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 Himalayas and found naturally in upper tropical and temperate regions of Nepal, within the altitude of 1500m to 2700m. It favors 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. The yield percentage of Wintergreen oil ranged from 0.3% to 1.0% on a fresh weight basis. The amount of Wintergreen oil varies depending on 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 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 swelling.
Wintergreen oil is used as a flavoring agent in the confectionery industry and to manufacture soft drinks. It is also used in cosmetics (specially 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 overdose 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 hookworms. Leaves and wintergreen oil are anti-inflammatories, analgesics, vermicides, and antiseptics.