Wintergreen EO – Buyer Beware


Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) essential oil

CAS numbers
USA: 68917-75-9;
EINECS: 90045-28-6

EPA Reason for Regulation: Chemical in Commerce

Synonym: Wintergreen oil

List Name: Inert Ingredients in Pesticide Products

CHIP detailsXn; R22, 36; 0%; S26 (A26) – “Ingestion can cause severe poisoning and death, Lethal doses with children  at 10 ml, adults at 30 ml.” — Guenther, volume II, page 640

Wintergreen Essential Oil contains 85-99% of methyl salicylate, the same component of aspirin.

Thirty ml (about an ounce) of wintergreen oil is equivalent to about 171 adult aspirin tablets or about 60 grams of aspirin.

Members of the International Federation of Aromatherapists take a “vow” not to use Wintergreen essential oil. 

“How does it work?

Wintergreen leaf contains an aspirin-like chemical that might reduce pain, swelling, and fever.

WINTERGREEN Side Effects & Safety 

Wintergreen is safe in the amounts found in foods, and seems safe for most adults when used as a medicine.

The oil is UNSAFE to take by mouth. Taking wintergreen oil or large amounts of wintergreen leaf can cause ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, stomach pain, and confusion.

When applied directly to the skin, wintergreen oil can cause skin irritation.

Special Precautions & Warnings:Children: Wintergreen leaf and oil can be poisonous for children. Taking 4-10 mL of wintergreen oil by mouth can be deadly. Don’t even use wintergreen oil on the skin of children less than 2 years old.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Wintergreen is safe in amounts found in food, but there’s not enough information to know if it’s safe in the larger amounts that are used as medicine. Don’t take it by mouth or put it on your skin, if you are pregnant.

If you are breast-feeding, don’t take wintergreen by mouth or put it on your skin. Wintergreen products might be toxic to nursing infants.

Stomach and intestinal inflammation: Taking wintergreen by mouth might make these conditions worse.

Salicylate or aspirinallergy, asthma, or nasal polyps: Wintergreen might cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to aspirin or other salicylate compounds, or have asthma or nasal polyps. Use wintergreen with caution if you have one of these conditions.”


“Methyl salicylate must be absolutely avoided by anyone taking blood-thinning drugs, as it increases the action of the drug, and this causes blood to leak into tissues and  internal bruising occurs. Knowing a lethal dose tells you very little about what (a) a therapeutic dose would be or (b) a safe dose would be, but it does tell you what dose not to use!”


Sec. 201.303 Labeling of drug preparations containing significant proportions of wintergreen oil.  

(a) Because methyl salicylate (wintergreen oil) manifests no toxicity in the minute amounts in which it is used as a flavoring, it is mistakenly regarded by the public as harmless even when taken in substantially larger amounts. Actually, it is quite toxic when taken in quantities of a teaspoonful or more. Wintergreen oil and preparations containing it have caused a number of deaths through accidental misuse by both adults and children. Children are particularly attracted by the odor and are likely to swallow these products when left within reach.

(b) To safeguard against fatalities from this cause, the Department of Health and Human Services will regard as misbranded under the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act any drug containing more than 5 percent methyl salicylate (wintergreen oil), the labeling of which fails to warn that use otherwise than as directed therein may be dangerous and that the article should be kept out of reach of children to prevent accidental poisoning.

(c) This statement of interpretation in no way exempts methyl salicylate (wintergreen oil) or its preparations from complying in all other respects with the requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.


(g)(1) The label of any drug containing more than 5 percent methyl salicylate (wintergreen oil) should bear a conspicuous warning such as: “Do not use otherwise than as directed.” These drug products must also include the “Keep out of reach of children” warning and the accidental ingestion warning as required in 330.1(g) of this chapter.

(2) If the preparation is a counterirritant or rubefacient, it should also bear a caution such as, “Caution: Discontinue use if excessive irritation of the skin develops. Avoid getting into the eyes or on mucous membranes.” (See also 201.303.)

Originally Published on: Oct 4, 2014 @ 06:03

UPDATED 8/21/2016


NOTE: when Wintergreen EO is sold with medical claims, such as referring to pain relief – the product is being sold as a misbranded drug.  Wintergreen products which contain more than 5% methyl salicylate (and 100% pure Wintergreen EO is 85-99% of methyl salicylate) – are required to have very specific WARNINGS. Does the brand you buy have these warnings?


