Can Wintergreen Mask Odours from Compost Piles?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Justin
Posted on: May 27, 2007

Richter’s sells wintergreen seeds. Wintergreen is a well known scent used for many things, breath mints, toothpaste and so on, and also in the past it was used as a mean to cover up the smell of dead bodies. What I would like to know is what the scent used is derived from? Specifically, is it the flowers; do they give off that scent? Or it is perhaps from the bark or sap that then need to be distilled in some way? My purpose is to see if it would be something I could use to add a new strong sweet scent to the garden in the area near my compost piles to hide that smell and introduce something far more pleasant; secondary is knowing how to use this plant in its medicinal capacity for fighting headaches and other things; which part of the plant do you use and how? Do the berries have any medicinal value or are they merely decorative around the Christmas season?

The wintergreen scent is present in both the leaves and berries. A chemical called methyl salicylate found in the leaves and berries is responsible for the characteristic "wintergreen" scent. This compound is chemically related to aspirin and has similar analgesic properties. I have eaten a few berries on camping trips to relieve headaches and body pains just like popping aspirin. Wintergreen is very common in the popular camping areas in eastern Ontario close to where I live, so it is a convenient medicine to have when strong sun or heavy portaging causes head or body aches. Just eating a few of the tasty berries works well for headaches, but you can also brew a tea from the fresh leaves when the berries are not available.

It should be noted that relying on methyl salicylate too much can cause health problems. Using wintergreen for pain control should only be an occasional thing, never a routine thing. Aspirin is much safer if you need a long term analgesic.

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