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Wintergreen: Super Versatile Mini Shrub
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Wintergreen: Super Versatile Mini Shrub

Wintergreen is actually a six-inch high creeping evergreen shrub that produces slightly-sweet minty berries. Wintergreen is also called Teaberry, Mountain Tea, Redberry Tea or Groundberry. The berries of this slow-growing shrub are used medicinally but the actual wintergreen flavor in toothpaste, gum and mints is distilled from the shiny green leaves.

According to Natural Herbal, the wintergreen leaves and berries contain a compound similar to the natural aspirin found in willow bark.

Wintergreen leaves can be made into tea as well as distilled to create wintergreen oil. The berries can be eaten to calm minor stomach upsets, ease cold symptoms, soothe headaches, earaches and sore throats.

The leaves can be used as tea to calm flatulence or colic and soothe the bladder. Wintergreen leaves can be picked all year.

The berries can be picked as you see them—usually beginning in early summer and lasting through the winter. In my experience, the berries are sweeter and have a stronger minty flavor when picked in winter.

Making Wintergreen Tea:

Place a cup of wintergreen leaves in a medium saucepan. Add two cups of water and heat on medium heat until the water comes to a boil. Turn off heat and steep for twenty minutes. Drink as needed.

This versatile and decorative herb can also be used topically as a poultice for bruises, strained muscles, to soothe arthritis and bring down swelling in injured tendons and ligaments.

To make a wintergreen poultice:

Place a cup of wintergreen leaves in a food processor. Pulse ten to twenty times, until the leaves are chopped. Place one or two tablespoons of chopped leaves on a soft cloth or gauze and place this on the affected area. Leave on for twenty minutes, at which point your skin will have absorbed most of the wintergreen oil.

An added bonus is that wintergreen is a decorative shrub that grows in shade as well as in areas where the soil is poor, making it an excellent choice to add to your edible landscaping.

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