There is a reason to keep EOs out of the reach of children, and take their use seriously.  These are wonderful products when used properly and safely.  Potential poisons when not.  Wintergreen is one of the EOs which due to it’s chemical nature – is absorbed through the skin and may reach the bloodstream.  Many people have been hospitalized and there is at least one death, attributed to topical application of wintergreen oil or products which contain it as an ingredient.  That is why products with Wintergreen are supposed to be labeled as OTC or prescription drugs, and contain dosages, contraindications, “when to seek medical attention” and all the other labeling requirements of DRUGS.

Read the Labels

Much of what we read on the front panel of our cosmetics is marketing. When making a decision about what products to buy, it’s not unlike reading food labels – is this product sweetened with organic cane sugar or conventional, even GMO, corn syrup?  The actual calorie count may be the same for both but which one do you want to feed your family? Use the same logic when choosing cosmetics.  Read the Labels. The reality is you can’t sell a shelf stable product that contains water (and that includes the naturally occurring water in ingredients like aloe vera juice or hydrosols) unless the product contains ingredients which work as antimicrobial preservatives. You can’t sell a shelf stable lotion without ingredients which serve as emulsifiers.

Buzz words to watch out for are “nontoxic” or “chemical free” – because every ingredient in the wrong dose can be toxic and every ingredient is 100% chemicals.

So…lets review the ingredients in the NYR Organic Invigorating Seaweed Conditioner Hair Conditioner that I sell.

Independent NYR Consultant 250x250

Aqua (Water), Cetearyl alcohol, Persea gratissima (Avocado) oil*, Cetrimonium chloride, Lanolin, Fucus vesiculosus (Bladderwrack) extract*, Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) leaf extract*, Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) leaf oil*, Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender) oil*, Citrus medica limonum (Lemon) peel oil*, Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea tree) leaf oil*, Potassium sorbate, Citric acid, Citral, Citronellol, Coumarin, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool.

*Organically produced ingredient.

Citric acid, Citral, Citronellol, Coumarin, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool are natural constituents of essential oils listed, they are listed in the ingredient panel in italics, as required by the EU Cosmetics directive. They are not chemicals added to the product. They are disclosed as occuring naturally in the essential oils. Companies which label according to FDA cosmetics regulations, are not required to disclose these chemicals.

This product is Certified Organic by the Soil Association, and the product is made with 91% organic ingredients.

So what is “Cetrimonium chloride”. We answer that question on our Ingredients Glossary page.

“Cetrimonium chloride, made from plant-derived fatty acids, is used in our conditioners. It is a cationic (positively charged) surfactant that carries nourishing ingredients into the negatively charged broken hair shafts. In order to be effective a conditioner needs to remain on the hair shaft. What helps it stay put is magnetic attraction that works in the same way the positive side of one magnet sticks to the negative side of another. The positively charged ion in conditioners like cetrimonim chloride ‘stick’ to the hair shaft, which is naturally negatively charged, to keep nourishing ingredients on the hair and help repair the hair proteins. Cetrimonium chloride also has preservative properties.”

What about “Lanolin”? From the same Ingredients Glossary page:

“Lanolin is extracted from wool after a sheep has been shorn. This wax-like substance yields a nourishing oil that is high in sterols and is a very good emulsifier, moisturizer and humectant. We use it to thicken our hair conditioners and some creams to help skin and hair retain moisture. Although it is an animal by-product, obtaining it does not harm the animal. Health concerns about Lanolin are based on the presence of contaminants such as pesticides, which the sheep may have been exposed to. Our high quality lanolin meets the high standards of USP grade.”

NOTE 3 “We use standards developed by leading animal protection campaign groups and our continued commitment to animal welfare has been recognized by campaigners from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), who awarded us a ‘golden rabbit.’ The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) also commended our stance on the issue. We support the animal welfare charity FRAME (Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments) an NGO (Non Governmental Organization) dedicated to the scientific development, acceptance and use of methods that can be used instead of animal experiments.”

If you have questions about this or any other product sold by Independent Consultants for NYR Organic, email me! I am happy to get an answer from you.


MYTH – Apply to Feet

MYTH – the feet are the best place to apply essential oils because the feet have the largest amount of pores to absorb the essential oils.

This is a MYTH because chemicals or ingredients are primarily absorbed into the body through the epidermis, not by entering through the sweat glands (invisible pores) or hair follicles (visible pores).

So neither the size or quantity of pores in the skin actually determine how much of a topically applied product is absorbed.

Here is a link to a very basic article that easily explains skin penetration and absorption:

You will notice pores are not mentioned.

