Wintergreen is a group of aromatic plants. The term "wintergreen" once commonly referred to plants that remain green (continue photosynthesis) throughout the winter. The term "evergreen" is now more commonly used for this characteristic. Most species of the shrub genus Gaultheria demonstrate this characteristic and are called wintergreens in North America, the most common generally being the American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens). Wintergreens in the genus Gaultheria contain an aromatic compound, methyl salicylate, and are used as a mint like flavoring.
Not for medical use – to use only externally
Wintergreen berries, from Gaultheria procumbens, are used medicinally.
Wintergreen is a common flavoring in American products ranging from chewing gum, mints, and candies to smokeless tobacco such as dipping tobacco (American "dip" snuff) and sinus.
Wintergreen is also a common flavoring for dental hygiene products such as mouthwash and toothpaste.
Wintergreen oil is used topically (diluted) or aroma therapeutically as a folk remedy for muscle and joint discomfort, arthritis, cellulite, obesity, edema, poor circulation, headache, heart disease, hypertension, rheumatism, tendinitis, cramps, inflammation, eczema, hair care, psoriasis, gout, ulcers, and broken or bruised bones.
The liquid salicylate dissolves into tissue and also into capillaries, so overuse is as risky as overuse of aspirin. Wintergreen also is used in some perfumery applications and as a flavoring agent for toothpaste, chewing gum, soft drinks, confectionery, Listerine, and mint flavorings.
It is used for rust removal and degreasing of machinery.
Wintergreen is particularly effective for breaking through sea water corrosion.