Get to know methyl salicylate and how I’ve used it to treat my pain. You'll be surprised to learn just how many over the counter pain treatments use this ingredient.
Believe it or not, Methyl Salicylate is that minty taste you get with your favorite toothpaste.
However, it is much more than that.
Methyl Salicylate is one of the most common ingredients in over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief for joint aches and muscular pains.
Whether synthetic or natural, we need to take a closer look at its uses and forms. Because if you're getting tired of OTC pain relief creams not working (me too!), then here is what you need to know to get control over your pain.
What is Methyl Salicylate?
Regardless of its long scientific name, methyl salicylate is simply a natural ester -a type of a chemical compound- that is a very close cousin of menthol.
Mainly extracted from wintergreen leaves through steam distillation, you can easily find it in many OTC topical creams and ointments targeting minor aches and pains.
The reason why it works is due to its counterirritant properties. Counterirritants -like menthol and methyl salicylate- cause a combined warming and cooling sensations on the skin. Hence, being labeled "icy hot".
The Different Forms of Methyl Salicylate
There are multiple ways to get your pain relief from methyl salicylate.
You can go the synthetic route through OTC topical creams and ointments or gain the same effects through a more natural route.
Birch leaves are a fantastic source of methyl salicylate. Those leaves from the Birch tree behave the same way cortisone does.
And of course, the dosage of methyl salicylate in there has a long list of benefits. From being analgesic to being a diuretic, antifungal, and a promoter of enzymatic secretions; birch leaf carries quite the pain-relieving punch.
Remember the wintergreen leaves we previously talked about? Those fellows produce wintergreen oil when steamed.
Alright, that's a grave oversimplification.
You need to macerate those leaves in warm water, letting those delightful enzymes break them down and produce methyl salicylate.
Then, you can use the process of steam distillation to separate the methyl salicylate and get a lovely ester as a final product.
Now you get to play with it in oil form. However, you need to be careful. Wintergreen oil contains 96-99% methyl salicylate, which is a terrifying percentage. It makes the oil ridiculously pungent and very toxic if ingested.
Interestingly enough, even though the plant smells very much like mint, it doesn't belong to the same plant species. And we use it for flavoring foods, sweets, and that toothpaste you love so much.
But, Like, How Beneficial Is Wintergreen Oil Really?
Oooh, don't mind if we do.
Let's start with throwing around great pain-relieving keywords that describe wintergreen oil like antiseptic, analgesic, antiarthritic, antispasmodic, aromatic and astringent properties.
Did we lose you, yet?
Please don't run away. Let's describe the benefits in a more detailed manner, starting with the star of the show: pain relief.
It's one of its well-known properties. It helps with pain relief in a variety of aches.
From helping with headaches, bone pain, muscle cramps, back pain and joint aches to kicking out stress and tension from the body.
Rescue from Rheumatism and Arthritis
By stimulating blood circulation, it helps clear out blood obstructions. In addition, it kickstarts your urination levels, which in turn causes a faster removal of urea and other toxins hanging around in your body.
All of the above helps with decreasing rheumatoid-based and arthritis pains.
Shiny Skin and Luscious Hair
After all this talk about pain relief, people tend to forget wintergreen oil's other qualities.
If you use a very diluted amount of wintergreen oil, it helps with preventing acne and removing dandruff. All of which helps with toning both your skin and hair.
What Form Do I Need to Use for Maximum Effect?
Well, that depends on whether you're going the synthetic or organic route. For the synthetic, we mean all the OTC methyl salicylate creams and ointments. As for the organic, we mean wintergreen oil.
Here it all depends on your personal preference.
If you're in a rush, or you just happen to be a fidgety person; go for the patches. Once you slap those on, you have complete freedom of movement and zero worries about smearing cream everywhere.
However, if you have sensitive skin -which may feel irritated in due to the patch adhesive- or it's your knee or joint that is causing you grief; then a gel or cream would do the job.
Do not ingest wintergreen oil.
We repeat. DO NOT INGEST WINTERGREEN OIL.
Remember us mentioning that wintergreen oil has the highest concentration of methyl salicylate you can possibly get? Yes, this is not a drill.
It makes sense that an oil as effective as wintergreen oil would need to be treated with respect.
Speaking of healthy doses of respect, you need to keep in mind that the oil's toxicity doesn't only lie in ingesting it, but also in its topical application.
According to "Toxicity Myths: The Actual Risk of Essential Oil Use," which has been published in the International Journal of Aromatherapy:
"if 10ml of a 2.5% formula of wintergreen oil were to be applied all at once to the skin and totally absorbed, the dose would represent the same amount of salicylate present in one 325mg aspirin tablet."
In addition, if you are pregnant or nursing, reach out to your doctor first before using wintergreen oil.
Did we scare you off, yet?
But you can easily avoid any nightmare-ish scenarios through a simple skin test.
Dilute the oil with water, then use a cotton pad to apply gently to a clean patch of skin.
Wait 24 hours to see if there is any negative reaction, excessive redness, or itchiness. If there is none, then you're good to go with using this ratio of wintergreen oil on your problem areas.
Dealing with Pain Is a Pain
It's no joke.
But we hope that once you integrate wintergreen oil or synthetic versions of methyl salicylate into your pain relief strategies, you'll start seeing -and more importantly, feeling- improvements.
As always, make sure to keep informed on ways to identify and deal with chronic pain, and its other undesirable siblings.