583px-skin-291x300That is because the function of pores (aka follicles) are the openings in our skin where a hair comes out, and dead cells, sebum exit. Pores are primarily exits, not entrances. Not for products, ingredients, or chemicals – even essential oils – to enter.

What about our sweaty feet – they aren’t (thankfully) hairy – don’t we have the most pores in our whole body on our feet?

No. Feet have a lot of sweat glands (250,000 each) which are different from pores like we see on our face, for example.

“‘Skin pore’ is a term used by lay people and in the field of cosmetology. It remains misleading when it is not clearly defined. Indeed, lay people use it with at least 3 different meanings. Basically, invisible pores represent the openings of the sweat gland apparatus. By contrast, the visible pores represent enlarged empty funnel-shaped or cylindrical horny impacted openings of pilosebaceous follicles.”

So the question – do products applied topically get absorbed through the sweat glands?

“Absorption via the pores and follicles is considered to be insignificant because the orifices account for only 0.1% of the skin area and diffusion along sweat ducts is against an outward aqueous flow (4). Lauer et al….”

Percutaneous Absorption: Drugs–Cosmetics–Mechanisms–Methodology: Drugs edited by Robert L. Bronaugh, Howard I. Maibach

skinlayers-300x297So so summarize – how does dermal absorption work?

“The epidermis (and particularly the stratum corneum) is the only layer that is important in regulating penetration of a skin contaminant.”

“The thickness of the stratum corneum varies greatly with regions of the body. The stratum corneum of the palms and soles is very thick (400-600 µM) whereas that of the arms, back, legs, and abdomen is much thinner (8-15 µM). The stratum corneum of the axillary (underarm) and inquinal (groin) regions is the thinnest with the scrotum especially thin. As expected, the efficiency of penetration of toxicants is inversely related to the thickness of the epidermis.”

“In addition to the stratum corneum, small amounts of chemicals may be absorbed through the sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and hair follicles. Since these structures represent, however, only a very small percentage of the total surface area, they are not ordinarily important in dermal absorption.”

Then there is the reflexology spin that some salespeople put on the reason to use the EOs on the feet – this article addresses that:


“The soles of the feet absorb more slowly because they have no hair, and because of the mostly thicker skin. “

“The soles of the feet and palms of the hands contain many eccrine (sweat) glands, through which water is released onto the skin. Since essential oils are not water soluble, they cannot use these glands to bypass the skin barrier. Not even water-soluble substances enter the body through sweat glands. If they did, we would put on weight after a swim or a shower. The palms and soles have no hair follicles. Hair follicles contain sebum, an oily substance, and there is some evidence that essential oil constituents are able to use this route to bypass the skin barrier.”
–Robert Tisserand, Robert Tisserand Essential Training [Facebook Group]

As originally published on Aromatherapy United website; Apr 20, 2014, by Susan Sawhill Apito

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The Real Skin Absorption Facts

Whether you are new to aromatherapy or have been using essential oils for 30 years, you probably have read “everything we put on the skin gets absorbed into the bloodstream” – or – “60% of what we apply to the skin gets absorbed” – or even – “when applied to the skin up to 80% penetrates via the sweat glands and hair follicles“.

When asked for references to support these statements, there is nothing. Why? Because these statements are not true.

Robert Tisserand has addressed absorption at length in classes and online in his Facebook page, and debunked the “80% and 60%” claims numerous times.”

“Since essential oils are not water soluble, they cannot use these (sweat) glands to bypass the skin barrier. Not even water-soluble substances enter the body through sweat glands. If they did, we would put on weight after a swim or a shower. The palms and soles have no hair follicles. Hair follicles contain sebum, an oily substance, and there is some evidence that essential oil constituents are able to use this route to bypass the skin barrier.” –Robert Tisserand, Robert Tisserand Essential Training [Facebook Group] ref.

What is the truth then? From this article “Why Is Essential Oil Dilution Important?” we read in part, “About 5% of applied EO is absorbed into the body through the skin…”

Asked where this statistic comes from, author Robert Tisserand replied:

“Transdermal absorption is in Essential Oil Safety p42-44 and Table 4.2. From all the data I assume a max of 10% and an average of 5%.” 





So then, what is the best method for introducing essential oils to the bloodstream for systemic effect? Answer – inhalation.

“On p 49 under Inhalation you will find data on absorption into the blood and pulmonary uptake – generally 40-70%.” — Robert Tisserand


I am sharing these images from my copy of the book, Essential Oil Safety, with permission. COPYRIGHT PROTECTED. Please feel free to share links to this article but do not copy any part of the article without proper attribution and do not remove and/or download the images from this article.

