Although it’s past time to hunt for wintergreen (this article seems to have gotten misplaced in my clutter for a couple months), the knowledge of finding a useful plant for your herbal ‘medicine chest‘ can be gained at any time of the year. It gives the same effect as aspirin, it’s essential chemistry being the substance aspirin is derived from. This is also the prime use for a couple other natural sources of ‘aspirin’, such as willow bark.
Here’s a link to a youtube vid of a guy who seems to know his ‘greens’ in the woods. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fxx8Kgia4Js&feature=player_embedded#!
As I have advised before in other posts concerning DIY herbal medicines, KNOW what you’re dealing with BEFORE you consume it. The guy in the video gives some very useful details to identify wintergreen in the wild, and using his information, I would have mild confidence of correctly identifying wintergreen. I would tend to print out color pictures, and make hand notes similar to his from the video to put into a reference notebook to be used when doing this kind of foraging.
This is Gaultheria procumbens, the Eastern Teaberry. It is also known under a wide variety of other common names, such as American Wintergreen and a large number of names referring to its use as tea and the animals that eat it. It’s a little evergreen plant with a distinctive wintergreen scent, and in the Southern Appalachians can often be found in spruce-fir or oak forest communities and together with other Ericaceae such as Vaccinium and Mountain Laurel.
The red fruit is edible and used as flavoring for ice cream and chewing gums. Tea is typically made from its dried leaves and stems. CAUTION: It is very easy to confuse young Mountain Laurel plants with these, and Mountain Laurel is poisonous. If even slightly in doubt as to what you’re dealing with, DON’T consume it. Get an expert herbalist to verify what you have or better yet, have them teach you their skills.
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