Authors: Dr. Sanjaya K.S., Dr. Prashant Kumar Jha
Botanical Source: Leaves of Gaultheria fragrantissima Wall. from family Ericaceae.
Geographical Source: It is found at above height of 5,000 feet on Himalaya, Nilgiri hills and Western Ghat.
Morphology: It is a large stout shrub with thin, shining, light brown bark. Wood is light brown in colour. Leaves are 3 x 1.5 inches in size, lanceolate elliptic or elliptic-oblong to ovate in shape. Flowers are white in axillary racemes. Ovary is pubescent. Capsules are small, pubescent, deep purple-blue in colour.
Microscopy: The transverse section of leaf is dorsi-ventral. Upper and lower epidermis cover the leaf. In midrib portion, epidermis is followed by collenchymatous hypodermis. Collateral vascular bundles are present in center. In lamina portion, epidermis is followed by palisade and spongy parenchyma cells traversed with fibers and vessels to preliminary vascular bundles.
Chemical Constituents: The leaves are rich in essential oil. The essential oil is pale yellow in colour with strong aromatic odour. It is one of source wintergreen oil. Methyl salicylate is major chemical constituent of essential oil being 94% of total quantity followed by 4-hydroxy-4-methyl-2-pentanone. Other compounds are ethyl salicylate, phenyl salicylate etc.
Leaves also contain hyperoside (quercetin-3-galactoside), ursolic acid, â-sitosterol, terpenoids, steroids, coumaric acid, rutin etc.
Uses: Leaves are aromatic, stimulant, diuretic and carminative. The essential oil is given in acute rheumatism, neuralgia and sciatica. It is also used as antiseptic, antioxidant, antibacterial, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, scabies etc.
Heptyl aldehyde present with leaves has shown bringing regression of tumours in mice and dogs.