Consider the source…

Whether you are looking for a teacher, a supplier, or just advice online..always consider the source!

Teachers claim to be a Certified Aromatherapist, even add initials after their name as if that means something.  Before you sign up for that workshop, class or school…ask them; Where did they study? Then check the credentials of the school! Are they teaching aromatherapy along with tarot card reading and angel healing?  Well, that might not be the level of professional education you want to find in your teacher! The title Certified Aromatherapist has no defined meaning in the USA. Read more about that subject on What does Certified Aromatherapist Mean?

It’s not just in seeking out a proper education, that you need to consider the source, and check actual credentials!

Example, who who knows best…the essential oil chemist or the chiropractor?

Essential Oil chemist, Dr. Robert Pappas wrote (in part): [on the Essential Oils University Facebook page]

“Recently a follower of this page sent me some links to some sites claiming that black pepper oil is a replacement for melissa oil. When I heard this I was quite shocked. At the end of the day the therapeutic properties of an oil are determined by its chemistry. Melissa oil and black pepper oil are about as far apart chemically and organoleptically as you can get so I am just wondering, from where does this myth originate?”

It turns out, this misinformation comes from the very top, one of the owners of doTerra, Dr. David Hill. Dr. Hill is a chiropractor, and former office manager/administrator for Young Living Essential Oils. You can still see him online, telling everyone that Young Living is “the best” essential oil company, and the only one to trust.


Emily Wright, Executive Vice President at doTERRA replied to Dr. Pappas comments (in part):

“Now let’s keep in perspective that Dr. Pappas has a PhD in chemistry, a physical science. He is not a physician, he does not study life science, and he is not an expert in the application or usage of essential oils.” and “Now let’s take the science of essential oils up another notch. It is important now to work with experienced physicians who understand not only how essential oils perform in a lab setting but also how they interact with our human chemistry.” and later “Many have heard Dr. Hill state that Black Pepper is the poor man’s Melissa. This is not because their chemistry is similar. It is not. The chemical profile of these two oils couldn’t be more different. Rather, Dr. Hill is referring to the anti-viral activity of these two oils. Although no oil can completely replace Melissa, there are other oils that offer similar health benefits. Black Pepper is one of them. This has been proven through years of experimental application with excellent results.”

Essential Oil University responded:

“Emily, I appreciate your input and compliments and am ready to be done with this thread. The only thing I have to say in response is that there are posts all over the Internet claiming that black pepper is the “poor man’s Melissa” because black pepper is high in aldehydes like Melissa oil. I don’t know who put these posts up but they are there. But if you just look at some analyses of black pepper one can easily see there are no aldehydes in black pepper oil. So my only question is, if the conclusion concerning black pepper was made based off of undeniably incorrect chemistry then from what science is the conclusion based? I am more than happy to admit that I am wrong. But for my own education I would like to see any scientific literature out there that supports black pepper oil being anti-viral or being used used in the same capacity as Melissa oil. I like to think I have good standing with most all of the well known aromatherapists in the world and I know what most of them teach. I have not seen any studies showing such activity of black pepper. Is it possible I’ve missed something? Of course, it is. That’s why I am asking for something to hang my hat on so I can be in support of this. Please if anyone can provide me with a study supporting this idea I would be eternally grateful.
· October 11, 2014 at 9:46pm

And Dr. P. supported his statement with a link: “Example of a post stating incorrectly that black pepper is high in aldehydes:”

There is no reply from Emily Wright on this topic. The management of doTerra are allowing their consultant to continue to display this misinformation, as the PIN is still there. [ref.]

So who do YOU believe…the chiropractor who never studied aromatherapy or essential oil chemistry, who is trying to convince you to buy products from the company he co-owns; or the expert in essential oil chemistry who has been an integral part of the aromatherapy community since the 90’s? Consider the source.

Aromatherapy…every day!

I do not diffuse essential oils on a daily basis, and I never ingest them. So how do I incorporate aromatherapy into my healthy, green, organic lifestyle every day? I use these NYR Organic roll-ons. I used to dislike lavender essential oil because the first time I used essential oils, it was making natural bathroom cleaners. So for many years, I mentally associated the aroma of lavender with cleaning toilets! Luckily, my brain has adjusted and I no longer make that association…now, lavender helps me relax so I can let go of the stress of the day, quiet my mind, and fall fast asleep!

Remedies to Roll