Is it safe to use Wintergreen essential oil?

by Jade Shutes


Gaultheria fragrantissima or Gaultheria procumbens

Wintergreen essential oil is distilled from the leaves of Gaultheria fragrantissima (native to Asia and N. India) or the North American native species Gaultheria procumbens. These species are commonly cultivated and distilled in Nepal and Sri Lanka for production of essential oil.

Wintergreen essential oil often gets a bad rap due to the presence of methyl salycilate yet it is much loved for its strong analgesic activity.

Wintergreen essential oil is a powerful analgesic (relieves pain), anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation) and antispasmodic (relieves spasms).

Wintergreen essential oil 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.

Chemical Overview for Wintergreen Essential Oil

Wintergreen is rich in the ester, methyl salicylate. Methyl salicylate is the component responsible for the analgesic activity of wintergreen essential oil.

Birch (Betula sp.) essential oil is also rich in methyl salicylate and offers the same analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic activity as wintergreen essential oil.

Safety Info:

Wintergreen essential oil is an incredible essential oil to use in the relief of muscular aches, pains, and tension. 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. At age 12-14, it may be considered as a remedy for pain from sports injury or muscular tension or spasm.
  • 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.
  • Although this may seem like a lot, it’s simple: Use on adults for acute pain relief. Do not use internally. Do not use with individuals who are on anticoagulants or are about to have major surgery. Do not use with individuals who have a bleeding disorder or who have a salicylate sensitivity. Do not use on children under age 12-14. Do not use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Be sure to keep this in mind when working with wintergreen essential oil.

Why we don’t recommend the use of wintergreen essential oil for those under the age of 12-14.

Wintergreen essential oil (and birch due to similarity in chemistry) is a powerful essential oil. In herbal medicine, we would call this something akin to a low dose botanical. Meaning it has a toxicity for which highlights the need for it to be used for specific purposes and within a conscious (safe) framework. *This includes your own assessment of the individual you are applying it to. Wintergreen (and birch) essential oil is a potent analgesic and they readily absorb through the skin. If a child under 12-14 has acute pain, there are other essential oils that could easily replace wintergreen for this age group (e.g. peppermint, rosemary, and even lavender).

Blending with Wintergreen Essential Oil

Wintergreen essential oil is distilled from the leaves. It’s birch-like, fresh and penetrating aroma may remind some of wintergreen gum and others of Bengay.

Wintergreen essential oil blends well with: Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis), Lavender, Eucalyptus (cineole rich species), Rosemary ct. verbenone

Creating Wellness Products with Wintergreen Essential Oil

**When blending with wintergreen or birch, keep dilution at 2-3% within the total synergy. You can use a high dilution (upwards of 30-40%) but keep wintergreen or birch essential oils at 2—3% of that total.

Relieve Pain Gel

Indicated for: acute joint pain, sciatica, chronic lower back pain, acute muscular tension, rheumatism

This is a gel I used to make quite a bit for my father. He had chronic lower back pain for which he would apply this gel and have immediate relief. He did eventually have to have lower back surgery but this gel sure did help him get through the days!

This recipe makes approx. 2.5 to 3 ounces.

  • ¼ cup aloe vera gelly
  • 1 tbsp. yarrow (Achillea millefolium) hydrosol (or lavender)
  • 1 tsp. lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) hydrosol
  • 1 tbsp. St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) herbal oil
  • 1 tsp. arnica (Arnica montana) herbal oil
  • 40 drops Wintergreen essential oil
  • 20 drops Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) essential oil
  • 30 drops Laurel (Laurus nobilis) essential oil

Yes, this is strong! It’s supposed to be. We could actually increase the dosage a bit more. Right now it’s a 3.5% dilution. For acute pain, I would go up to 5 or even 15%. I would customize dosage to individual.

To make:

  1. Combine aloe vera gelly with the hydrosols and herbal oils. Stir with whisk or stainless steel fork or spoon.
  2. Add essential oils and stir until well combined.
  3. Scoop gel into 2 ounce glass jar.
  4. Be sure to label! And keep out of reach of children.