Gaultheria Oil : Chemical Constituents and Uses

Wintergreen plants (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen plants (Gaultheria procumbens) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Biological Source and Distribution of Gaultheria:

Gaultheria oil is obtained by the steam distillation of the leaves of Gaultheria procumbens of the family Ericaceae.

Gaultheria Oil is known as betula oil, sweet birch oil, oil of winter green and tea berry oil.

It is cultivated throughout the Eastern United States of America and Canada.

Morphology and Properties of Gaultheria:

Gaultheria is a perennial shrub with slender creeping subterranean stems and branches. It is a evergreen plant and grows to a height of 5 to 15 cm. The fruits are berries which are bright red globular and are aromatic. This oil is also obtained from the birch bark of Betula lenta of the family Betulaceae. It is grown in India in khasi hiils, western ghats, nilgiris and near travancore. It is obtained from the leaves of Gaultheria fragrantissima of the family Ericaceae. The colour of the oil is colourless or pale yellow, with characteristic, aromatic strong odour and sweet aromatic pungent taste.

Chemical constituents of Gaultheria Oil:

The main constituent of the oil is methyl salicylate. It is obtained by the hydrolysis of the glycoside gaultherin in the presence of the water and the enzyme gaultherase. The oil also contains an ester which gives enanthic alcohol and an acid. The characteristic odour is due to the presence of enanthic alcohol. The gaultheria oil obtained from betula bark and synthetic source are optically inactive. The natural gaultheria oil is laevo rotatory.

Uses of Gaultheria Oil:

  • Gaultheria oil is used as counter irritant
  • Gaultheria oil is used in the treatment of rheumatism
  • Gaultheria oil is an effective vermicide against hook worms
  • Gaultheria oil can be used internally also
  • Gaultheria oil is used as a flavouring agent for candies
  • Used in perfumery

It should be stored in well closed, well filled containers away from the light and in cool place.

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