (It) can be used in gels, creams, lotions, or oils to relieve muscular aches and pains, reduce pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, reduce or ease muscular tension, reduce pain associated with fibromyalgia or chronic lower back pain, and relieve joint stiffness and/or pain.

“Wintergreen essential oil is an incredible essential oil. … It does, however, have some contraindications one needs to be mindful about when considering this essential oil in a formulation. Due to the presence of methyl salicylate, wintergreen essential oil should not be used with individuals on anticoagulant medication or who are just about to have a major surgery. Topically applied methyl salicylate can potentiate the anticoagulant effect of warfarin, causing side effects such as internal hemorrhage. Individuals with bleeding disorders, such as hemophilia, should not use wintergreen essential oil.

“Wintergreen essential oil is best used on adults and externally only. We do not recommend the use of wintergreen on children under the age of 12-14. … Wintergreen should NOT be used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Methyl salicylate penetrates quickly through the skin. Individuals with salicylate sensitivity (often applied in ADD/ADHD) should avoid the use of wintergreen essential oil.”

The School for Aromatic Studies also recommends that when Wintergreen is used in a recipe that it should be kept to a dilution of 2-3% within the formulation. This means that when you build a recipe, perhaps a massage oil, Wintergreen should be no more than 3% of the total product. So, in your massage oil, use 20 – 30 drops of Wintergreen essential oil in 1 ounce of carrier oil. You can add additional essential oils to the massage oil, but the Wintergreen cannot exceed 30 drops per ounce of carrier.
An example of a pain relief massage oil is:
20 drops Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) essential oil
10 drops Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) essential oil
10 drops Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil
1 ounce of carrier oil, such as sweet almond or jojoba.

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