Monday, December 28, 2015


Comparing Wintergreens:

Chimaphila maculata, Chimaphila umbellata, and Gaultheria procumbens.

Ericaceae Family (Heath or Wintergreen Family)

It is always best to use the Latin name when referring to plants. 
Often the same common plant names are used to describe many plants that are not related to each other and have completely different attributes.

There are two varieties of Chimaphila; Chimaphila umbellata and Chimaphila maculata.

The stems rise from a creeping root stalk.
The flowers grow in hanging clusters and range in color from  pink, to white. 

Another name, Pipsissewa, describes plants in the Ericaceae Family.
Pipsissewa from The Cree Pipisisikweu, literally = it breaks it into pieces, so called because it was believed to be efficacious in treating and breaking up bladder stones.

Pipsissewa are small, four to ten inch evergreen plants with shiny leather like leaves in loose whorls along the stems.  

Chimaphila maculata
Spotted Wintergreen, Spotted Pipsissewa

Chimaphila maculata Photos by Lynn Cremona

Sometimes referred to as Rheumatism root

Chimaphila from the Greek cheima ="winter weather," and phelein ="to love,"
from its evergreen habit and referring to one of the common names, wintergreen

macula'ta/macula'tum/macula'tus = Spotted.

Its lance shaped, toothy leaves, are green, waxy and emerge from rhizomes.
The upper side of the leaf blade has obvious spots, mottles or stripes.
Its flowers are nearly round, can be white or pinkish.
They grow close to the ground and may be all of 9 inches tall.

Blooms Mid or late June to Mid July in New Jersey.

Some people are sensitive to the oils of the plant and have a dermatological response

Spotted Wintergreen, is very similar to Chimaphila umbellata but the leaves are a deep olive green color with greenish-white veins.. New leaf growth is light green, while leaves that have overwintered are darker green.

When bruised, fresh leaves have a peculiar odor, which is lost on drying;
The taste is pleasantly bitter, astringent and sweetish.

The stem and root have a pungent taste which combine bitterness and astringency.

The spotted wintergreen can be distinguished from the similar Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) by the distinct white veins on its leaves.

Chimaphila umbellata
Pipsissewa, Prince's Pine

Chimaphila from the Greek cheima ="winter weather," and phelein ="to love,"
from its evergreen habit and referring to one of the common names, wintergreen
umbellata from Latin umbella "parasol, sunshade.

Is a small evergreen perennial with a creeping yellow rhizome, which has several creeping,
erect or semi prone or trailing stems (semi-procumbent).
angular, marked with the scars of former leaves, and woody at the base.

Can grow to be 4 to 8 inches high.  The upper surface of the leaves are shiny, leathery, dark green  the underside of the leaf is a paler green.

Flowers are waxy, light purple color purplish at base, and fragrantly perfumed.

Blooms from mid or late June to mid July in New Jersey

The leaves when dried have only a slight odor, but when fresh and rubbed are sweet-smelling;
their taste is astringently sweetish and not disagreeably bitter.

Side by side comparison of Chimaphila maculate and Chimaphila umbellate 

Gaultheria procumbens
Wintergreen, Checkerberry, Teaberry, Mountain Tea, Grouseberry, Ground Tea, Ground Holly


  Galtheria procumbens photos by Lynn Cremona

This is the plant that is properly referred to as Wintergreen.

Named after the Canadian botanist M. Gaultier
Procumbens = Latin for prone, lying down or trailing (grows close to the ground)

Small, bell-shaped, white to pink flowers hang on short stems from the leaf axils.
This leathery, semi-woody, aromatic perennial has creeping underground stems, forming
small colonies of plants.
Showy red fruits may persist through the winter. 

Blooms mid or late June to early August, in New Jersey

Because of their sweet refreshing taste, the berries were used as flavoring for the original Teaberry Chewing Gum. The oil of Wintergreen was also used to flavor gum, candy, bad tasting medicine and as a scent in soap and candles.

Homeopathically Speaking:

Chimaphila maculata (Chim. m.) and Chimaphila umbellate (Chim.)
Homeopathic Rubrics observable in both Chimaphila maculata (Chim. m.) and Chimaphila umbellate (Chim.):
Stomach - Appetite – gnawing - chim. chim-m.
Stool – Gray -  chim. chim-m.
Urine - Cloudy -  Chim. chim-m.
Back – Perspiration - chim. chim-m.
Back - Perspiration - morning  - chim. chim-m.
Generals - Food and Drinks - beer - agg. - Chim. chim-m.

Chimaphila maculata (Chim. m.)
Spotted Wintergreen
Edwin Moses Hale, a conventional physician who became a Homeopath wrote:
"It is chiefly in chronic rheumatism that its curative powers have been most observed" and notes that it is called "Rheumatism Root" in folk medicine.

Chimaphila umbellate (Chim.)

Therapeutics Of The New Remedies by Edwin Moses Hale  page 159

This pretty little plant, a native of the Northern and Middle States, belongs to the class of popular renal remedies. That it possesses undoubted affinity for the genitourinary mucous membrane is now admitted.

It is called by allopathic authorities an "astringent diuretic" , a curious and apparently incongruous name, which is doubtless meant to imply that, while it increases the watery portions of the urine, it decreases its solid constituents. This it does do, especially when such constituents are abnormal. It is probable that massive doses, long continued, would provoke inflammatory action, but such effects have not come under my observation.

Its principle curative indications are:
Scanty urine containing a large quantity of muco-purulent sediment.
Excessive itching and painful irritation of the urethra, from the end of the penis to the neck of the bladder.
Sensation of swelling in the perineum, as if, in sitting down, a ball was pressing up against it.
It has proved curative in the following:
Dropsy after Scarlatina,, or during Bright's Disease.
Chronic catarrh of the bladder with hectic fever.
Chronic disease of the prostate gland.
Hematuria, passive, symptomatic, in local disease.
Dysuria, in plethoric, hysterical women; scanty, frequent urination, with pressing, scalding and smarting pain; also tenesmus of the bladder, urine filled with mucus.
Urine thick, ropey, brick colored, with bloody sediment.

It has some reputation in scrofula with glandular enlargements, and is said to have cured , in the practice of various physicians, tumors of the mammae, enlargements of lymphatic glands, scrofulous eruptions, and even scirrhus and cancer. 

Gaultheria procumbens (Gaul.)

Boericke's Materia Medica and Repertory:

Inflammatory rheumatism, pleurodynia, sciatica, and other neuralgias, come within, the sphere of this remedy. Cystic and prostatic irritation, undue sexual excitement, and renal inflammation.
Head.–Neuralgia of head and face.
Stomach.–Acute gastritis, severe pain in epigastrium; prolonged vomiting. Uncontrollable appetite, notwithstanding irritable stomach. Gastralgia from nervous depression (Give five drops of 1x of Oil).
Skin.–Smarting and burning. Intense erythema, worse, cold bathing; better, olive oil and cool air blowing on part.

Compare: Spir├Žea.
Gaultheria contains Arbutin. Salycyl acid. Methylium salicylicum (an artificial Gaultheria oil for rheumatism, especially when the salicylates cannot be used. Pruritus and epididymitis, locally).
After Cantharis in burns.
Dose.–Tincture and lower potencies.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care.

Wildflowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, by Howard B. Boyd page 82
Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica, by J. H. Clarke
Therapeutics Of The New Remedies by Edwin Moses Hale
Boericke's Materia Medica and Repertory

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