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Indian wintergreen

Category: Medicines - plant based



Introduction and description


Gaultheria fragrantissima WALL. (Ericaceae)also known as Indian Wintergreen or Fragrant Wintergreen is a plant native to E. Asia - N. India to Sri Lanka and Malaya.

It can be found growing naturally in forests or woodland at elevations of 1200 - 2700 metres in the Himalayas. 

 Gaultheria fragrantissima is commonly known as 'Dhasingre' in Nepal.  It is also known as  G. ovalifolia.

Gaultheria is a genus of about 135 species of shrubs in the family Ericaceae. The name commemorates Jean-François Gauthier of Quebec, an honour bestowed by the Scandinavian Pehr Kalm in 1748 and taken up by Carl Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum.

Fragrant wintergreen is well known for its fragrant oil, which is a source of natural Methyl Salicylate. In India it is known as Gandhapura Oil.  The leaves yield around 1.25% of this essential oil, used as a wintergreen substitute, in perfumery, as a hair oil and medicinally.  The bruised leaves have a powerful camphor-like scent, whereas the flowers are scented like lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis).

The plant is used in Ayurvedic and other traditional medicine, where is it described as “a highly-valued, endangered, woody oil-bearing aromatic shrub”.



Gaultheria fragrantissima is an evergreen Shrub growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) when cultivated, but higher in the wild. The Gaultheria species vary from low, ground-hugging shrubs less than 10 cm (3.9 in) tall, up to 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) tall, but in the case of G. fragrantissima when found in the Himalayas, it can even become a small tree up to 5–6 m (16–20 ft) tall.

This species is highly variable in the size and shape of leaves. In general these varieties are the result of habitat differences. If in forest understories or at forest margins, it is a large shrub or small tree with large leaves. If on sunny slopes or among thickets, it is often a small shrub with narrow leaves.  The leaves are evergreen, simple.

The flowers are in racemes, bell-shaped, with a five-lobed corolla; flower colour ranges from white to pink.  The fruit is a fleshy berry with numerous small seeds.


Indian wintergreen can be found growing on both acid and neutral soils, although it can grow in very acid soils.  It can be found in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland).  A peat and moisture loving species, Indian wintergreen requires a lime-free soil.  Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus.

Medicinal uses


According to Plants for a Future the plant is edible, although from further searches there did not seem to be much enthusiasm for the taste:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The purplish-blue fruit is about 8mm in diameter. Leaves - raw. Chewed (to relieve thirst?). An essential oil obtained from the leaves is used as a flavouring. A tea is made from the leaves.
[Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally]


But the main use of the plant is medicinal.  Dr Duke’s analysis [see observations] is principally of the leaf and shows that it contains


These three chemicals alone are Antibacterial; Anticancer (Breast, Cervix, Colon, and Lung); Antitumor (Breast, Brain, Cervix, Colon, Lung, Ovary, Stomach); and Antiviral (flu, EBV, HIV) as well as Antileishmanic, Antitrypanosomic and Antimalarial.

They are also Analgesic,  Antiinflammatory,  and Antiradicular  [pain killing];

METHYL-SALICYLATE is found in the shoot and it too has Analgesic; Antiinflammatory; and Antiradicular activity as well as  Antiseptic; Counterirritant; Fungicide and Herpetifuge activity.

There are other analyses that show it is also a source of ALPHAPINENE 0.40% MYRCENE 0.20% DELTA-3-CARENE 0.90% LIMONENE 0.50% GUAIADIENE 0.10% DELTACADINENE 0.30%

And yet more analyses, that makes one wonder whether the genetic diversity known to exist in the plant has not created some major differences:

A new flavonoid, dhasingreoside (1) and seven known compounds, quercetin 3-O-β-D-galacturonopyranoside (2), quercetin 3-O-β-D-galactopyranoside (3), quercetin 3-O-β-D-glucuronopyranoside (4), quercetin 3-O-α-L-rhamnopyranoside (5), (-)-epicatechin (6), salicylic acid (7) and gaultherin (8), have been isolated from the shade-dried stems and leaves of Gaultheria fragrantissima, commonly known as 'Dhasingre' in Nepal. The structures were elucidated on the basis of physical, chemical and spectroscopic methods. Among known compounds, five compounds (3-6 and 8) were isolated for the first time from G. fragrantissima. In vitro antioxidant activity of all the isolated compounds was evaluated by 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl free radical-scavenging assay. Dhasingreoside (1) and other compounds (2-6) showed significant free radical-scavenging activity.  PMID:  25622517

And more information………………

Plants for a Future
Antiseptic;  Aromatic;  Carminative;  Stimulant;  Vermifuge.
The essential oil obtained from the leaves is antiseptic, aromatic, carminative and stimulant. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism, scabies and neuralgia. It is also taken internally in the treatment of hook worms. The juice of the leaves is used in the treatment of coughs. Both the juice and the whole leaves are used as an anthelmintic that is effective against hookworms. The unripe fruits are chewed or made into a juice to treat stomach troubles.


References and further reading

The GC/MS of Nepalese Gaultheria fragrantissima can be found by following this LINK

Determination of essential oil contents and micropropagation of Gaultheria fragrantissima, an endangered woody aromatic plant of India - DOI: 10.1080/14620316.2011.11512792   P. Bantawaa, J. A. T. Da Silvab, S. K. Ghosha & T. K. Mondala

Nat Prod Res. 2015;29(15):1442-8. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2014.1003932. Epub 2015 Jan 27.  Dhasingreoside: new flavonoid from the stems and leaves of Gaultheria fragrantissima.  Cong F1, Joshi KR, Devkota HP, Watanabe T, Yahara S.  1a Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kumamoto University , 5-1 Oe-honmachi, Chuo ku, Kumamoto 862-0973 , Japan

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