Certain essential oils carry with them contraindications for their use. Some are more suspect than others, and Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens is one that needs special attention. Let’s briefly look at what the contraindications are.
Wintergreen contains the compound methyl salicylate, in some cases as much as 99%. This is no innocuous compound. Methyl salicylate is an ester, and although it does have mild analgesic properties and significant anti-inflammatory properties, it does not come without risk.
A quick Google search will bring you to multiple sites telling you to avoid using wintergreen if you have an allergy or even sensitivity to aspirin. As you can see by the infographic below, the compounds are not exactly the same between aspirin and methyl salicylate, but they are in the same family and react in very much the same way, with small differences. If you have an allergy to aspirin or a salicylate sensitivity, avoid wintergreen for all routes of use: inhalation, topical, and oral. Those that have ADD/ADHD often have this sensitivity (1).
There are other contraindications to keep in mind in addition to salicylate sensitivity. The following contraindications are for all routes of use (inhalation, topical, and oral):
-Avoid around any major surgery both before and after (at least one week).
-If you have any kind of bleeding disorder such as hemophilia or thrombocytopenia (decreased platelet counts).
-If you are taking anticoagulant (blood thinning) drugs such as: aspirin, warfarin, or heparin as wintergreen can potentiate its effects (increase the effects).
-Avoid if you are pregnant or nursing. The reason for this is that methyl salicylate in large doses is teratogenic. Since we can’t ethically test on pregnant mothers, it is recommended to avoid it altogether.
-Avoid with children
-Wintergreen should be avoided for anyone that has GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), orally.
*The above contraindications were pulled from Robert Tisserand’s, Essential Oil Safety (2).
Using Wintergreen Responsibly
Wintergreen can absolutely be used responsibly. If you have none of the contraindications above, you can use wintergreen topically when properly diluted at a percentage no more than 2.4%. This is what 2.4% looks like:
1. 1 ounce of carrier oil to 14 drops wintergreen essential oil (rounded down)
2. ½ ounce of carrier to 7 drops of wintergreen (rounded down)
3. 10mls of carrier to 4 drops of wintergreen (rounded down)
(1) Food Sensitivities and ADHD. Retrieved from http://www.diagnosisdiet.com/food-sensitivities-and-adhd/
(2) Tisserand, R., Young, R. (2014) Essential Oil Safety (2nd Ed) Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone (p 469-470)
Leslie Moldenauer, CHNC, HHP, Certified Aromatherapist, has been studying natural living and holistic wellness for over 10 years. Leslie is a trusted resource that covers essential oil safety and encompasses all that natural living has to offer. She is passionate about providing education and tools to help others make decisions regarding safety above all things when utilizing aromatherapy in the home.