Medicinal Shrubs and Woody Vines: Pyrola, another herb called Wintergreen

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  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,641 admin

    We have 9 species of Pyrola here in BC. 11 if you count the two they have renamed. Again, one of my pet peeves, renaming of species.

    They aren't as common in my immediate area as I am a bit dry here, although I have seen them in some of the creek valleys where there is more shade and humidity and of course, a more acid soil than I have here.

    I haven't used Pyrola. Chimaphila is more common and easier for me to harvest.

    They are very pretty little things, though.

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,462 admin

    Chimaphila is much more common here, so that is my go to, as well. FOr the wintergreen oil type properties I mainly use birch.

  • bookworm
    bookworm Posts: 35 ✭✭✭

    30 plus years ago, I bought a small pot of wintergreen. That is all it said, no special name on it. It does have red berries on, white flowers in spring. I have used the berries, put them in honey. The honey tasts like flavored honey. Went all over online trying to find out if it is toxic, how to store, etc. You are the first one to come up with answers, somewhat. We eat the berries off and on untill they turn brown. I have epilepsy, the big spells are controlled with a medicine, which has a whole lot of side affects. I also have a type which is uncontrolled, and the neurologist said they have no answer for it. At 85, I shall live and shove herbs down my stomach, and hope they do not kill me. Always enjoy your articles. Especially your spoons. I love wood, and have a few that I buy, olive wood from Israel. My favorite is a small one that fits in jars, use for tea, coffee, etc. Keep up the good work.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,641 admin

    @bookworm I suspect what you have is true wintergreen which is a Gaultheria species in the Ericaceae family. There are 3 in BC. G. hispidula (white berries), G. humifusa (red berries) and G. ovatifolia (red berries), but over 200 species world wide. The latter's common name is Western Tea Berry and the other red berried one is Alpine Wintergreen. The wintergreen that is most commonly referred to in herbal medicine is G. procumbens. These plants contain methyl salicylate (precursor to aspirin) so they are used for joint and muscle pain but should be avoided by anyone who shouldn't take aspirin.

    This is a pic of G. procumbens. I have two in my garden but neither one is doing overly well. I don't think I have the right soil; not acidic enough.

    We have a 4th Gaultheria (Salal) here in BC, but it is a good sized shrub with dark purple-blue berries. Salal leaves are very popular as filler in rose bouquets.

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,462 admin

    Thanks so much! I always enjoy sharing information about herbs. I agree with Torey that Gaultheria is what is generally sold as wintergreen and has nice berries, so that is probably what you have. Thanks for your compliments on my spoons, too!

  • bookworm
    bookworm Posts: 35 ✭✭✭

    does anyone have info on using the leaves or berries? As for us, ours has grown into a nice size patch. If you need acid soil, toss citrus peels under to make it more acid. We have quite a few hydrangeas, most of them I started. Mother plant is med. blue color flower, one I make a dark purple color by tossing citrus peels and apple leftover, and the flowers get purple.