Friday, November 9, 2012

PHARMACY FRIDAY - Wintergreen, Good or Bad?

WINTERGREEN . . . . . . . That wonderful, minty, tasty, aromatic herb! My best memory of it is in those little pink, round candy lozenges. I use to eat those things by the fistfuls when I was a kid. And wintergreen chewing gum was some of the best!(remember Teaberry gum?)  It is, by far, one of my all-time favorite candy flavorings.  But is it safe?

Awhile back I began hearing that it might not be so safe, that it should only be consumed in moderate amounts. Then I heard that it should only be consumed in very small amounts. Then I heard it shouldn't be consumed at all. Then I began hearing of people dying from overdosing on Wintergreen essential oil!!! And those reports are growing. So the question remains, is it safe to use at all?
There are a lot of different factors that figure into the answer to that question. It will be different for each person. Because I used it in some of the skin care products that I make, I have since heavily researched it. From the multitude of research that I have read, it appears that it is safe to use in small amounts, and even very beneficial . . . .  but in large amounts, it is easy to overdose on, causing damage to the liver and even death in extreme cases.
On the downside, Wintergreen essential oil, if used in large amounts, or even small amounts for extended periods of time, can cause serious damage to the liver and even death. Because the component in Wintergreen that is the culprit (methyl salicylate) is also so closely similar to the active ingredient in aspirin, people taking aspirin or aspirin based products can overdose on Wintergreen even more quickly and easily.

Often times, people don't even realize how much Wintergreen essential oil they are ingesting into their bodies. One of the easiest ways to overdose is with those soothing sports/joint creams that contain Wintergreen essential oil. Dancers, athletes, and the arthritic elderly alike use a lot of those soothing joint creams. Keeping in mind that your skin is the largest organ of your body and everything that goes on it, also goes into your body, if you are using a joint cream that contains Wintergreen essential oil, as you rub it on, that wintergreen goes right on inside, right into your blood stream. Sadly, there have been actual cases of athletes dying from overuse of sports creams. (That is a link to a case reported on Fox News awhile back). Massage therapists can also unknowingly absorb far too much of the volatile oil with repeated use on their clients, of massage products that contain it.

Here is also some more good reading on the subject at aromaticsage.com

On the POSITIVE side . . . . . . a very small amount of Wintergreen essential oil on occasional use can be of great benefit! It is a wonderful pain reliever for a variety of joint pains. Used only occasionally and in small amounts, it is very beneficial and generally safe. It should; however, be used only in localized areas and not in large areas or over the entire body.

Wintergreen essential oil, like aspirin, can help reduce swelling, relieves aches, and reduces body temperatures. It can also help relieve nerve pain, relieve sore throats (such as in those little pink candy lozenges) and makes a great breath freshener. It DOES have many great and beneficial uses. Just be sure and read all of your labels, be aware of other items you might be using that may contain aspirin or Wintergreen, use only occasionally and in small amounts, and it might also be wise to check with your health care provider before using, especially if you are planning on using Wintergreen on a regular basis. Wintergreen essential oil is cumulative in your system, and although it does have many benefits, it isn't for everyone.

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